Northwest Wine

Daven Lore Winery is one of Washington's overlooked gems

Daven Lore Winery ranks as one of the top overlooked gems in Washington wine country.

The Prosser winery is owned and operated by the husband-wife team of Gordon Taylor and Joan Davenport.

"She's the real rock star around here," Taylor said without hesitation.

Davenport, known as "Dr. Dirt," is a respected soil scientist for her research with fruit crops at Washington State University. She also developed the petition for Snipes Mountain American Viticultural Area, established in 2009. And she did the work on the pending Ancient Lakes AVA.

Taylor, 47, grew up on a farm in Shannonville, Ontario. He was conducting soil science research at the University of Guelph when he met Davenport. Eventually, his background as a research engineer for Ocean Spray and his work with large juice operations gave him a solid foundation for his winery. The winery's first commercial vintage was 2005 and produced just 150 cases. Last year, it topped the 1,000-case mark.

On its label, Daven Lore pays tribute to coyotes that steal grape clusters. The logo features the likeness of "Petro" -- as in petroglyph -- with wine bottles drawn into the legs. Blind Renaissance in Wenatchee created the design.

"Coyotes eat our fruit, but it's nothing compared to what the robins do," Taylor said.

Here are some Daven Lore wines we've tasted in recent weeks.

Daven Lore Winery 2008 syrah, Columbia Valley, $25: There's a big whiff of chalkboard dust in the aromas, backed by plenty of plums, cassis and toffee. It's a light and lively Syrah with blueberry, black currant and serviceberry flavors, carried by a balance of acidity and slightly chewy tannins.

Daven Lore Winery 2009 petit verdot, Horse Heaven Hills, $25: This opens with a warm embrace of barrel notes akin to Nutella spread, chocolate and an alder-fuel campfire, yet there's strong support of blueberry, blackberry and black cherry aromas, too. The drink is filled with Marionberry to join the medley of purple fruit, bringing along a fair amount of acidity and some tense tannins. Enjoy with a pepper steak or a T-bone.

Daven Lore Winery 2009 Durif, Horse Heaven Hills, $25: Most folks now label this as Petite Sirah. Instead, Daven Lore chooses to honor the memory of Franois Durif, the French botanist who discovered the variety in 1880. There's a dense and attractive nose of fresh-picked Marionberry, blackberry and black cherry, and the barrel program of Hungarian and Minnesota oak conjures up notes of vanilla bean, chocolate and coffee. The drink is not for the faint of heart, as bold tannins loom just over the top of the blueberry pie and brambleberry flavors.

Daven Lore Winery 2010 sweet riesling, Yakima Valley, $15: The aromas on this low-alcohol summer sipper lead with cantaloupe and orange blossom, backed by green apple, rose petal, spearmint and grassiness. A juicy nectarine and Jonagold apple lead the honeyed flavors, which would complement prosciuitto-wrapped melon and zesty cheeses.

Daven Lore Winery 2010 Estate rosé, Yakima Valley, $15: Aromas of Rainier cherry, apricot, orange peel, slate and bubble gum don't disappoint. And while the structure is a touch off-dry, there's a delicate strawberry/rhubarb undertone drawn out across the palate. Blood orange and tangerine flavors in the finish make it remarkably expressive and a worthy foil for grilled shrimp, seared scallops, phad Thai or chicken satay.

Daven Lore Winery 2009 Dr. Davenport Decade Series syrah forte, Snipes Mountain, $25: The variety shows itself in the nose of blueberry pie and Marionberry, but there's a strong hint of cranberry, all flanked by sweet oak aromas of smoky chocolate and caramel. As a drink, it's remarkably juicy with chocolate-covered cranberries and dried cherries. The round tannins and sweetness (10 percent residual sugar) seem to almost neutralize the alcohol, a balance that shows skill.

*Andy Perdue and Eric Degerman run Great Northwest Wine, a website that provides news and information about the wines of Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Idaho.