I got word that Gary Andrus had died Friday in an email from Josh Bergström, whose eponymous winery ranks among Oregon’s best. Josh wanted me to know as soon as he did, because he understood what an impact Andrus had made on him personally and on Oregon wine more generally. Fittingly, I got four more emails later that day from other Oregon vintners.
Bergström credited Andrus with bringing a level of professionalism to Oregon in 1992 when the longtime California vintner (Pine Ridge in Napa Valley’s Stags Leap District) bought a vineyard in Dundee Hills, the epicenter of the Oregon Pinot Noir world. He built a showcase winery in the middle of the vineyard and introduced Archery Summit wines to the world. Andrus sold Archery Summit in 2001 as part of a divorce settlement, but the winery continues to rate among the best, making rich, fleshy and distinctive Pinot Noirs.
Archery Summit’s wines always sold for a premium above the Oregon norm, a lesson not lost on Bergström, who also prices his best Pinots aggressively. That puts the pressure on the vintner to make the wines special. To their credit, Andrus did that at Archery Summit and Bergström does at his winery.
Andrus’ daughter Danielle worked at Archery Summit with her dad, and later married Laurent Montalieu, who was the winemaker at WillaKenzie Estate. They now own Northwest Wine Company, a custom winemaking facility that a number of small wineries use to produce their wines. Together Danielle and Laurent own and run Soléna Cellars in Oregon.
Meanwhile, Gary got back in the wine business with Gypsy Dancer, which produced small quantities of varying-quality wine in Oregon and New Zealand.
Although I must have met Gary in California, I never really had a conversation with him until I showed up at the new Archery Summit winery in 1995. The first vintage (1993) had impressed me when I blind-tasted the wines. I will always picture him as he was that day, clad in full Oregon regalia—Pendleton shirt, down vest, hiking boots—emerging into the chilly winery from his laboratory. He often told me he loved the science of wine more than selling it.
He showed me around the winery, especially proud of the tunnels dug into the hillside under the estate vineyard. They were meant for aging wine in barrel and bottle.
Archery Summit remains one of the most impressive-looking wineries in Oregon. It’s not so elaborate, but out there in the middle of the estate’s picturesque hillside vineyard it creates a scene like a French painting. In the same Dundee Hills neighborhood are Domaine Drouhin and Domaine Serene.
Andrus' businesses had their ups and downs over the years. And he could be impulsive. In the 1980s, he prematurely announced a partnership deal between Pine Ridge and Jean-Michel Cazes of Château Lynch-Bages in Bordeaux. It never happened.
Although Andrus made some impressive wines, some puzzled me when they veered off the quality plane. This was especially so at Gypsy Dancer, which got off to a spotty start. Some wines were promising, but others missed badly. The Oregon wines from his long-established A&G Vineyard in Dundee Hills were good, but the ones from the closely planted estate vineyard (the former Lion Valley Estate) haven’t rocked me. In bad health the last few years, he never got that ship righted. Mired in debt, the New Zealand project petered out after two vintages.
His vinous legacy is Pine Ridge and Archery Summit.
As a U.S. Olympic skier, Andrus competed against the world’s best, and he played with the big boys in the wine world. If he didn’t win every race, the others definitely knew he was there. He had an impact.