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Forthright Winery

Rafer Caudill, Owner / Winemaker

Rafer was born in Baltimore, Maryland. When he was young his mother grew tired of the city life and moved the whole family to the country to start a dairy and wheat farm in Missouri. After living off the fat of the land for 9 years, the family picked up roots and moved the whole farm to upstate New York. There, at the age of 14, is where his passion for winemaking began. In the back corner of the farm an old grape vine had grown into the top of a patch of birch trees which created a huge canopy of grapes. Being mechanically inclined, he built his own press, harvested the grapes, and made his first wine.

Rafer moved to Chicago to attend the Illinois Institute of Technology. There he began to follow in his grandfather's footsteps by studying mechanical engineering, but instead he earned a degree in Architecture as one of the last students under the Mies van de Rohe program. For 20 years as an architect, he worked at a variety of architecture and engineering firms. His projects ranged from high-end homes, medical facilities, office buildings, big box stores, banks, schools, the Chicago Board of Trade, and the Richard M. Daley courthouse rooms. 

In his last 9 years in Chicago, before moving to Napa, he worked as the architect, engineer, and general contractor renovating an 1873 National Historic Queen Anne Victorian home in Wicker Park. When his grandfather came to visit he said, "Wow, you really are an engineer after all."

Through the enticement of his long-time friend Patrick, Rafer hung up his architecture hat and moved to Napa. Immediately he immersed himself in the wine industry and began studying enology at the Napa Valley Community College. In 2016, four friends formed the Forthright Fellowship. The group has returned Rafer to his long-lost winemaking roots, at last.

He and his new wife, Elena, now reside in beautiful Napa.