Lance Baer, the owner-winemaker of Baer Winery in Woodinville, Wash., died early today due to complications from liver failure.
Baer, 38, had been in Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland for the last two-and-a-half weeks, undergoing treatment for his liver ailment.
Friends and fellow winemakers said they were stunned by the death of the popular young winemaker.
“I was shocked when I heard about it this morning,” said Greg Gorman, a friend of Baer’s who lives in Los Angeles. “He was a very warm, gentle giant, teddy bear kind of guy. Very subtle, very quiet and very understated.”
“I just couldn’t believe it,” said Matthew Loso of Matthews Cellars, one of Baer’s colleagues. “I’m very sad about his passing.”
A native of Missouri, Baer moved to the Seattle area in the 1990s and worked for Boeing, the aircraft company, before starting his wine career at DeLille Cellars.
In 2001, he started his own 500-case-a-year winery in his apartment, and made his first two vintages at Matthews Cellar nearby as he completed his own facility.
Most of Baer’s wines were Bordeaux-inspired reds and sold to customers on his mailing list. A recent release, a 2004 Baer Ursa, a Bordeaux-style blend from Columbia Valley, earned an outstanding rating from Harvey Steiman, Wine Spectator’s Washington state critic.
"A trip to Seattle wasn’t complete without a visit to Lance," said Gorman. "He put a smile on my face and made me feel good."
Funeral services are pending.