Chris Christensen is a self-taught vintner, master blender, and medieval history nerd. He’s the most interesting man in the (wine) world.
We spent months looking for the perfect rosé. We had tasting panels, we collected feedback about what people love about rosés, we did hours of (glorious) taste-testing.
The verdict? People wanted something dry and crushable, but complex and fruit-forward.
Enter Chris Christensen. On the drive up to visit him in Healdsburg for the first time, we listened to his interview on the Color of Wine podcast. When asked what was in his glass, Chris answered, “Coors Light”. I knew I’d like this guy.
The first time we met, Chris didn’t disappoint. From his backwards hat to his array of beakers and glasses ready to make custom blends for us on the fly, it was clear he didn’t play by the rules.
Chris is an unlikely winemaker who grew up far from wine. He’s a proud 4th generation Cedar Rapidian (Iowa to the uninitiated), raised in a devout Christian, non-drinking household with an African American father and a mother with Scottish and Scandinavian roots.
Wine didn’t enter Chris’ life until he headed west to college at Stanford where he originally learned about wine to “impress chicks.” This first date move blossomed into a passion, and he decided to spend a few years working in wine before getting a desk job.
“Just a few years” turned into a career for this self-taught vintner. He clawed his way up from the bottom rung-by-rung, working harvest with some of the most talented winemakers in the biz, from Maurtison to Meeker Vineyard to Medlock Ames.
Chris is somebody that can’t be put in a box; he’s a walking contradiction that somehow makes perfect sense. He’s both larger than life and the most humble guy you’ll ever meet. A brunch lovin’ party animal and an archery nerd who’s fascinated by medieval history. And his wine style is bold and experimental, yet focused and restrained.
In 2014 he left Medlock Ames to focus on his own brand, Bodkin. Bodkin Wines is named after a battle in the Hundred Years War (told you he was a nerd), and is known for beautiful, aromatic white wines. With the motto, “We few, we happy few,” he focuses on creating “wine that can be enjoyed in the here and now — not to be hoarded in someone’s basement.” Speaking our language.
Chris is credited as being the first American to make a sparkling sauvignon blanc. And of the 15 wines he’s made, 11 have scored 90 or higher by Wine Enthusiast.
While he gained notoriety for his white wines, Chris became disillusioned with rosé as the market for the pink drink took off and consumers flocked to trendy brands with shiny labels. Chris wanted to chart new territory in wine, not follow the herd.
When we came knocking on his door, it was an opportunity to do something different. Chris decided it was time to step back into the rosé ring.
We learned there are three main ways to make rosé: saignée (bleeding juice from red wine), directly pressing white wine grapes, and blending red and white wines.
Chris decided to throw the rosé rules out the window and weave all three methods together, incorporating a saignée syrah and direct pressed components into a beautiful, blended rosé that represents the diversity of the northern coast of California and his own blended background.
Just a few weeks before canning day we were sent a sample of the final blend. We could sense hesitation from Chris. It was a really good rosé. But we could tell he just wasn’t excited about it.
Chris revealed that he’d made a rosé he pictured our customers loving — we were struck. Kendra said, “We want you to make the rosé that YOU love. Not what you think other people will love.”
Something clicked. A few weeks later, Chris returned enthusiastically — “THIS is the rosé I want to put my name on.” It was bright, bold, and beautiful. We knew we had met the first Maker rosé.
The finished product delivers fruit-forward elements from the saignée syrah, a crisp finish and focused acidity from the pinot gris, aromas of berry and fruit from zin, and a touch of rich, round, velvety plushness from barrel-fermented chardonnay.
Or as Chris says, “pretty much the best rosé you’ll ever have in a can.”
The criss-crossing paint brush strokes on the can celebrate the diverse array of wines from the North Coast that went into this blended rosé. They’re also a nod to winemaker Chris’s blended background and multiracial identity. ‘Cause blending is beautiful, baby!