Gloria is Freeman’s estate vineyard. It is located directly adjacent to the winery itself, climbing the steep slope alongside their red barn, where it drinks in the pristine, cool air of these hills in the Green Valley, to the west of Sebastopol. Ken and Akiko Freeman acquired this 8-acre vineyard site, previously an apple orchard, in late 2005. They started planting in 2006, and named the vineyard for Hurricane Gloria, the fortuitous (for them, at least) meteorological event that first brought them together in 1985. By happy coincidence, the previous co-owner of the land was also named “Gloria.” The stars were in alignment.
The Gloria Vineyard sits in the coolest, westernmost part of the Russian River Valley appellation, just ten miles from the Pacific Ocean. The sharply inclined vineyard faces predominantly southeast, and at 400 feet, occupies one of the first folds in the gathered-up series ridges and mountains that comprise the rugged terrain of the Sonoma coast. Gloria Vineyard possesses all the attributes that make the region ideal for Pinot Noir: a steep hillside for ideal 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.
Winemaker Akiko Freeman worked in close consultation with renowned Vineyard Manager Greg Adams to lay out the vineyard. It is planted in six blocks of Pinot Noir: one each for the Swan, Pommard, 115, and La Tache clones; two for Calera. Akiko says these were her favorites: “When it came time to choose which clones to plant, I thought about the characteristics I wanted in our wines, and chose accordingly.” These clonal blocks are picked and fermented separately, and each clone is paired with a specific French barrel producer.
The vines are planted in a 7 x 4 layout: seven feet between rows, and a vine every four feet in each row. There are 1900 vines per acre. Organic and even biodynamic farming methods are used whenever possible, and owl boxes encourage raptors to keep the vines well guarded. Bright yellow mustard and varied cover crops are planted to replenish the soil, with chemical intervention at an absolute minimum. As Akiko says, “we drink the same water we use to irrigate our vineyard, and it all comes from the same well. Keeping the vineyard healthy keeps us healthy.” The vines are on drip irrigation for now; but as the vineyard ages and its roots deepen, its water needs will decrease accordingly. Because of extreme weather and elevation, yields here vary from one to two tons per acre – which in turn results in wines of great nerve and complexity.
As the vineyard’s leaves change with the seasons, they offer a colorful counterpoint to the winery close by, with its red barn and stone-arched cellar door. Gloria’s wine goes from grape to glass and never leaves the property. Nor does it leave the careful attention of winemaker Akiko Freeman and her dedicated team. Note the shaded Japanese character called “kagayaku” behind the name on each bottle of Gloria Vineyard Pinot Noir. This is the symbol for “glory,” or “shining” – and an apt description for the spirit that goes into every glass.