Ken & Akikio Freeman

Sonoma, California

I know great value Californian Pinot sounds like an oxymoron but the Freeman wines are the exception that proves the rule. I recently tasted the Yu Ki Pinot and was bowled over by its complexity and subtlety, at such a modest price.

The Freeman story is, like many wine histories, all about the people. In 1985, Ken Freeman was forced by Hurricane Gloria to return to port near his hometown of Scarsdale, N.Y., where a friend happened to be having a party. It was here that he met Akiko, who had just arrived from Japan. They shared an interest in wine and a particular passion for cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. With a mission to produce Californian wines that could rival those of Burgundy, they explored over 300 properties before establishing their family winery in western Sonoma County, in 2001. Ken manages the estate vineyards and Akiko is the winemaker.

Just 300-400 cases of each cuvee is produced so it's hardly surprising that very little of the Freemans' Pinot leaves the U.S.

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