A former Olympic downhill skier and an avid trout fisherman, Andrus started making wine at Pine Ridge in Napa Valley in 1978 and at Archery Summit in Oregon's Dundee Hills in 1993, both in partnership with his then-wife, Nancy. He divested his interests in both wineries in 2001 when they divorced, but reemerged in 2004 with Gypsy Dancer Estates, which he started in 2002 with his new wife, Christine.
As a 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.
Andrus' Archery Summit Pinot Noirs proved that Oregon could command big-league prices for its wines. In 1997, Archery Summit's flagship bottlings sold for $60 a bottle, when other top producers were pricing theirs in the $25 range. It helped changed the perception of Oregon Pinot Noir, because the wines ranked among the best in the state in quality.
"I know that we would not be making Pinot Noirs at the level that we are today without the influence of Gary Andrus," said Josh Bergström of Bergström Wines. "[He] brought a certain professionalism, competitive drive and price point to Oregon. When Archery Summit showed up in Oregon, we had never seen the likes of Gary, and I doubt we ever will again."
Andrus was also a mentor to the next generation of Oregon winemakers, including Bergström, to whom he sold a few tons of grapes from his prized vineyard, Arcus, even though it meant he could make fewer cases of it. "Gary was a very complex personality, a bon vivant and a driven businessman and winemaker," Bergström said. "I will miss him."
When he founded Gypsy Dancer, Andrus bought a property in a remote part of Willamette Valley. He was enchanted with the old Lion Valley vineyard near Hillboro, which had been planted with 4,000 vines to the acre, a density similar to those found in Burgundy. He could not resist New Zealand, either, then the new darling of the Pinot Noir world, and also purchased a property in Central Otago.
The wines have so far been uneven; a few scored outstanding while others missed the mark. By 2006, the New Zealand property was in receivership and was sold to the owner of Gibbston Valley Estate. The Oregon winery's Web site is currently down and the telephone disconnected.
Over the years, however, Andrus' Pine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignons performed consistently well. He was a leader in the move to stress the importance of appellations in America, in particular for the Stags Leap District AVA, where Pine Ridge is located.
"We believe he has moved on to a better place and is catching big fish from the rivers in the sky," said his daughter, Danielle Andrus Montalieu. "As an avid fisherman, U.S. ski team athlete and outdoorsman, he taught us to love and respect nature. He taught us to love unconditionally, give freely and to enjoy a great glass of wine."
Andrus is survived by his five children. A small family ceremony and a celebration of his life are planned at a later date.