Andy Phillips grew up in Ashland. At the time, the primary industries were logging and farming, with a focus on pears, not wine. The college (SOU) was also an important part of the community. OSF had a small, almost cult following, and in the early 70s it expanded its season, which had a significant impact on the town.
Andy’s first experience in the world of wine was during his time at the Hungry Woodsman restaurant in Medford. He started as a waiter in 1980 and still remembers the first Southern Oregon wine that caught his attention – a 1978 Hillcrest Riesling from the Umpqua Valley. The vines were already 17 years old and it made quite an impression.
Andy was so enamored with the wine that he attended the first Umpqua Valley Barrel Tour in 1984. There is no written record of the tasting, but he believes the tour included 6-7 wineries. The experience was much more informal than tastings today. The bottles were lined up on tables and guests helped themselves to the wines. Philippe Girardet and Richard Sommer were two top winemakers at the time.
Andy moved to Maui in 1988 and had the opportunity to significantly expand his wine knowledge and experience at Erik’s Seafood Grotto. He was exposed to a wide variety of wine industry professionals, including winemakers, winery owners and vineyard managers. His knowledge expanded to wines from around the world.
A friend sent him a package of Oregon wine in 1991. He had been reading quite a bit about Oregon wine and this convinced him to return and jump into the local wine scene. Andy worked at many wine-friendly restaurants, including Gogi’s in Jacksonville. This exposed him to even more Oregon wines and visits to Portland and San Francisco gave him the opportunity to try many of the best wines in the world.
A former employer, Michael Gibbs, was interested in establishing a wine bar in Ashland and approached Andy with his idea. Andy started the wine bar and program at the Winchester Inn, earning it a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2006. The award opened up a whole new avenue for promoting Oregon wines, particularly those from local producers.
Andy has been a champion of Southern Oregon wines ever since. To this day, he is actively involved in spreading the word about the up and coming local wine scene. He is currently working at Ostras, planning wine tastings and educating tourists and locals alike about the emergence of Rogue Valley wines.
Today, Andy continues to cultivate his knowledge and love of local wines, visiting wineries weekly and talking with the people that make our wine region so special.
Chef Billy Harto
THE RESTAURATEUR WHO BROUGHT YOU THAI PEPPER, KOBE & BAMBU