Winemaker & General Manager
“Winemaking is a science and entails technical skill, but just as critical is having deep intuition, keen observation, and a sense of wonder."
Photo: Bob McClenahan
Chris Kajani became the Winemaker and General Manager at Bouchaine Vineyards in early 2015, replacing longtime Bouchaine Winemaker and General Manager Michael Richmond. Having an established Carneros winemaker familiar with our soils and microclimate was critical to Bouchaine, as it is the longest continuously operating winery in the region, and valuing the history of crafting balanced and elegant wines was key. The transition was a natural for Chris, who had been making wines from multiple Carneros vineyards for Saintsbury (right up the road) since 2006.
As Chris says, “It takes a village to craft a memorable bottle of wine, and each person who touches the process must bring a ‘no compromises’ mantra to their piece of the puzzle.”
Chris is a proud native of Napa where she learned early in life the pleasures of jumping on neighbors’ horses for vineyard rides and raiding her parents’ wine cellar (not necessarily in that order). The minute she turned 16, she became the designated driver for family outings up and down the valley, planting the seed for her future career. She went on to earn her B.S. in Biological Sciences at UC Davis and began working for biotech giants in the Bay Area.
After extensive travel in the wine regions of France, Spain, and Italy she decided to take in another direction her desire to enhance people’s lives. A chance encounter at a dinner party led her to work a harvest at Testarossa with renowned winemaker and “pinot geek” Ed Kurtzman. Bitten by the winemaking bug, she trekked back to UC Davis where she completed her M.S. in Viticulture and Enology. She was hired by Pahlmeyer in 2004 and was immediately seduced by its newly launched Pinot Noir project. “I put my nose in the tank and the layers of wild strawberry, succulent cherry, cardamom, sandalwood, roses and cinnamon hit me like a wave – after the first harvest of Pinot Noir, I was hooked.”
The Burgundian side of life called to her, and in 2006 she joined Saintsbury. She was quickly promoted to Associate Winemaker and oversaw winemaking and viticulture. In 2013, she was promoted to Winemaker. “Immersing myself in the nuanced soils and microclimates of Carneros, and having the opportunity to build relationships with our outstanding and dedicated grower community, has been an incredibly rewarding experience. We live and breathe grapes and wine – but also live on this dirt, breathe this air, and drink this water. To work with people who are not only committed to world class wine growing, but also sustainability and the preservation of this land for generations is such an honor.”
Chris Kajani is the sixth winemaker in Bouchaine Vineyards’ 35-year history, and the first woman to hold that position, as well as the post of GM. Chris lives in Napa with her husband and son. When she isn’t hiking, cooking, or traveling, you can still find her jumping on a neighbor’s horse and raiding wine cellars.