When it comes to “insider” knowledge about Washington’s grape growers, the first names that come to mind are Mike Sauer (Red Willow), Dick Boushey (Boushey), John Williams (Kiona), Alec Bayless (Sagemoor Farms), and Associated Vintners (Harrison Hill). While these visionaries define their respective regions, one name is almost always left off the ledger who is most deserving– Mike Andrews and his 1125-acre, south-facing Coyote Canyon Vineyard (elevation up to 1200 ft.) in the Horse Heaven Hills AVA.
The full history of the family can be found on the winery’s website, but in a soundbite, Mike’s grandfather, George W. Smith, homesteaded the property in the 1930’s and loaned a large part of the parcel the the Navy during World War II for use as a bombing range. Mike’s parents, Bob and Louise, grew wheat on the land and dug its first well in 1953. Mike himself returned to the farm after schooling to raise Hereford cattle and grow various crops. However, a 1985 trip to Jerusalem revealed that the land there was eerily similar to the Andrews’ land and that inspired him to build Tres cruces in the middle of his vineyard to represent his faith being in the center of his life.
In 1994, the first 20 acres of cabernet sauvignon were planted with help from Chateau Ste. Michelle and UC-Davis. Twelve years later, son Jeff joined the operation and expanded the vineyard so that Mike could start the winery after purchasing the assets of Selah’s Yakima Cellars. The first wine was a non-vintage (2003-04) 50-50 cab-merlot named Hereford Red. The first varietal was the 2004 syrah.
This past summer, Coyote Canyon’s winemaker changed from John Gabriel to Justin Michaud, 36. Justin’s resume includes a recent stop at Stone Cap wines under the Goose Ridge label.
Some 30+ wineries are contracted with Coyote Canyon’s 26 varietals. Most of the grapes go to Columbia Crest, and it is well-known that the famous 2005 Walter Clore Reserve cabernet from that winery included grapes from Coyote Canyon Vineyard.
Interesting wine notes: (1) first vineyard to grow albarino in Washington (2006) with a paltry 0.7 acres. Currently, over 300 cases of albarino are produced in order to meet qualifications for a major food and wine competition. (2) the 2011 rose is made from barbera. (3) This 2010 sangiovese is made from the romagnolo clone, planted in 1998. (4) The 2009 Bozak Red wine is named after a Calgary bull from the 1970s. (5) The 2010 GW Smith malbec is named after George Smith. (6) The flagship wine, the 2009 Michael Andrews Red wine is a blend of graciano, tempranillo, and grenache. And, (7) all his wines are labeled at ABV 14.3%. That kind of reminds me of a well-known Woodinville winery that likes to label all of its wines with the “Yakima Valley” designation.
What’s apparent is Coyote Canyon Winery makes wines not suited to a supermarket shelf. These wines apparently are crafted to suit the palate of Mike Andrews and what an interesting path he has laid forth!
Will we see a tasting room in Woodinville? Not likely, although like most curious wineries, the thought was explored. That will change with more exposure in the Puget Sound area as there is plenty of room for a wide portfolio of exciting wines that go from bare earth to bottle in one operation and at affordable prices that return good value.
Tasted at 61-64 degrees on the IR temp gun. Color: dark magenta. Nose: candied black cherry, red flowers, fresh cracked black pepper. Mouthfeel: silky, soft medium-bodied. Tail trail: 10 seconds. Flavors: peppery black cherry, gritty spices, saline. A fine addition to the Thanksgiving table.
Alcohol: 14.3%. Coyote Canyon Vineyard (estate). Horse Heaven Hills AVA. 10% cabernet sauvignon. Aged in small French oak. 339 cases. “The Promise of the Land and Tradition!” Power: 2/5. Balance: 2/5. Depth: 2/5. Finesse: 3/5. Rated: 89. Value: $22. Paid: $25. This is WAwineman… uncorked, uneducated but not uncouth.