Trothe winemaker Ray McKee exudes a quiet confidence. Confidence that comes from experience, and in the terroir of Andrews Family Vineyards. Confidence in 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. Last week, we talked Trothe with Ray and vineyards manager Todd Chapman. They say they are living the dream.
The Trothe Story
We first experienced Trothe’s world-class wine last month, when we tasted their 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is magic. Already stunning, we can imagine what it will taste like down the road, with its impressive aging potential. At the time, we learned the Trothe story. Jani and Jeff Andrews started the Trothe project five years ago, joined by acclaimed winemaker Ray McKee and vineyards manager Todd Chapman.
The Andrews family has owned and operated the vineyards in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA since 1994, on land their family has farmed for generations. Located across 1,300 acres in the northwest corner of the AVA, the Andrews Family Vineyards’ elevation ranges from 900 to 1,400 feet. The rugged landscape compares to wine regions in Australia and South Africa. But the average temperature and latitude align more closely to Bordeaux.
Over the years, Wine Spectator named nine wines with fruit from Andrews Family Vineyards in its Top 100 wines list. This includes Washington’s only Wine Spectator “Number One Wine in the World.”
The World-Class Wine Dream Team
Subsequently, after learning about the Trothe story and tasting their world-class wine, we looked forward to finding out more. As a result, we spent time with Ray and Todd at a recent Celebrate Washington wine event. And we later joined them at dinner. They shared their thoughts about their “dream jobs” and their passion shared with Jeff: respect for the land, confidence in their vision, and uncompromising care in every detail.
Ray is in his 30th year in the Washington wine industry. He grew up working his parents’ vineyard and winery in the Yakima Valley, and has an intimate knowledge of vineyards across the state. He held the position of red winemaker for Chateau Ste. Michelle. He also crafted wine for Heaven’s Cave Cellars, Covey Run and Columbia Winery.
Meanwhile, for the past 20 years, Todd has been immersed in the Washington wine industry. He helped develop and manage Destiny Ridge Vineyards for Alexandria Nicole Cellars, and also worked for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. There, Todd discovered that his true passion lies in the vines, so he transitioned to a viticulturist position in the Horse Heaven Hills.
Trothe World-Class Wine
At dinner, Ray also told us about Jeff’s research into world-class wines, and their state-of-the-art equipment, the terroir of Andrews Family Vineyards, and Trothe’s investment in the future of winemaking in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA.
“We want to be among the best in the world. We have ideas based on years of experience, and with this investment to quality world-class winemaking, we don’t have to comprise. We’re living the dream,” Ray said with a smile.
Consequently, Trothe’s 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon inaugural release received widespread acclaim, described as exquisite, impressive and remarkable. A few days after our dinner, the Trothe team held a side-by-side tasting of 2018 Trothe Cabernet Sauvignon and 2018 Chateau Margaux. Jeff told us, “We stood up beautifully. I could not have been more pleased with what we tasted.”
2019 Trothe Cabernet Sauvignon will be available in September, but it’s already generated an early buzz from critics. In addition, Trothe made 36 cases of 2021 Trothe Sauvignon Blanc, a gorgeous special limited-edition wine that Ray also opened at dinner.
Next up, Trothe will be releasing a Syrah, which we also had an opportunity to taste at dinner (and brought home the bottle).
Trothe 2020 Syrah
“I love Syrah,” Ray declared, his passion for the grape evident as he told us about this beautiful Trothe 2020 Syrah. The team planted six different blocks of Syrah across the vineyards, in both deep and shallow soil. “We’re trying to get diversity across soil types.” He fermented and aged the Syrah in concrete – a whole cluster co-ferment with a small amount of VIognier. This wine is now aging further in the bottle, and won’t be released until next year. Ray says, “It’s been in the bottle for 3.5 months, so it’s still swinging, opening and closing up. But by February it will be in a really good place.” So it’s not quite ready for prime time, but it is oozing with potential. Pretty aromatics, dense, balanced and structured, the generous mouthfeel offers blue fruit, herbs, rosemary, sage and bright acidity.
Ray’s confidence, mirrored by Todd, is contagious. As a result, we are confident that this 2020 Syrah will join Trothe’s other spectacular wines on the world stage.
Summary: World-Class Wine
In conclusion, we look forward to touring Trothe’s new facility in the middle of the Horse Heaven Hills, in addition to seeing Ray and Todd again and meeting Jeff. According to Jeff, “This facility is designed to enable world-class winemaking right here in the middle of the Horse Heaven Hills, a region that has historically been known for grape growing, but not for local wine production. Our family’s investment in this sophisticated facility is also an investment in the future of winemaking in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA and in the greater State of Washington.”
As longtime Washington wine enthusiasts, we are excited about the goals of this dream-team.
Margot and Dave