Chris Kajani

Chris Kajani

Bouchaine Vineyards (Winemaker & General Manager)

Chris Kajani, a native of Napa, learned early in her life the pleasures associated with “rustling” neighbors’ horses for rides through the vineyards and raiding her parents’ wine cellar. Immediately upon turning 16, she became the designated driver for chauffeuring her family trips up and down Napa Valley, excursions that fostered her interest in a winemaking career. Chris attended the University of California, Davis, earning a B.S. in Biological Sciences in 1995.

Chris’s first professional appointments were with biotech firms in the Bay Area, and by 1999 she had risen to the title of senior quality control analyst at Genentech, a position she held for four years. But extensive travels in the wine regions of France, Spain, and Italy prompted her to consider a different career that would enhance people’s lives. A chance encounter led to her working a harvest with Ed Kurtzman, the renowned winemaker and “Pinot geek” at Testarossa Winery in Los Gatos, CA.

Now bitten by the winemaking bug, Chris enrolled in the Viticulture & Enology program at Davis, where she completed an M.S. in 2005. While working on her degree, Chris was winemaking assistant at Pahlmeyer Winery. There, she became involved in the winery’s newly launched Pinot Noir project. In her own words, “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.”

After two years at Pahlmeyer, she then moved on to Saintsbury Winery in mid-2006 as associate winemaker. Seven years later, she was promoted to winemaker.

In April 2015, Chris was lured to Bouchaine Vineyards, where she is winemaker and general manager, the first woman to hold this position. Her personal philosophy about the wine industry is embodied in the following quote: “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 and her husband and son live in Napa. When she’s not in the winery, you may find her hiking, cooking, or traveling, and possibly jumping on a neighbor’s horse and raiding wine cellars.