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Gala celebration planned for Columbia’s 50th anniversary

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Columbia Winery at night
Columbia Winery is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a gala planned for September 14. Courtesy photo.
Columbia Winery is throwing itself a bash in honor of its Golden Anniversary.

Washington state’s first premium winery turns 50 this year and the public is invited to celebrate the momentous occasion at a gala event.

Columbia’s history is a colorful one with authentic garage roots. The winery was founded in 1962 by 10 friends led by Dr. Lloyd Woodburne.

Six of the individuals were University of Washington  professors.

Originally known as Associated Vintners, the group was united in the belief that classic European vinifera vines could survive the harsh Washington winters and that fine wine could be made in Washington state.

The results far exceeded their expectations. In 1979, David Lake, Master of Wine, joined the winery as winemaker and continued the pioneering spirit of Columbia’s founders.

He is most renowned for his experimentation with new varietals and for producing the first series of vineyard designate wines in the state.

Lake was also the first winemaker to produce several varietals in Washington, including Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Pino Gris.

He retired from the winery in 2006, but his legacy is alive and well within the current winemaking team, which is headed up by Sean Hails, Columbia’s new winemaker.

Hails is passionate about making great wine and comments that he feels very fortunate to be a part of the 50-year legacy of one of Washington’s great premium wineries in the Columbia Valley.

He says, “There is an incredible history of ingenious and quality winemaking here and I’m excited to continue this tradition.”

For John Sportelli, senior manager of Columbia Winery, 50 years is a significant milestone. He notes that it demonstrates the longevity of the brand and its uniqueness in the wine industry.

“Columbia’s wines have gotten great scores and great press over the years,” he comments. “This is a testament to the quality of the wine and the winery’s commitment to its customers. Columbia is well-recognized and respected, not only within the Northwest, but all throughout the U.S.”

As to the future and the next 50 years, Sportelli remarks that Columbia’s goal is to keep making its customers happy by giving them different styles of wine.

“We will continue to seek out unique wines, unique blends and varietals,” he says.

Meanwhile, Sportelli wants everyone to mark their calendars for the upcoming gala celebration, which will include entertainment from the acclaimed Erickson Group, featuring Nancy Erickson, an epicurean delight hors d’oeuvre menu created by Executive Chef Michael Toni of A Platinum Event and a special barrel tasting.

“We’re excited to have folks try our newly released 50th Anniversary Cabernet Sauvignon and our first ever sparkling Brut,” adds Sportelli.

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