Bodkin Wines

New California with Medieval Flair



Quick facts:                                                                          

Owner & Winemaker: Chris Christensen, Andrew Chambers

Location: Healdsburg, Northern California, USA

Vineyards: the grapes are sourced from organic and sustainable vineyards in Northern California

Soils: alluvial, gravelly and sandy loam

Main varieties: Muscat, Zinfandel

Winemaking: the wines carried by J&F are spontaneously fermented, minimal SO2 added

Annual production (approx): 2,500-3,200 cases


Fun facts:

  • Chris is a true medieval-history nerd, hence the winery name inspired by a battle from the Hundred Years’ War and also the Middle-Ages-inspired label designs
  • As an African American vintner, Chris works to promote diversity and inclusion in the wine industry through speaking engagements, podcasts and mentorship opportunities for aspiring vintners and winery owners
  • Besides Bodkin Wines, Chris also makes the delicious Where’s Linus? house label for us!


Jump to wines | Bodkin Wines Website


“The Story of Bodkin Wines starts on a muddy field outside the town of Agincourt in the north of France on the 25th of October, 1415…” Wait, what?! California wasn’t even called California back then… Correct, but thanks to winemaker Chris Christensen’s devotion to all things Middle Age, the winery story kind of does reach back this far. For it is the historical Battle of Agincourt during the Hundred Years’ War that inspired both the name (a bodkin is a type of arrowhead used with great success by the peasant bowmen of England against the armored nobility of France) and the motto of this Sonoma-based project: “We few, we happy few”.

Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Chris Christensen came to Sonoma more or less by chance, thanks to a wine tasting trip during his junior year at Stanford. “I never thought winemaking was an actual career path for people who weren’t born into a winery or vineyard, but I quickly got hooked,” he recalls. Although originally fueled – as Chris himself admits – by the idea that knowing a thing or two about wine might impress girls, Chris’ curiosity about wine turned into a real passion.

And, after a short stint in banking, it also turned into a real career, as he founded Bodkin Wines in 2011 and started to make wine for both his own and other brands. Two years later, his friend Andrew Chambers, an Oregon native, joined him in his Healdsburg operation. Together they made a sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, the first in the USA and one of their flagship wines ever since. Nowadays, their portfolio consists of multiple varieties that thrive in California, such as Zinfandel or Muscat. The grapes are sourced from various conventionally or sustainably farmed vineyards around Northern California – a lot of them come from Lake County, often from the Sandy Bend Vineyard. Chris ended up there by chance — in 2011, this Upper Lake site had some fruit available at the last minute. To his surprise, it turned out great, and they’ve been taking grapes from there ever since, becoming friends with the owner in the process.

“We are all about using old-world craftsmanship along with modern space-age science to make wines that have all the elegance and balance that our marketing materials don’t. Furthermore, we don’t believe that handcrafted wine has to cost an arm and a leg. So we aim to make wines at a price we’d be happy to pay – and we are ballers on a budget,” Chris laughs. “We’re proud of these wines and want to share them with other like-minded souls.”

As an African American vintner, Chris also works to promote diversity and inclusion in the wine industry through speaking engagements, podcasts and mentorship opportunities for aspiring vintners and winery owners. His work has earned him much kudos, including a place in the Wine Enthusiast’s 40 Under 40 industry shakers in 2020. Praised for both his activism and self-taught yet skilled winemaking, Christensen is indisputably a figure to watch in the American wine industry.



Light Skinned Zinfandel — Back to the top

Winemaker’s note: “I wanted to make a chillable light-bodied red wine – I find them quite tasty and I hadn’t made one before, I couldn’t resist. From the start, I called the wine “Light Skin Contact Zinfandel” since I planned to limit the time the grapes stayed on the skin (only 36h compared to the usual 5 to 25+ days). This minimizes the extraction of color and tannins from the skins, keeping the wine light in color and structure. 

Since the working name of “Light Skin Contact Zinfandel” is long and awkward I started calling the wine “Light Skin” for short and over time it morphed into “Light Skinned.” While the wine is ambiguously a dark rosé or light red wine – I felt it paralleled my own family’s mixed-race heritage and wanted to celebrate that. The emojis on the label represent my three nieces, my sister, myself, my brother, my son, my father and my daughter.”

Grape: Zinfandel
Vineyard: L. Venturi Vineyards outside Calpella, Mendocino County, CA. Organically and dry-farmed for over 20 years. Well-drained Pinole gravelly loam soils with a mixture of sandstone, shale, and quartz.
Making of: The crushed grapes spent 36 hours on skins before pressing. The wine was spontaneously fermented and aged in a combination of concrete egg and stainless steel tanks. Bottled without fining or filtration the following summer. SO2: at crush and a small add at the end of fermentation.
Personality: “a very nice strawberry-watermelon flavor that’s as refreshing as it is seasonal. Enjoy it with a slight chill or at a standard red wine temperature – either way, it’s super enjoyable,” Chris says.

The Eyren Muscat Canelli — Back to the top

Winemaker’s note: “This concrete–egg fermented Muscat Canelli really cranks the palate volume to 11 since 10 isn’t voluminous enough. An absolute unit, oh lawd it’s comin’ – texture for days, weeks, months, years, really. Sticking to the tradition of Bodkin Muscat Canelli, it’s RS dry so no need to call it sweet!”
Grape: Muscat Canelli
Vineyard: Sandy Bend Vineyard, Alluvial Soils 1,200ft above sea level in Upper Lake, Lake County CA. Planted in 1996, certified Sustainable in 2013. Managed by Chris Schlies, a long-time lawyer and activist and Chris Christensen’s friend.
Making of: Fermented and aged in concrete egg, then 7.5 months on the fermentation lees. Bottled without fining or filtration.
Personality: voluminous, full-bodied and aromatic, yet dry.