Founded in 1962 by ten friends, six of whom were University of Washington professors, Columbia Winery is Washington State’s first premium winery. Originally known as Associated Vintners, the group was united in the belief that classic European vinifera vines would thrive in the Washington climate and that fine wine could be made in Washington State. They began by making their wines in the garage of Dr. Lloyd Woodburne, Columbia Winery’s first winemaker, in the Seattle neighborhood of Laurelhurst.
The results far exceeded their expectations. "Those first years of the 1960s are the turning point in modern wine history" writes Hugh Johnson, one of the world’s most widely read and respected wine authorities. In his book “Vintage,” he pays tribute to the Associated Vintners and the industry they helped build in the Northwest, at precisely the same time that Californian winemakers were awakening to the possibility of making high-quality wine.
Columbia Winery has grown steadily over the past 50 years as a leader in Washington’s burgeoning wine industry and distribution now includes exports to Canada, Europe and the Pacific Rim.
David Lake, Master of Wine, (1943-2009) joined Columbia Winery in 1979 as winemaker and continued the pioneering spirit of Columbia Winery’s founders.
David is most renowned for his experimentation with new varietals and for producing the first series of vineyard-designated wines in Washington. He was the first winemaker to produce Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Gris.
Columbia Winery has established a reputation for producing Washington State wines of remarkable quality and boasts an extensive wine selection. In addition to crafting notable red wines such as Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Winery offers distinctive dry white wines such as Chardonnay, Semillon and Pinot Gris as well as the popular Riesling and Gewurztraminer.
Columbia Winery also produces limited quantities of vineyard designated wines from pioneering vineyards such as Otis and the renowned Red Willow Vineyard. In 2008, Columbia released the first wine in their Small Lot Series, an off-dry Riesling from Yakima Valley. Other Small Lot Series wines will include Cabernet Franc, Unoaked Chardonnay, Sangiovese, Barbera, Malbec, Viognier and potential others.
Columbia Winery’s vineyards lie on the same latitudes as the premium wine-producing areas of Europe and the winery continues to strive to produce distinctive Washington wines from European vinifera grapes grown in the Columbia and Yakima Valley regions of eastern Washington . The area’s long, hot, sunny days and cool, clear nights are ideal to produce grapes full of complex flavors and aromas.