Since 2001, Freeman has been one of the great pioneers of cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, charting a course to the western edges of California winegrowing, where the influence of the Pacific Ocean shapes the character of the wines. In doing so, the winery has helped to define a more balanced, sophisticated and thoughtful style of winemaking—a style that has been embraced by connoisseurs and collectors around the world.
Freeman Vineyard & Winery was founded by Ken and Akiko Freeman in 2001, but the seed was planted 16 years earlier. Those who have visited Freeman’s picturesque winery in the Russian River Valley often ask about the keystone engraved with the date September 28, 1985, which crowns the entrance to the wine cave. The answer recalls a moment that is at the heart of the Freeman story.
In 1985, while crewing a yacht on its way to the Caribbean, Ken was forced by Hurricane Gloria to head to port near his hometown of Scarsdale, N.Y., where a friend happened to be hosting a lively party. Amidst the jeans and t-shirts of the storm-bound revelers, Ken saw Akiko, newly arrived in the United States from Japan and beautifully attired in a Chanel dress. He was smitten. The date was September 28, 1985.
While the couple was initially brought together by a hurricane, they were also bound by a shared passion for refined, cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Driven by the firm belief that California is capable of producing wines every bit as complex and compelling as those of Burgundy, they explored more than 300 properties before choosing a site on which to build their dream. Their search ultimately led them to western Sonoma County, with its steep hillside terrain and cooling ocean breezes.
From the first vintage, the Freeman style went against convention. While others pushed the limits of ripeness, Akiko and consulting winemaker Ed Kurtzman sought balance and refinement. Today, the winery is defined by those same pursuits, with Akiko at the helm as winemaker, and Freeman is recognized internationally as one of California's most acclaimed small producers.