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Toast to International Ties: Freeman Wines Featured at State Department

On Thursday, April 11, 2024, we had the honor of presenting our wines during a luncheon at the State Department, hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris to celebrate the visit of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan. Esteemed attendees included Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

Featured wines were the 2022 Ryo-Fu West Sonoma Coast Chardonnay and the 2021 Akiko's Cuvee West Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, both of which paired exquisitely with the seasonal menu, enhancing the culinary experience.

This prestigious event was not only a profound honor but also a testament to the deep cultural ties between the United States and Japan. We are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to such a significant occasion and look forward to fostering further connections through our shared appreciation for fine wine.

Historic Award for Akiko Freeman: The Green & White Medal for Agricultural Excellence

Akiko Freeman was recently honored with the Green & White Medal for Agricultural Excellence, becoming the first woman ever to receive this prestigious accolade. The ceremony, held at the Japanese Consul General’s residence in Los Angeles, recognized her for being the first Japanese winemaker with a wine served at the White House and her transformative approach to organic farming. Shinkichki Koyama, who presented the award, said of Akiko, “She worked very hard to achieve the best growing conditions on the property — irrigation, ensuring that the soil was well-drained and well-oxygenated — all with the long-term vision to produce better grapes under organic farming protocols.” Her efforts have significantly contributed to the agriculture sector, reinforcing Japan-USA relations. This milestone achievement underscores Akiko's pioneering role in the field.

Historic Award for Akiko Freeman: The Green & White Medal for Agricultural Excellence

The White House

We are honored that the White House featured our Ryo-fu Chardonnay at a recent State Dinner welcoming Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the United States. 

Akiko Freeman

LE.PAN: The small Sonoma winery with Asian ambitions; “We don’t manipulate anything. We just try to grow the best fruit and bring out the best of it. That’s our philosophy.” 


All about elegance and delicacy cover
The New York Times Style Magazine: Japan
All about elegance and delicacy

We are honored to have a feature article on Akiko Freeman and her winemaking in The New York Times Style Magazine Japan. "Akiko's winemaking style is all about elegance and delicacy...I want to make the best use of the characteristics of the land to create a well-balanced wine with good acidity."

Life Well Lived: Freeman Vineyard & Winery cover
Home + Style
Life Well Lived: Freeman Vineyard & Winery

Have you always wanted to visit the wine region of Northern California but didn't know where to start? Napa? Calistoga? Sonoma? Where do you start?  There are a lot of regions, wineries and restaurants to visit and it can be VERY overwhelming not to mention a lot of miles to cover in what could be a short trip. Most of us go out for a long weekend with friends to celebrate a birthday, enjoy harvest season or just want to drink some really good wine! A lot of the top/well known wineries are invite only and/or require advance notice and reservations. They are hard to find unless you know exactly what you are looking for. Some of the BEST wines in Sonoma County are barely on the map.  This can be challenging as once you arrive to the winery you'll find you are in the middle of nowhere and now need to drive miles to find a good spot for lunch. I PROMISE if you start at Freeman Winery you'll be VERY pleased and will DEFINITELY be spreading the good word to ALL of your friends for a future visit!...

Celebrating Women of Color in Wine
Five Trailblazing Women to Watch
Akiko Freeman cover
where epicure
Celebrating Women of Color in Wine
Five Trailblazing Women to Watch
Akiko Freeman

THE CALIFORNIA WINE industry isn't known for its diversity—for decades, most winemakers have had similar backgrounds, and most have been men. In recent years, however, a handful of women of color have taken Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties by storm, blazing new trails for their respective families and for the industry overall. Here are the stories of five remarkable women in the wine industry.


To say Akiko Freeman's family goes way back in Japan would be an understatement. Her family members trace their lineage back 23 generations. She is a cousin of Japan's Empress Michiko and related to the founding Mitsubishi family. She also likely the only female Asian winemaker in the entire United States. Akiko makes the juice at Freeman Winery in Sebastopol and co-owns the winery with her husband, Ken. In her job, she performs tasks that no women in her family have done before. "In Japan, ladies don't usually pick up anything heavier than chopsticks," she quips. "Now I'm doing punch-downs and carrying boxes of wine around the winery." Freeman credits her father and grandfather for her interest in wine; her grandfather loved Bordeaux-style vino and her father liked wines from Burgundy. When asked to describe her style, Akiko says proudly that she tries to imbue her wines with classic Old World-style influences. Consider it her way of paying tribute to the past.


Westerly Winds
Inside Akiko and Ken Freeman's cool-climate oenophile's paradise. cover
Caviar Affair
Westerly Winds
Inside Akiko and Ken Freeman's cool-climate oenophile's paradise.

A COOL BREEZE—RYO FU IN JAPANESE—WAFTS OVER AKIKO AND Ken Freeman’s winery, vineyards, and home in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley. They and their grape-growing neighbors in Sebastopol embrace the chilling Pacific winds, which refresh the vines and produce the bracing yet rewarding chardonnays and pinots noirs for which Freeman Vineyard &c Winery is known.

So vital are these breezes that Freeman pays homage with its Ryo-Fu Chardonnay, a multi-vineyard blend. In fact, all the Freeman wines are positively influenced by ocean winds and fog, so much so that each can be counted on to deliver energetic fruit flavors, mouthwatering acidity, vibrant finishes, and overall elegance.

Akiko and Ken started Freeman Vineyard & Winery in 2001. He was raised on the East Coast, she in Tokyo; they met at a party in New York in 1985. Akiko had just arrived in the US, her father having passed on his knowledge of Burgundy-style wines to her. Her love of chardonnay and pinot noir mirrored international businessman Ken’s tastes, and the topic was the launchpad for their romance, marriage, and eventual founding of the winery.

After apprenticing with consulting winemaker Ed Kurtzman, Akiko now produces the wines in the Freeman cave, with a less-is-more hand. Harvesting at just the right moment in the relatively cool conditions preserves the grapes’ natural acidity, and her judicious use of new French-oak barrels for fermentation and aging ensures the wines will have broad palate texture, without the overt toast aromas and flavors that new French oak can impart.

The Freemans balance estate-grown grapes with purchased fruit for their wines. Their first estate vineyard, Gloria, at the winery, is a former apple orchard named for Hurricane Gloria, the storm that led to their party meet-up in 1985. The pinot noir it produces is, well, glorious.

Also in 2007, the couple acquired property near Occidental, a cold, windy, and steep site just five miles from the ocean and surrounded by old redwoods. The vineyard they planted there, in the Sonoma Coast AVA, is named Yu-ki— Japanese for “big tree.” Its pinots are firm, lean, and savory when young, yet blossom beautifully with age.

Also not to miss: Akiko’s Cuvée, a blend of her favorite barrels of pinot noir, and KR Ranch Pinot Noir from the Keefer Ranch Vineyard.

The Freemans are fans of—and investors in—the Single Thread Farm-Restaurant-Inn in Healdsburg, awarded three Michelin stars in 2019 for its eleven-course, Japanese-influenced kaiseki tasting menu. Says Akiko: “We attended a fundraiser for Sonoma Land Trust in 2015, where Kyle Connaughton prepared an amazing meal, using only a campfire. This was two years before Kyle and his wife, Katina, opened Single Thread. We found a group of friends to invest.”

Umami abounds on the Single Thread menu, and Freeman pinots noirs are great mates for the cuisine.

Freeman offers tastings by appointment, at $30 per person. 1300 Montgomery Road, Sebastopol, CA, 707-823-6937, freemanwinery.com.



Friends of Freeman: Drink Well & Do Good

Join the Friends of Freeman where passion for cool-climate fine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay meets philanthropy. As a member, you'll enjoy exclusive benefits such as special events and curated wine allocations. Your participation also supports a 5% donation to important causes, including local nonprofits.

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