AKIKO FREEMAN — WINEMAKER

At Freeman, the gifted palate of winemaker Akiko Freeman guides every wine, every vintage. When Akiko and Ken founded Freeman in 2001, Akiko dedicated herself to the ideals of a family-run winery, and a belief that a wine bearing the Freeman name should reflect the Freeman touch. To achieve this goal, Akiko immersed herself in the world of viticulture and winemaking, and apprenticed herself to renowned winemaker Ed Kurtzman. Today, Akiko oversees every aspect of Freeman’s winemaking program, from the organic farming of Freeman’s estate vineyards and the selection of grower partners to fermentations, racking, lot evaluations and blending. Her vision and refined palate have established Freeman as one of the great benchmarks for cool-climate New World winemaking, while also establishing Akiko as a winemaking talent in her own right.

Counting back her family tree 21 generations, Akiko grew up in Tokyo. Her grandfather was one of Japan’s leading academics, and his love for wine, literature and art was contagious, imbuing his granddaughter with a lifelong taste for the enigmatic beauty of great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In the mid 1990s, after receiving her master’s degree in Italian Renaissance art history from Stanford, Akiko traveled widely throughout Europe and as far as South Africa to explore the great winemaking regions of the world. Returning to California in 1997, Akiko worked with Ken to realize their longstanding dream of establishing a small, family-run winery dedicated to crafting expressive cool-climate California Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. This dream was realized in 2001, when the couple founded Freeman Vineyard & Winery.

KEN FREEMAN

Ken fell under the thrall of wine’s mystery while growing up in Scarsdale, New York, amidst a wine loving family. He recalls venturing to Zachy’s with his mom and being fascinated by the wooden crates bearing the imprimaturs of Château Margaux and Domaine Romanée-Conti stacked high on the sidewalk in front of the store. Little did he know that one day his own Freeman wines would claim a coveted space on Zachy’s shelves.

In 1985, Ken met Akiko. After discovering a shared passion for a more sophisticated and eloquent style of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, they began preparing to found their own winery. After earning his M.B.A. from Kellogg, Ken worked for years establishing the Discovery Channel in Asia, which took him and Akiko to Singapore and Hong Kong. Whenever possible, the Freeman’s traveled to the world’s great winegrowing regions, including trips to many of the great wineries of France. In 1997, Ken took a position at CNET in California, and the Freeman’s winemaking dream began to crystallize into a plan to make cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. They began searching for grower partners and vineyard properties in the coolest parts of the Russian River Valley and on the extreme Sonoma Coast. In 2001, Ken and Akiko acquired a small winery in the Russian River Valley town of Sebastopol where they established Freeman Vineyard & Winery. In 2005 they acquired an adjacent property, now the site of their Gloria Estate Vineyard; and in 2007 they purchased the Freeman Ranch further west in the Sonoma Coast appellation, where they planted their second vineyard, named ‘Yu-ki’.

  • Akiko & Ken Freeman

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