David Lake, the venerable Washington winemaker who helped pioneer the growth of Syrah in the Yakima Valley and subsequently put Washington Syrah on the international wine map, passed away Monday in Issaquah, Washington. His age was believed to be 65.
Born in Canada, Lake worked in the British, Oregon and Washington wine trade before meeting Mike Sauer of Washington’s Red Willow Vineyards in 1979. The partnership would prove fruitful: by 1984 the two were seriously discussing the concept of planting Syrah at Red Willow—radical given the lack of Syrah plantings on the West Coast. Lake arranged to have Syrah cuttings brought to Washington and Sauer planted them in 1986. Today, Syrah is Washington’s 3rd most planted variety behind Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
In addition to Syrah, Lake was an active proponent of varieties such as Viognier and Merlot in Washington, among others. He was the first American winemaker to earn the Master of Wine degree. Lake retired officially in 2005.