September 28, 1985
Those who have visited Freeman’s small, picturesque winery in the Russian River Valley town of Sebastopol often note the engraved keystone that crowns the entrance to the beautiful wine cave. Well preceding the founding of Freeman, visitors regularly ask what it signifies. Like a rare vintage of wine, the keystone captures a special moment in time for Ken and Akiko—a moment that is at the heart of the Freeman story. In 1985, after a stint working for famed playwright Lillian Hellman and as a bartender at Martha’s Vineyard, Ken Freeman took a position crewing a yacht on its way to the Caribbean. Fate, in the form of Hurricane Gloria, forced the yacht to head to port near Ken’s hometown of Scarsdale, New York, where a lifelong friend happened to be hosting a lively party. Amidst the jeans and t-shirts of the storm-bound revelers, Ken saw Akiko, beautifully dressed in a Chanel dress. Akiko had moved to the United States only a week before, and unaware of Scarsdale’s more laid-back style, followed Japanese tradition and came to the party dressed to kill. Ken was smitten. The date was September 28, 1985.