Story By: Elizabeth Smith // Photos Courtesy of Forthright Winery

A Craft. A Code. A Fellowship.

Forthright Winery is the story of four men – Patrick McEvoy, Rafer Caudill, Selcuk Sanliturk, and Ed Stritch – who have known each other for decades and have a collective dream of and passion for wine.

The name Forthright demonstrates the foursome’s philosophy and approach in both winemaking and life: to be honest, direct, and straightforward. “Our purpose is simple,” said McEvoy. “We want to produce fantastic wines that reflect our values and way of life, which mainly involves enjoying the Craic with our friends and family. If you don’t know the term Craic, it is the Irish word for ‘good times.’ Come visit our cave, and we’ll teach you all about it.”

Forthright stands out among its peers for many reasons. First, two of the proprietors, McEvoy and Caudill, are also the winemakers, and there are no additional employees. The two share the day-to-day responsibilities of both production and hospitality. While their approach to winemaking is minimalistic, they host in the winery’s 6,000-square-foot cave, where guests are surrounded by all things winemaking. Visits include tasting finished wines by the bottle and the occasional barrel tasting, accompanied by lots of storytelling and laughs. “Guests get to know us firsthand in an engaging way. They witness our genuine camaraderie and enthusiasm for what we do, which is rare in this industry,” said McEvoy.

Second, Forthright’s focus is Oak Knoll District Merlot, and they make it well, as evidenced by receiving two gold medals at the 2020 Decanter World Wine Awards. Out of 16,518 wines reviewed, only 537 won gold, and only 16 of those were from the United States. The Forthright label design also reveals the partners’ love of the Merlot grape varietal. It features a blackbird, which in French is called un merle. The grape’s name, Merlot, is believed to be a diminutive of merle; Merlot was named for its blue-black iridescent skin. Ripened grapes also attract blackbirds, one of the several bird species that love to eat ripe grapes.

In 2016, Stritch suggested making a Pinot Noir, one of his favorite varietal wines. The response was, “We can’t make a Pinot Noir! We don’t have a vineyard source for that varietal!” Shortly thereafter, he was surprised to discover they had sourced Pinot Noir grapes from the Russian River Valley and produced “The Stritch,” a Pinot Noir appropriately named after him. They even developed a new unit of measurement, defining “The Stritch” as “the distance between our bottle and your lips.”

While Forthright is Merlot focused, it is not exclusively. McEvoy and Caudill are always looking for unique opportunities to expand their portfolio. “Port, Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, why the hell not!” is their motto. Caudill believes, “People will get to know us for our Cabernet Sauvignon, but it will be our Merlot that makes us famous.”

Plan a visit to experience a warm and friendly introduction to Forthright’s world of enduring fellowship, honesty, joy, storytelling, and unwavering commitment to hand-crafted and elegant wines.