New California with Medieval Flair
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
- 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!
“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.
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