The Winemaker Behind America's First Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc

Posted: Aug 21, 2023

Many roads lead to Rome, and for winemaker and entrepreneur Chris Christensen, the road to founding his own California winery was anything but straight. "I'm the fish that likes to swim upstream," Christensen admitted to Little Village while describing the winding development of his own Bodkin Wines.

Hailing from Iowa, Christensen grew up in a family that emphasized education — and didn't drink. Dutifully, Christensen graduated from Stanford with a communications science degree but had few ideas about where to work until landing an internship at a winery. There, Christensen was welcomed into the art and science of wine-making. The experience left a significant mark on Christensen, and he found himself working odd jobs at various wineries. Even when he took a year-long position at a bank during the recession, he couldn't get wine off his mind.

Navigating his way back into the world of wine at California's Medlock Ames in 2010, Christensen learned about the fermentation involved in making white wine. "They grow some of the best Sauvignon Blanc, consistently," he told Food & Wine, recalling the varietal that inspired him to start his own brand.

The perfect brunch pour

Hoping to work his way up in a field in which his Stanford background "didn't mean anything," Christensen told Little Village, he finally saw his opening: America didn't have its own sparkling Sauvignon Blanc. "I look back now and see that what I was really advocating for was user-friendly sparkling wine, which has really become a genre of its own," he told Food & Wine. Grapes used for sparkling wines require a certain delicacy, and Christensen knew he would have to be particular when searching for the right ones. "It's been a bit of a learning curve, coming up with a lighter, refreshing wine that also has some drama to it," Christensen admitted to the San Fransico Chronicle.

As the first sparkling Sauvignon Blanc made in the United States, Bodkin Wines was born in 2012 and made an impression on the wine industry with its high-acid, low-alcohol wines. Though Christensen has made several blends with different fermenting processes and late-harvest grapes, his sparkling wine has captured attention and been described as soft rather than overly tart, with subtle notes of apple and stone fruit."I wanted the ultimate brunch wine, like a mimosa that needed no orange juice," Christensen told Food & Wine. Brunch-goers can now toast to Christensen as they raise glasses of American-made sparkling wine.

By Michelle Welsh
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Date Published: August 19, 2023

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