David Lake, former Columbia Winery winemaker and Washington wine industry pioneer, passed away at his home yesterday. Mr. Lake’s death was confirmed by Ascentia Wine Estates who purchased Woodinville’s Columbia Winery in 2008.

Lake was a man of many firsts in the Washington wine industry. Among them, he convinced grower Mike Sauer to plant Syrah at his Red Willow Vineyard in 1986. Lake would produce Washington’s first Syrah two years later. Syrah is now the third most planted red varietal in the state behind Cabernet and Merlot and is increasingly seen as Washington’s ‘signature varietal’. Lake was also the first to make vineyard-designated wines in Washington. Lake produced three vineyard-designated Cabernet Sauvignons from Otis, Red Willow, and Sagemoor vineyards in 1981. Vineyard-designated wines are made from a single vineyard whose name appears on the label. Along with American Viticultural Area (AVA) designation, vineyard designation is seen as both a mark of quality and distinction.

Lake was born in England. He began his career in 1967 working for British wine shipper Saccone and Speed. In 1975, he earned the prestigious Master of Wine degree from the United Kingdom’s Institute of Masters of Wine. After stints at Oregon’s Eyrie Vineyards, Amity Vineyards, and Bethel Heights Vineyard, Lake joined Columbia Winery in 1979 taking over winemaking responsibilities from Dr. Lloyd Woodburne. Lake would spend an astonishing twenty-six years at the winery, retiring in 2005. He was 66 years old.