In the hills south of the Yakima Valley town of Prosser is one of Washington's finest small wine producers.
The husband-wife team of Gord Taylor and Joan Davenport run Daven Lore Winery. Taylor, rarely seen without his Australian Outback hat, is the talented winemaker, while Davenport, who works at Washington State University's Irrigated Agriculture Research & Extension Center in Prosser, is known in the Valley as "Dr. Dirt" because of her work in soil microbiology.
Indeed, Davenport did the scientific work on the Snipes Mountain American Viticultural Area with grape grower Todd Newhouse. Snipes Mountain was approved as a federally designated grape-growing region in 2009.
On each bottle of Daven Lore is a drawing of Petro, the winery's "mascot," a coyote known to fill up on grapes from the vineyard. Petro has become so popular with the winery's fans, Davenport and Taylor provide temporary Petro tattoos at events and in the tasting room.
Here are several Daven Lore wines we've tried. Ask for them at your favorite wine merchant or contact Daven Lore directly at 509-786-1575.
Daven Lore Winery 2012 Sweet Riesling, Yakima Valley, $15: Production of this off-dry Riesling was increased to meet demand. While he also excels at Riesling done dry, Taylor notes, "Not sweet enough is like making rhubarb pie without sugar and strawberries," so he stopped fermentation here at 5 percent. Its alluring aromas are akin to pear pie, joined by candied apple, apricot, clove and jasmine. Flavors feature a rounded entry that leads with ripe pear and tropical notes, followed by sugared grapefruit with a cherry in the center.
Daven Lore Winery 2011 Malbec, Yakima Valley, $28: In the past few years, Taylor has become a welterweight champion vintner in Washington, pound-for-pound one of the region's best for the precise and consistent work with his small lots overlooking Prosser. Yet another example is this Malbec, which came from Crawford and Lonesome Spring Ranch vineyards. He created aromas of blackberry, Marionberry jam on toast, plum, Jolly Rancher grape candy, licorice and a hint of charcoal. There's a swirling of blackberry and president plum flavors that brings loads of food-friendly acidity.
Daven Lore Winery 2010 Petit Verdot, Horse Heaven Hills, $28: Taylor creates wines of distinction at his efficient facility on the northern slope of the Horse Heaven Hills overlooking the Yakima River. And this is yet another. Using fourth-leaf fruit from Double Canyon Vineyard, he's turned what is typically a Bordeaux blending variety into an intense bottling on its own. The nose is rich and inviting with blackberry and black cherry with dark chocolate and toast. It's a mouth-filling experience that begins with more blackberry, picking up notes of plum, dried strawberry, black olive, teriyaki sauce, vanilla and Aussie black licorice. There's good richness from beginning to end as the fruit keeps pushing alongside the age-worthy tannins.
Daven Lore Winery 2012 Dry Riesling, Yakima Valley, $15: Taylor builds two distinct styles of Riesling. He finished this bone dry with the pH at a brisk 3.02. The nose suggests fresh-pressed apple juice, ripe Bartlett pear, jasmine, lime and celery. The dry approach smacks with a bite of Granny Smith apple and is backed by Asian pear. There's great slate and lime peel in the finish.
Daven Lore Winery 2010 Decade Series Dr. Davenport Syrah Fort, Snipes Mountain, $28: While it doesn't scream Port-style in the nose with its delicate cherry, raspberry and milk chocolate notes, this fortified dessert wine's structure is dangerously good. Cherries, raspberries and chocolate-covered orange peel flavors come across as not overly sweet (10 percent residual sugar) with lip-smacking acidity.
Eric Degerman and Andy Perdue run Great Northwest Wine, a news and information company.