Born and educated in California, Chris Lake’s career began in 1990 when he was hired as a cellar worker for the Santa Barbara Winery. Chris worked in Santa Barbara for three years, learning to make award-winning wines from some of California’s best cool climate vineyards.
In 1993, Chris and his wife Gretchen left Santa Barbara to attend California State University, Fresno. Chris received his Bachelors in Plant Science and then took a position at the university as a viticulture research assistant. His career in viticulture research took Chris from Fresno to Arkansas when, in 2000, he took a position as a research assistant with Dr. R. Keith Striegler at the University of Arkansas.
In 2004, Chris left his university position to become the viticulturist and assistant winemaker for Wiederkehr Wine Cellars in Altus, Arkansas. At Wiederkehr, Chris farmed 200 acres of European, American and French-American hybrid grapes in addition to assisting in the production of 40,000 cases per year for the family run winery. Chris left Wiederkehr in 2006 to become the viticulturist and winemaker for Stone Bluff Cellars in Haskell, Oklahoma where he took the production from 1200 to 3000 cases in two years.
Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon hired Chris to become the first director of the College’s Southern Oregon Wine Institute in July of 2008. The Institute is a division of the college that delivers an instructional program in Viticulture and Enology to serve students from a seven county area in southern Oregon.
“Chris Lake not only has the entrepreneurial experience of a commercial wine maker,” said UCC President Blaine Nisson announcing Lake’s appointment, “but he also has published extensively and worked in viticulture and enology programs in academic settings. That’s a combination we expect will be vital to our new program here in southern Oregon.”
Since Chris took the Director’s position, the Institute has enrolled 60-75 students per year in its two year Viticulture and Enology degree. Chris continues to lead the Institute as it completes the construction of a 24,000 sq. ft. teaching winery and event center on the college’s campus. In 2011, Oregon Winepress named the Southern Oregon Wine Institute as it’s Organization of the Year saying that “In a few years, the college’s Southern Oregon Wine Institute has grown … to providing the industry with vital lab services, access to cutting-edge research and invitations to confab at Wine Cluster Conferences. But perhaps most important, SOWI is set up to produce ready-to-work employees.”