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David Lake MW dies

David Lake MW, a pivotal pioneer in Washington State’s wine industry, died Monday. He was in his mid-60s.

As head winemaker at Columbia Winery, outside Seattle, from 1979 through retirement in 2005, Lake produced Washington’s first vineyard-designated wines, the state’s first Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Gris, and was the first to blend Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

Born in Britain, Lake entered the wine business there in 1967 with Saccone & Speed, received his Master of Wine certificate in 1975 and spent a year studying viticulture and enology at the University of California at Davis.

After a short stint in Oregon at Eyrie, Amity and Bethel Heights, Lake joined the Associated Vintners, as the Columbia Winery (founded in 1967) was first called, in 1979 and soon became winemaker. He moved to Washington, he said, ‘to explore the distinctive fruit qualities and remarkable natural balance I had noted from this state.’

Lake made the initial Syrah in 1988 from the well-known grower Mike Sauer’s famed Red Willow Vineyard, in the Yakima Valley, east of the Cascade Mountains. One of Lake’s signature wines was long-lived Bordeaux-style varietal Cabernet Sauvignon from the standout Otis Vineyard in the Yakima Valley.

In his 2007 book ‘Washington Wines and Wineries: The Essential Guide’, Paul Gregutt, a veteran Washington wine writer, characterized the soft-spoken, gentlemanly, studious Lake as a vintner with ‘distinctly European tastes’ who ‘experimented tirelessly.’

Gregutt quotes Lake as saying he preferred wines that ‘are not too high in alcohol, not overtly oaky, truly drinkable wines that work nicely at the dinner table.’

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York

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