If I had to guess I’d say I first met Randy and Cheryl Phillips roughly 8 to 10 years ago in their tasting room on the westside of Paso Robles. Red Soles quickly became one of our (my wife and I) favorite spots to hang out and part of that was the people. Randy and Cheryl are salt of the earth kind of people. Always extremely hospitable and fun to chat with when we would visit. That said, I learned a lot about them through this Q&A and I hope you do too. Thank you again to Randy for taking the time out to do this with me.
Note: This Q&A originally appeared in the SLO Visitors’ Guide a while back.
Matt: If you weren’t in the wine industry, what would you be doing?
Randy: If I wasn’t in the wine industry making wine and growing grapes, I’d be retired to a wonderful beach somewhere on the West Coast.
Matt: What interests/ hobbies do you have outside of the wine world?
Randy: Outside of the wine world Cheryl and I love to hike the eastern Sierra’s in the summer months and explore that wonderful part of California and Nevada. We’re always looking for the next path or road less traveled.
Matt: What is your favorite wine region not including Paso Robles?
Randy: Cheryl and I lived in Spain for 8 years when we were much younger. We fell in love with Spanish varietals including Garnacha, Tempranillo and Mataro’. We have traveled to all the various wine regions within Spain and each holds something different to love. It’s because of this love that we have a full list of Spanish style wines at our winery/tasting room.
Matt: What’s your current favorite wine/ variety/ winery to drink?
Randy: My current favorite wine is Garnacha. It’s medium bodied with lots of ripe strawberry/cherry, enough for anyone to love. It goes just as well with seafood as it does with meats and cheeses. Every Garnacha we have made has been a gold medal winner with our 2015 vintage being best of California at the State Fair. A bonus is that it makes a really wonderful Rose.’
Matt: What is your favorite aspect of the wine business?
Randy: What I love about the wine business is the diversity that it brings to your life. Being farmers first we get to see the journey of the grape from the vineyard into the winery and finally into bottle and glass. This dust to wine cycle never gets old and every year brings a different challenge. No vintage is the same. They are each unique and each provide something new and exciting as you go through it.
Matt: How about least favorite?
Randy: I don’t have a least favorite aspect!
Matt: How long have you been in the industry?
Randy: Cheryl and I have been growing wine grapes in Paso for 32 years this year and have been making wine for 15 years with only our own estate grown fruit.
Matt: What different parts of the wine industry have you worked in?
Randy: So, you can see that we have worked in every aspect of the wine industry. We grow grapes turn them into wine at our Red Soles Winery. I am the grower, winemaker, marketing and sales all rolled into one.
Matt: Where are you from originally?
Randy: Cheryl and I met in high school in Orange County. Cheryl is from Huntington Beach and I grew up in Santa Ana. We met at Mater Dei High School in our Sophomore year and have been together since.
Matt: How long have you been in the Paso Robles area?
Randy: We have been in Paso Robles for 32 years. We have been growing grapes for all those years. So, this 2019 harvest will be our 32nd vintage.
Matt: What was your first job in the industry?
Randy: My first job in the wine industry was vineyard owner and winegrower leading to winery owner and winemaker.
Matt: What is your first wine memory?
Randy: In the early 70’s Cheryl and I lived in Napa. We would go wine tasting at The Christian Brothers Winery, Robert Mondavi, Krug and all the old line wineries of the time. It was like Paso Robles is today. You could walk in for a tasting, it was free, and more than likely you would be served by the winemaker or owner of the property. I can always remember at The Christian Brothers, Brother Timothy, who was the head winemaker would be there pouring wine and would take you to see his amazing cork screw collection. It was always a great experience and one that we participated in whenever we could.
Matt: Favorite part about Paso?
Randy: So, with Napa in mind some 47 years ago, I believe Paso Robles today has that same charm. Our wines have received acclaim and continue to improve year after year. Winemakers from Napa and Northern California come to Paso to start their own brands or to make wine at already established wineries. In addition, downtown Paso Robles has evolved into a wonderful place to have dinner, shop and enjoy yourself. It has become a destination of wine lovers of all types.
Matt: Least favorite part about Paso?
Randy: Based on what I like about Paso there is really nothing to dislike after 32 years here. Are we crowded from time to time? Yes. It comes with growth, but it is not out of hand. Just travel to Napa Valley some weekend and it’s a mess. Traffic starts before you even get into the valley proper. Long wait lines and high tasting fees nearing $75 per person.
Matt: Where do you see the industry in the Paso Robles region going? Do you see any interesting new trends or directions?
Randy: As I have said earlier our wines are getting better every year. But as a small winery we have always tried to stay ahead of the pack and do something that differentiates us. To that point we started a distillery to make premium craft Brandy and Brandy based products. Our line up currently has 6 products that we offer from Limoncello to a 5-year aged Brandy made from chardonnay grapes. When we started there was just 2 of us in Paso Robles. We helped start the Paso Robles Distillery Trail/SLO Distillery Trail and now have over 14 craft Distilleries in the organization over the last 5 years.
Matt: When you’re not drinking wine, what’s in your glass?
Randy: When I’m not drinking wine my glass still has wine in it. I’ll have a beer every now and then, but wine is my drink of choice. I also like a cocktail with different spirits as the base from rum, brandy, and whiskey.
Matt: What are some of your favorite food and wine pairings?
Randy: One of my favorite pairings is Swordfish with a Cabernet reduction sauce, roasted broccoli and garlic mashed potatoes served with Cabernet Sauvignon. Doesn’t get much better. Of course, a bone in rib eye on the barbeque with fresh vegetables and salad is a must paired with Petite Sirah. I’m also loving Rose’ with anything!
Matt: How many acres of vines do you have and how many cases are you producing each year?
Randy: Finally, a little about Red Soles. We farm 100 estate acres in the Willow Creek District of Paso Robles at 3230 Oakdale Road. The winery currently produces 2000 cases of wine a year. We have plans to increase production to about 10,000 cases in 2019. In addition, we sell our estate grapes to larger wineries and are an important part of their various programs.