Eric Michael Dunham May 30, 1970 October 23, 2014 Walla Walla Valley pioneering winemaker, Eric Michael Dunham, died October 23, 2014 in Cannon Beach, Oregon. He was 44 years old. Eric was born in Walla Walla and grew up here attending local schools. As a teenager, he moved with his family to western Washington and graduated from Redmond High School in 1988. After high school graduation, Eric joined the US Navy serving in Aviation Maintenance at NAS Moffett Field in the San Francisco Bay Area, ultimately achieving the rank of Petty Officer Third Class. So the story goes, Eric couldn't keep his hands out of his father's wine cellar growing up. With family friends like Rick Small (Woodward Canyon) and Gary Figgins (Leonetti Cellar), there were no ordinary wines helping Eric develop his young palate. When Mike figured out that Eric was sneaking into his cellar, he put a lock on the door. When he found the door was locked, Eric removed the hinges from the outside of the door. There was no stopping Eric's interest in wine, and in the early stages of the Washington State wine industry, his father eagerly promoted his passion and suggested an internship was a good start. After completing an internship with Hogue Cellars in Prosser, young Eric was hired as Assistant Winemaker at L'Ecole N 41. Under the mentorship of Marty Clubb, Eric produced 8 barrels of Dunham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon at L'Ecole in 1995. The next year brought a damaging freeze to many vineyards in Washington State so he was able to produce only 60 cases of his second vintage. From then on, it was upward and onward for the Dunham Family and following the commercial success of his first four vintages, Eric convinced his parents to launch the Dunham Cellars winery in its own right. They established their business plan and moved to the current location at the Walla Walla Airport area in 1999. As the winery grew and built upon its successes, Eric in turn mentored several other prominent winemakers and helped to grow the notoriety of the Walla Walla Valley. As he used to say often, "high tide raises all boats." Eric was a supremely gracious host in his home, at the winery and at the multitude of winery events in which he participated over the past 20 years. He donated his wines and his time to many philanthropic organizations throughout the United States, including Seattle Children's Hospital, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Seattle International Film Festival and numerous animal rescue missions. Generous almost to a fault, Eric would gladly share anything and everything with his family and friends. An extremely talented chef, he loved to cook for any gathering, large or small. He loved to paint, beginning with wine bottles among friends in the early days, to large canvases and even a MINI Cooper car hood more recently. Of course, there was always wine, and sometimes fireworks. A hearty "Dunham Chug" to the huge circle of family and friends who loved and surrounded Eric. Eric was a proud and loving father to 2-year-old Hikari, whose name means "light" in Japanese. Whenever possible, Eric included his wife and young son on his business travels to share his beautiful family with his international circle of friends and business associates. A fund has been established with Banner Bank in the name of the Eric Dunham Memorial Account for the benefit of his son, Hikari. Eric is survived by his wife, Kanae Nishimura Dunham, son, Hikari Michael Dunham, and sidekick canine companions, Munch and Leilani; his stepmother, Joanne Buckley Dunham; sisters Michelle Dunham Sikma and Kat Dunham Duty; his Mama, Senitila McKinley; and numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his father, Michael Dunham; his mother, Phyllis Dunham Kepler; and grandparents Wendell Dunham and Shirley Mays Dunham. A public Celebration of Life will be held at Dunham Cellars beginning at 1:00 pm on Saturday, November 1st. Burial will be private. There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains.
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