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Freeman Winery in the top 52 California wineries you need to visit in 2020 cover
San Francisco Chronicle
Freeman Winery in the top 52 California wineries you need to visit in 2020

Ken and Akiko Freeman are serious about wine. Since planting their vineyard in 2001, they have been single-mindedly dedicated to improving their farming and producing high-quality Pinot Noir wines that reflect their places of origin. Those places are the western edges of the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast AVAs, where cooler temperatures can produce Pinot Noirs that lean toward European styles. Akiko Freeman makes the wines with the help of consulting winemaker Ed Kurtzman, also of August Briggs. Visits to the estate in Sebastopol, by appointment only, feel personal and include a tour of the Gloria Vineyard and the wine caves, plus a guided tasting. All that for $30 – with such a thoughtful experience and such well-made wines, it’s hard to imagine a better deal in Sonoma County today.

Freeman Vineyard picks up inspiration from Burgundy cover
San Francisco Chronicle
Freeman Vineyard picks up inspiration from Burgundy

Ken and Akiko Freeman started Freeman Vineyard and Winery in 2001 after being inspired by the fine wines of Burgundy.

With two estate vineyards, Gloria and Yu-ki, the Freemans devote themselves to cool-climate, coastal Pinot Noir, working with other sites within the Sonoma Coast and Russian River Valley to produce five unique Pinots, as well as one Chardonnay from Hawk Hill Vineyard nearby. Everything is made in small quantities with the utmost attention.

Tokyo native Akiko makes the wines, having apprenticed alongside consulting winemaker Ed Kurtzman since the winery’s inception.

Ken has been actively involved in the West Sonoma Coast Vintners, which has applied for a new appellation to be formed, incorporating vineyards like his that lie within a certain proximity of the Pacific Ocean.

Visits ($30) are held in the wine caves and are by appointment from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. They’re private and intimate and, in addition to tasting the wines, visitors will have the chance to experience the Freeman’s small-lot winery and Gloria Vineyard next door.

WHAT TO TRY: The two estate Pinot Noirs are well worth trying side-by-side if possible. The Gloria is from a hillside spot once planted to apples that the Freemans named after its original owner. Yu-ki, from a high-elevation site above Occidental that is surrounded by redwoods, is spicy and sublime. Akiko’s Cuvée is a selection of the best barrels each year.

INSIDE INFO: From Freeman it would be a shame not to head just a tiny bit farther to Freestone’s Wild Flour Bread Bakery for brick-oven breads, scones, fougasse, flatbreads and sticky buns.

A Bounty of Pinot Picks from Sonoma Coast,
2009 Freeman Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir cover
San Francisco Chronicle
A Bounty of Pinot Picks from Sonoma Coast,
2009 Freeman Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

2009 Freeman Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($44, 14.1% alcohol): Ken and Akiko Freeman and winemaker Ed Kurtzman again show their ability to finesse the fruit from around the appellation - much from the Rayhill and Sexton Road sites near Sebastopol's Bodega Highway, but from Occidental and Petaluma as well. This straight Sonoma Coast bottle again slightly edges the stylish, green-peppercorn-tinged 2009 Akiko's Cuvee ($54, 14.2 percent) with its cool, saline edge. Aromas of damp forest (think redwoods after a rain), bright raspberry and duskier bayberry flavors make for a finessed, layered package.


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