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The Swirling Glass Features: Forthright Winery

Jennifer Anderson, the owner of The Swirling Glass, sits down with Patrick McEvoy of @forthrightwinery. You'll get an in-depth look at this incredible wine operation & what makes them a brand you want to get your hands on.


Keep Reading below or watch here to learn about this amazing winery and winemakers!

Jennifer:

Hi everyone. And welcome to The Swirling Glass. I'm Jennifer Anderson, and we're excited to have you on today's feature. This Swirling Glass provides educational experiences for wine, beer, and some amazing spirits. And today we are featuring Forthright Winery out of Napa, California. Today, after we interview the winemaker, you'll not only get to know him better and more personally, but you're going to definitely want to try their amazing wine. Today I'd like to introduce Patrick McEvoy with Forthright winery. Hi, Patrick, welcome!


Patrick:

Hi Jennifer. Thank you for having me on The Swirling Glass today. I'm looking forward to speaking with you and I'm honored and excited to share my passion for winemaking and introduce everybody to Forthright Winery.


Jennifer:

Good to have you, and we're also excited to talk about your amazing award-winning wines. Today, we're going to be tasting and sharing Forthright's 2013 Long Barrel Merlot Reserve. We're excited to try that and talk about it. All right, let's get to it. Cheers, Patrick. Thanks again!


Patrick:

A lovely sound that is. Let me cheers to you as well. And everybody that's following along with The Swirling Glass, cheers.


Jennifer:

Tell us about Forthright, how it came to be and what makes it special?


Patrick:

Well, we're the definition of boutique winery out here in Napa, really. We're dedicated to excellence in everything we do. And we're very focused on the craft and the love of the process. And that's really what makes us special.


Jennifer:

So how did you guys all come together? You obviously don't all live in California together so how did it all come about?


Patrick:

So besides myself, the other three partners are Rafer Caudill, Ed Stritch, and Sel Fitch. And we all hung out at the same bars together. We have known each other for a long time. We drank ourselves across Europe several times. And at one point we decided it might be cheaper to make our own booze than buy it from somebody else. So that was the impetus for us to say, "Hey, let's get involved in a winery." And from there we went through the steps and made it happen.

Patrick McEvoy, Owner/Winemaker Rafer Caudill, Owner/Winemaker

Sel Fich, Owner Ed Stritch, Owner

Jennifer:

That sounds amazing. So it's you and Rafer that make the wine, correct? It's just the two of you making the wine?


Patrick:

Well, there are four of us that are partners in Forthright Winery, and we're all integral to what goes into this glass. We also have separate duties and we take care of different things. So Raf and I are the two people here in Napa on the ground that are doing most of the work in the cave. Doing the wine-making duties day today. And Ed and Sel offer support and get involved with more of the marketing and sales strategies of Forthright Winery.


Jennifer:

Awesome, so it's just the two of you? You don't have any staff, you just have some people helping you once in a while? But you guys are getting it done?


Patrick:

So we don't have any employees, but that's actually by choice. The four of us got involved in Forthright Winery to actually make wine. And we came out here and we set up shop and our hands touch everything. We go out and we do the harvest. We make the wine, we clean the barrels. We cleaned the cave, our hands touch everything. And we could've gone out and hired the Rockstar winemaker that everyone else in the valley is doing. But that's not why we got involved in Forthright Winery. We want to do things ourselves. That's how passionate we are. We don't mind the 18 hour days. We don't mind getting dirty, soaked, wet, cold, work until all hours of the evening to get stuff done. We want to make wine.




Jennifer:

Okay. Tell us about the cave. What's so special about the cave?


Patrick:

Yeah, the cave is located in the Oak Knoll district of Napa Valley and we're on the west side of the valley tucked up against the Mayacamas hillside. And the cave is built into that hillside. It's our own little slice of heaven. It's where all the magic happens that we do here to make wine. And you should really come to visit and see it for yourself because it really is a beautiful place.


Jennifer:

No, for sure. And looking at this photo here, these aren't all of the grapes that are used to make all your wines, correct? So what other grapes do you use?


Patrick:

Well, our portfolio of wines is fairly diverse. We are constantly experimenting with different varietals and different wine-making styles. And we source things from all over Napa Valley, but also all over the region. And given our size, we're small enough and nimble enough that we're able to source the best fruit from the best growers and experiment and make things that maybe other wineries that are focused on one thing are not able to do.




Jennifer:

In this photo here, we're going to see these doors and I'm sure everyone wants to see a sneak peek of what it looks like inside the cave. And so this is what happens when those doors open. Here's a sneak preview. Can you tell us a little about what happens in here? So everything happens in here and right outside...tell us more about that.


Patrick:

Well, welcome to a quick peek in the cave. As you can see, it's full of barrels, this is a wine that's aging. And eventually, it'll go into one of our bottles and hopefully get out to you to sample. But this cave is where we do everything. While we de-stem the grapes and press the grapes off on the crush pad outside the cave, everything else happens in here. Well, the cave smells beautifully all year round. In the fall, when we're going through fermentation and the caves full of fresh grapes that are turning into wine. There's a special aroma and a special vibe in the cave that you just can't beat. And it's also where we host all of our tastings. So if you come to visit us, you'll be sitting in the cave amongst all these barrels, experiencing what we do every day.


Jennifer:

If you guys didn't make wine for a living, what would you want to do?


Patrick:

So I have to start off by saying that I'm actually doing exactly what I love to do. And I couldn't imagine doing anything else. It was quite a path to get here. And it took me a while to transition through life, to get to this point, but this is paradise. This is exactly what I need to be doing. But if I was unfortunate enough not to be able to do this, I would want to be able to do something that involves traveling, socializing, drinking, eating, seeing the world, meeting people, and enjoying life. And that's what opening a bottle of wine is. Meeting up with friends and having meals together and talking and enjoying. And that's the whole purpose and life is short. So, that's what I would like to do.


Jennifer:

Let's talk about the Merlot. The 2013 Long Barrel Reserve Merlot, it's one of the highlighted wines that Forthright has. Can you tell us a little bit about what makes it special? What was happening in 2013, during the harvest, and tell us about the experience and the process.


Patrick:

It's a lovely Wine. It ages for 60 months in French Oak, it comes from the epicenter of Napa Valley, the Oak Knoll District. It's new world grapes, aged in an old-world style. It's got high acidity. It's got a backbone, it's got a structure. It has amazing fruit. It's almost eight years old and it's still drinking like a young mind. We love our 2013.


Jennifer:

You obviously did an amazing job and it's award-winning. Tell us about the awards and what they mean?


Patrick:

The Decanter worldwide awards, 2020 first time we entered a major competition. There are two or three others that are the big competitions, but Decanter is probably the biggest, most famous, most global that everyone pays attention to. And we entered our wines in that competition. So did over 16,000 other wines were entered in that from I think, 7,000 wineries. There were 120 some judges that drank through those wines, tasted them. And out of all of those wines, only 537 won gold medals. Only 16 wines in America won gold medals. So, that's a pretty amazing statistic. And we actually won a gold medal 96 points on our 2014 Merlot as well.




Jennifer:

It's delicious. I think it's one of the best Merlot's I've ever had. I'm going to share with everyone where the wine comes from and a little bit of the winemaking and the tasting notes. If you want to go through that with everyone, kind of explain...


Patrick:

So our 2013 Long Barrel Reserve Merlot, it's special in the sense that it's been aged for 60 months in French Oak. And there's probably no other winery in the valley that's aging wine that long for various reasons. But to get down to the harvest part of things that was so long ago, a lot of stuff's happened between then and now. We've had earthquakes, we've had droughts, we've had fires, we've had the current pandemic that we're going through. It's been just a volatile time between then and now. The only thing that's been consistent is our 2013 sitting in its barrel for five years, aging and becoming what it is now. And it actually became something fantastic.


Jennifer:

Now, Forthright brands itself with a craft, a code, a fellowship. Can you tell us a little bit about what that means and what that means to the four of you and how you bring that to your customers? And to the world?


Patrick:

A craft, a code, a fellowship, but it really says exactly what we're trying to do with our life out here in Napa. We're trying to build a legacy of making phenomenal wine, but doing it in the right style and doing it in the right way. Being craft and boutique about it. Having a proper code where we're making wine honestly, but also doing it so we all enjoy what we're doing and building friendships and fellowships with people around us. Not only in the valley but the people that come to visit us for tastings and it's our path moving forward. And it's also the legacy that we want to leave behind.


Jennifer:

And here's an off question because you love wine. What's your second... Or what's your other drink of choice besides wine that you like?


Patrick:

Well, I'd have to say that I've pretty much drink almost everything. Margarita's, gin and tonics, they're all great. But if I had to choose one thing that I imbibe with, it would be Irish whiskey. But it has to also be in the environment that Irish whiskey is served. And that would be a lovely Irish pub full of the Irish sing-song and the banter and the absolute nonsense that goes with the whole experience. So I'm somewhere Redbreast, Midleton, Green spot. Or I can just do a simple Jameson if I have to, but I love all of those.


Jennifer:

I love Irish whiskey too. And I don't know if it's because I like heavier tastes or more bitter tastes or stronger liquors, but yeah. Irish whiskey on the rocks for me, for sure. Okay. I want to get into sustainability, a lot of wineries talk about sustainability and what they're doing. How does Forthright contribute?


Patrick:

Yeah. Sustainability is extremely important to us. We understand where we are in the world, making wine out here. And I think sustainability is important to a lot of small wineries here in Napa Valley. We're very conscious about how things affect the world and our environment out here. And we want to have a smaller footprint as possible. And to that end, we're in this cave where we're carbon neutral, we don't have any heating or cooling. We recycle as much as possible. We focus on being as kind to the environment as we can. Because the environment, the ground that gives us everything we do as far as winemaking.



Jennifer:

And every bottle of wine is a treasure. And I'm sure just every event that you have hosting people talking about that it's just so amazing to find out their story too. And it looks like here, you guys have a lot of hard work, but yet fun at the same time. And it's just amazing to hear how you guys operate. The next question I want to ask you, we only have a few minutes left. So I just want to ask a few more questions, is who is your greatest mentor and what do you live by today? From what they've taught you?


Patrick:

My biggest mentors are my parents. They taught me how to navigate through life. They allowed me the freedom to explore and experience. And when I made mistakes, they put me back on the right path. So I love them, but we can't ignore the mentors I've had out here in Napa: that everyone from winemakers, to cave workers who have taught me how to do things properly out here in the wine business. And that is so important. And I've been lucky enough to be surrounded by people that care and that want to help. And that's important.


Jennifer:

And it's humbling. It's good to have those types of people in your life for sure.


Patrick:

Yeah, it definitely is.


Jennifer:

So you love hosting events. You love having folks come to the winery. Tell us a little bit... I'm going to share some photos with our viewers. It's not a pop quiz, but I want you to tell us a little bit more about all of these sculptures.


Patrick:

I love those photos. The photo on the top left, that's my partner Sel, standing next to himself. We had a bust of Sel commissioned by a friend of ours who loved to work with clay and came up with Sel's head. And it resides in the cave and watches over us and makes sure that we're not drinking this wine. The photo on the right is an iteration of that bust before it was fired. When we thought maybe we should give Sel some hair, but unfortunately the kiln burned the hair off. The photo on the bottom left is done by a good friend of ours, Roger Acres. Who's an artist in Chicago and not sure if you can tell who that's supposed to be, but its our little plaque that says 'You talking to me?' And if you haven't seen the movie, it's from Taxi Driver, but that's supposed to look like Robert De Niro.



Jennifer:

Okay. And my last question for you Patrick is I don't mean to put you on the spot again. But can you just tell us a joke? Tell us something that's going to make us laugh.


Patrick:

Well, since you did ask me what my favorite thing to imbibe in besides wine is this is a joke I'm going to tell. What do you call Irish arthritis? It's getting stiff in a different joint every night.


Jennifer:

(Haha) Well, Patrick, I want to thank you so much for joining us today. This has been amazing. The 2013 Long Barrel Reserve Merlot is also amazing and we can share where to get it. People can go to your website, which is forthrightwinery.com. I will share where we can get the information from just give me one second. Yeah, so visit forthrightwinery.com. And also visit The Swirling Glass to join the mailing list. And you can also have a chance to win a Forthright Winery and Swirling Glass wine lovers gift. Once again, I want to thank everyone for joining us today. This has been so fun and we're excited to continue this series and for you to get to know Forthright Winery even better. So once again, thank you so much, and cheers. Cheers Patrick, thanks again.


Patrick:

Cheers Jennifer and thank you so much for hosting us today. Myself and Forthright Winery. We very much appreciate having the time to sit down and talk with you and thank you and The Swirling Glass followers for spending the time to listen to me and to learn more about Forthright Winery.


Jennifer:

Yes. Thank you very much. And we'll talk to you again soon and again, thank you!



Listen to the full recording here:



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