Estate vineyards have always been central to Ken and Akiko Freeman’s vision for making truly distinctive Pinot Noir. Considering where they would establish their winery and vineyards, the Freemans surveyed the California Pinot Noirs they respected most, and soon realized that nearly all of them hailed from the far Sonoma Coast and adjoining Russian River Valley. Here, where steep, rugged hills bathe in crisp ocean air, the climate and terrain force grapes to struggle in order to achieve ripeness, building complexity and character in the process. These hills, Ken and Akiko decided, would make the perfect home for Freeman Vineyard and Winery. They established the winery in 2001 on the cool, western edge of the Green Valley of the Russian River Valley AVA, and acquired two exceptional vineyard properties to complete their vision. The Gloria Vineyard, adjacent to the winery itself, was planted in 2006. In 2007, Ken and Akiko purchased the Freeman Ranch, four miles closer to the Pacific Ocean, and planted the 14-acre Yu-ki Vineyard.
Gloria is Freeman’s estate vineyard, located adjacent to the winery. Ken and Akiko Freeman acquired this 8-acre vineyard site, previously an apple orchard, in 2005 and began planting the following year. They named the vineyard for Hurricane Gloria, the fortuitous (for them, at least) meteorological event that first brought them together in 1985.
Sitting in the coolest, westernmost part of the Russian River Valley is the "Green Valley of Russian River Valley" appellation. Located just 12 miles from the Pacific Ocean, Gloria possesses all the attributes that make the region ideal for Pinot Noir: a steep hillside for optimal drainage, Goldridge sandy loam soils, and a climate that is sunny but unusually cool, moderated by the daily ebb and flow of Russian River Valley fog.
The vineyard is comprised of six Pinot Noir blocks, each planted to one of Akiko’s favorite clones, including Swan, Pommard, 115, La Tache, and two Calera. Organic and biodynamic farming methods are used whenever possible, and owl boxes encourage raptors to provide natural rodent control. Various cover crops replenish the soil, and chemical intervention is kept at an absolute minimum. Due to extreme weather and elevation, yields vary from 1 to 2 tons per acre, resulting in wines of great nerve and complexity.
This Sonoma Coast vineyard is a testament to the Freemans’ passion for finding an exceptional site and mastering the challenges that come with it. The Yu-ki Vineyard is situated just five miles from the Pacific Ocean, at an elevation of 1,000 feet. The terrain is steep and rugged, and the climate is cold and windy. The extreme weather in this location results in very low yields of just 1 to 2 tons per acre.
The Freemans purchased the Freeman Ranch, an 1860 sheep farm, in 2007. The property is part of a forested landscape that includes spectacular stands of first and second growth redwoods. (Along with being the name of Akiko’s nephew, Yu-ki fittingly translates to “big tree.”) Out of respect for these noble giants, the family donated 22 acres of this arboreal habitat to the Bodega Land Trust for lifetime preservation. The following year they planted a separate 14 acres to grapes, comprised of eight blocks devoted to eight cool weather-loving Pinot Noir clones. Here, challenging weather and sandy clay loam soils produce grapes with intense flavors and high acidity.
Yu-ki has been farmed organically since day one. The vineyard is tended with exacting care, with strict concern for water, cover crops, pest control and optimum habitat maintenance. The unmatched depth and complexity of Yu-ki’s grapes are worth the effort.