November 7, 2008

Seneca Lake winemaker, Dave Bagley dies of heart attack

VALOIS, New York, USA - Cousin Ruth Bills passed along some incredibly sad news just moments ago. The owner-operator of Poplar Ridge Winery has died of a heart attack - at 57!

It was only a few months ago that I was sitting on the deck of the winery, right next to Dave Bagley, sharing a bottle of his wine that he absolutely refused to let me pay for. I was a new friend, he said, and he hoped to see me - and the Admiral at his winery more.

Dave Bagley
Dave Bagley with his trademark smile

This past summer the Admiral and I got in the habit of going to his winery Sunday afternoons for a glass or four of wine and to listen to Cousin Brett Beardslee belt out tunes. Dave's winery was almost within walking distance of our Seneca Lake house.

And at the winery, Dave was a fixture on his own barstools, though sometimes he was likely to have a beer in front of him and not a glass of his excellent vino.

I didn't know him well, but he was well-loved in the community and was planning on marrying his girlfriend soon when he was felled by the heart attack. He was on a trip to Buffalo, New York to pick up wine bottles.

Rest in peace, Dave Bagley, and make sure the beer is cold and the wine appropriately chilled for when the rest of us catch up with you.

Dave Bagley's obituary from the Elmira Star-Gazette

VALOIS -- Dave Bagley, the owner and winemaker at the Poplar Ridge Vineyards and Winery on the east side of Seneca Lake in Schuyler County, died Thursday while picking up an order of bottles in Buffalo.

Mr. Bagley, who was 57, used the slogan "Wine Without Bull" on his winery Web site. He said he did not like the "snobbery and pretentiousness that pervades the wine business."

"Have you ever noticed that the more pretentious and snobbish a winery is, the more uncomfortable you feel," he wrote on the Web site. "I fail to understand how this can be conceived as a viable marketing concept. We at Poplar Ridge strive to produce wines that are pleasant and fun to drink. We believe in good wines at reasonable prices. Over the years I have made thousands of friends with this simple and fun approach to wine."

Jodie Pulkinen, the tasting room manager for the last four years at Poplar Ridge, remembered Mr. Bagley Thursday as "bigger than life."

"He helped other winemakers and wineries get started. He was generous to a fault," she said. "Friends and family members are all gathering at the winery and we are having a glass of Bagley Brut."

Bagley Brut was Mr. Bagley's signature sparkling wine.

Mr. Bagley was an accomplished woodworker. He and his brother, George, made a 30-foot-long bar in 1993 with redwood tanks they purchased from Taylor Wine Co.

Wildlife also was another big part of Mr. Bagley's life. He contracted with local artist Norman Wells to create several wildlife designs for his wine bottles.

Star-Gazette wine columnist Jeff Richards interviewed Mr. Bagley for one of his weekly wine columns in the fall of 2002.

"Dave was quite a man," Richards said Thursday. "No pretense; what you saw is what you got. He loved the Finger Lakes and the customers who came through his door.

"And he will always be remembered for making a darn good bottle of bubbly."

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