North Country wine growers and cold climate viticulture lost a visionary, sharp witted, friend, colleague and sometimes antagonist when Rob McDowell passed away¬†earlier this month on December 13th. Rob grew and operated Purple Gate Vineyard in Plattsburgh and was one of the first people to dedicate serious efforts to the propagation of cold hardy hybrids in the Lake Champlain Valley of New York. Rob was a founding member of the local wine community and shared generously of his knowledge at site visits, meetings and workshops, with locals and visitors alike, some who would go on to become growers and winemakers…