Before I entered the wine industry in 1994 to form and manage the Association of Australian Boutique Winemakers my winemaker brother Peter Fimmel told me that his aim was to make wines the way Max Lake did. I had never heard of Max Lake then, however I decided to seek him out.
In 1995 I invited Max to judge a little wine show named the WA Wise Wine Awards. I knew nothing about wine shows however decided to cut my teeth on this one. Along with Sommelier Franck Crouvezier (Now a lifelong friend) Max introduced me to some of the finer points of wine judging. He suggested that I meet Huon Hooke and the rest is history.
Much could be written about this great achiever however I choose to write about a glimpse of the simple side of his life. Max and I discovered that we had many things in common as he was a former specialist in the surgery of the hand and I a former Registered Nurse. He was a prolific author and by comparison I was a miniature author penning several books which all featured either an introduction or a foreword by Max Lake. He was thrilled when I dubbed him The Father of Australian Boutique Winemakers. He took these parental duties seriously and later became a Lifetime Member of the Boutique Winemakers Association.
His passion for cooking, led not only to his many related publications but to many a meal I shared with him and his wife Joy. TASTE a guide to the pleasure of the shared table was self published and deserved wider distribution. Joy was by a country mile the love of his life and when they built their retirement home they built a double kitchen – side by side two of everything so that they could experiment and cook whatever they liked to their heart’s delight.
Many of his books relate to his third career as a “flavourolgist”, his description of his “attempt to understand how taste, smell and flavour shaped humanity“. Flavour and pleasure were two guiding principles in his life and he was invited to judge meat, cheese and coffee for the Sydney Royal Show.
In his later years Max invited me to “come for lunch as often as you can” so started a monthly trip to his home in Longueville on Sydney’s lower North Shore with the requested take-away Thai lunch. We usually drank French Champagne plus an early Lake’s Folly with the simple lunch. Several times I took a visitor with me knowing that there would be a good conversation mix. As Max was a Microbiologist he delighted in meeting my friends Professors Peter Gunning and Edna Hardeman. The short lunch became a long one that day lengthened by the fact that Max invited Peter to go to the cellar to “pick anything” for lunch. I think Peter was weak at the knees at the selection and came back to the kitchen cradling an early L F Cabernet.
Max was generous and funny. He loved Louis Armstrong and spent hours seeking out similar jazz on UTube. He made me feel special when he said that we marched to the beat of the same drum. Even though I felt that I was not the only one he gave that accolade to I took it and cherished his words.
I’ll never forget him telling me that some ten years earlier he suffered a minor heart attack and Joy took him to Royal North Shore Hospital Casualty department where they ran several routine tests. The attending doctor took Joy aside and asked her if her husband was an alcoholic. “Oh no Doctor” she replied. “My husband only drinks good quality wine”.
Dr Max Lake OAM died in Sydney 2009.
Ms Judith Kennedy AM was his friend.