Two weeks ago, we visited with the dream team at the beautiful Trothe facilities at Andrews Family Vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills in Washington state. While we tasted their recent vintages, I told Jeff Andrews – innovative managing partner of the winery and Andrews Family Vineyards – that I’ve run out of superlatives to describe their wines. Previous words I’ve used after tasting three vintages: world-class luxury wines, magic, opulent, stunning, magnificent, exceptional, elegant, impressive, classy, remarkable, incredible and amazing. So Jeff helped me out. He called them “sophisticated wines with finesse.” We agree. Read on to learn about our visit with Jeff, acclaimed winemaker Ray McKee, and extraordinary vineyards manager Todd Chapman.
Andrews Family Vineyards
First, the history. Jeff Andrews is a fourth-generation farmer. His family has owned and operated 1,300 acres of vineyards since 1994, on land their family has farmed for generations on the Horse Heaven Hills. That is to say, his great-grandfather George Smith broke more than 100,000 acres of very dry land from sagebrush, completing it in 1941. However, in 1942, the U.S. Navy seized the land to use as a bombing range during World War II. Subsequently, when the Navy returned the land in 1945, George began growing a dry-land wheat crop.
Next, in the 1950s, they drilled for water and found artesian wells. As a result, the family expanded farming to other traditional crops and raising cattle, a particular passion of Jeff’s father, Mike Andrews.
In 1978, the family split the operation between the cattle and crops, with part of that land later becoming Andrews Family Vineyards. In 1994, Mike planted his initial 20 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. Twelve years later, Jeff joined the family business, focusing on the vineyards. His sister Jade followed, and helped build out information technology to support the process. Today, Andrews Family Vineyards grows more than 30 varieties.
Jeff, Todd and Ray toured the vast vineyards with us during our stop at the Horse Heaven Hills. What an educational and compelling experience.
The vineyards’ elevation ranges from 900 to 1,400 feet. Todd noted that the rugged landscape compares to wine regions in Australia and South Africa. But the average temperature and latitude align more closely to Bordeaux.
He also told us that the soil has different characteristics across the varying elevations, resulting in different characteristics in the fruit.
Ray gave high praise to their vineyards manager. “Todd keeps the vines healthy. He is as passionate as I am. Todd is really good about adding the magic because he is prepared. Grapes are special because of him. We’re all trying to make some of the best wines in the world.”
Trothe Facilities at Andrews Family Vineyards
Numerous Washington wineries purchase grapes from Jeff’s family vineyards, and he knew that many went on to make some of Washington’s top-scoring wines. So, of course, Andrews Family Vineyards sources grapes to Trothe, launched by Jeff and his wife Jani five years ago.
Their new facilities feature state-of-the-art equipment, and according to Robert Parker Wine Advocate, Trothe is “perhaps the most technologically advanced winery in the state, and is a monumental leap forward in terms of quality and production.”
Ray told us that Trothe encompasses technology and innovation in the vineyards to measure soil moisture and canopy vigor. In addition, their tractors have GPS and flow meters, so vineyard workers will know exactly where left they left off.
Jeff said that their focus is precision agriculture and precision winemaking. “A meticulous level of detail and thought goes into every process at Trothe.”
Ray added, “With this investment to quality world-class winemaking, we don’t have to compromise. We’re living the dream.”
Next spring, the Trothe dream team will also release Bordeaux and Rhône-styled blends from Andrews Family Vineyards under a new label, Sagebreaker. In the tasting room, Jeff gave us a preview: “Sagebreaker focuses on luxury blends ($75-$80) but with more blatant fruit and oak, for lots of people who love wine like that.” The vineyards sign already bears the new label’s name, which honors Jeff’s great-grandfather, their original sagebreaker 100 years ago.
During our visit a couple of weeks ago, we tasted three sophisticated Trothe wines from Andrews Family Vineyards. All three showcase the dedication, passion and investment of a team with the same goal: making world-class wine that puts Washington’s Horse Heaven Hills AVA on the map as one of the world’s best wine-growing regions. These Trothe wines are balanced, textured and complex. Ray said he always looks for harmony. “We craft wine with all our hearts and passion. We don’t compromise on anything.” Jeff added, “We’re pretty happy with where we are at so far.”
2022 Sauvignon Blanc
What a stunning Sauvignon Blanc. Soon after its release, Robert Parker Wine Advocate awarded it 96 points — the highest score it has ever awarded to a Washington white wine. Trothe 2022 Sauvignon Blanc is aged in a concrete tulip (larger than an egg). It is the epitome of finesse, and features the citrus notes, clean minerality, crisp salinity and bright acidity that we love. In short, it’s summer in a glass.
2020 Limited Red
The Trothe Limited series spotlights the very best blocks of Andrews Family Vineyards from special vintages. 2020 Limited Red is the second in the series – a blend of Cabernet Franc (67%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (33%). Ray said, “Cab Sauv and Cab Franc are blended all over the world. There is a reason.” This wine had me at its killer nose. Next came a rich, vibrant mouthfeel of dark fruit and spices. We could have easily polished off the bottle in one sitting. Wow. Limited Red is gorgeous now, and will be epic after more years in the cellar.
2020 Cabernet Sauvignon
Trothe 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon is a masterpiece, my favorite of the three vintages we’ve tasted. This brooding, luxurious wine offers layer after layer of richness, intensity and captivating balance. You can instantly detect Ray’s exquisite attention to harmony in every detail. This powerful 100% Cab Sauv features plush flavors of dark fruit, and classic Horse Heaven Hills minerality and tannins. The 2020 continues the Trothe magic and opulence. Be prepared to be impressed, particularly after cellaring it for a few years. Your patience will be well worth it.
Summary: Andrews Family Vineyards
In conclusion, Trothe quickly built a reputation as a producer of world-class luxury wines. These new releases are ready to join other remarkable Trothe wines on the world stage.
Thank you so much, Jeff, Ray and Todd, for spending time with us touring the vineyards and pouring Trothe wines – a highlight of our visit to the Horse Heaven Hills.
Margot and Dave