Celebrated winemaker Gary Andrus has died aged 63 of pneumonia-related complications.

The founder of Pine Ridge Winery, California and Archery Summit Estate, Oregon, died on 30 January 2009.

Robert Gary Andrus will be remembered for his influence in pioneering Pinot Noir in Oregon.

He was famous within Pinot circles for his growing and winemaking techniques, which allowed him to ripen his grapes two weeks earlier than normal, giving him enough time to harvest before the autumn rains arrived.

A former Olympic downhill skier and passionate 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.

In 2004 he founded Gypsy Dancer Estates, in Cornelius, Oregon, after a very public divorce in 2002.

With his new wife Christine’s help, Gypsy Dancer grew and Andrus moved down to New Zealand’s Central Otago, attracted by the pioneering work being done with Pinot Noir there.

He also had a property in a remote part of the Willamette Valley in Oregon, also celebrated Pinot country.

In 2006, the Central Otago property went into receivership, due to unpaid debts as a result of losses caused by frost in 2004, which destroyed his Gibbston Valley vineyards.

His property was eventually disposed of, partly to the owners of the Gibbston Valley Estate.

‘We believe he has moved on to a better place and is catching big fish from the rivers in the sky,’ his daughter, Danielle Andrus Montalieu told Wine Spectator. ‘As an avid fisherman, US 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 leaves five children and his wife Christine.

Written by Erica Loi