Growing Your Wine Market With Ken Freeman of Freeman Vineyard & Winery

by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Feb 9, 2022

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast
Ken Freeman

Ken Freeman is a philanthropist, banker, and vintner. He is the Co-founder and Proprietor of Freeman Vineyard & Winery, one of the pioneers of cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, charting a course to the western edges of California winegrowing. 

Ken and his wife, Akiko, built Freeman into a leading winery and brand. They started in 2001 with 500 cases and have grown to 6,000 cases, 60% of which goes directly to the consumer. They export 25% to 20 countries around the world.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • How Ken Freeman’s journey into the wine industry began with a hurricane
  • The skills Ken needed to start — and run — a winery 
  • Ken shares the story of owning their first vintage 
  • How to grow an international market 
  • Lessons learned while growing a wine brand 
  • Why Ken donates 5% of their wine club sales to charity 
  • The future of Freeman Vineyard & Winery 
  • Club versus subscription model: which works best? 
  • How to start an AVA

In this episode with Ken Freeman

Are you looking to expand your wine brand into international markets but not sure how best to proceed? Or do you want to expand into new markets locally but are unsure which sales model to adopt? If you answered yes, this episode is for you!

There’s a lot of insight you can glean from Ken Freeman’s story of starting and growing Freeman Vineyard & Winery. He talks about how they got their first vineyard, the skills needed to succeed in the business, how they expanded into international markets, and lots more. 

Listen to this episode of Legends Behind the Craft with Drew Hendricks featuring the Co-founder and Proprietor of Freeman Vineyard & Winery, Ken Freeman. They share many inspiring stories and discuss what it takes to start and grow a winery, expand to international or new local markets, and start an AVA.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.

Barrels Ahead is a wine and craft marketing agency that propels organic growth by using a powerful combination of content development, Search Engine Optimization, and paid search.

At Barrels Ahead, we know that your business is unique. That’s why we work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and makes your business stand out from your competitors.

Our team at Barrels Ahead helps you leverage your knowledge so you can enjoy the results and revenue your business deserves.

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:03  

Welcome to the Legends Behind The Craft podcast where we feature top leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry with your host Drew Hendricks. Now let’s get started with the show

Drew Hendricks  0:19  

Drew Thomas Hendricks here on the host of the Legends Behind The Craft podcast where I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry, from tech companies that enable wineries to run up optimum efficiency. Today’s guest Ken Freeman who’s building an international sales channel for his winery. past guests of Legends Behind The Craft include Daniel Daou of Daou Vineyards, Joe Wagner, of Copper Cane Wine and Provisions. Michael Houlihan, founder of Barefoot Wines. If you haven’t listened to any of these yet, be sure to check them out and subscribe. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. At Barrels Ahead we work with you to implement a one of a kind marketing strategy. When that highlights your authenticity, tells your story and connects you with your ideal customers. In short, we help wineries and craft beverage producers unlock their story to unleash their revenue, good today to learn more. I am super excited to talk today with Ken Freeman. Ken is a Philanthropist Banker, and Vintner, Ken’s winemaker wife of Akiko built Freeman into a leading Russian River winery and brand. They started in 2002 with 500 cases, and now grown produce 6000 cases of wine 60% of which goes directly to the consumer, and 25% is exported to 20 countries around the world. Welcome to the show, Ken.

Ken Freeman  1:36  

Sure. Glad to be here. Thank you for having me.

Drew Hendricks  1:38  

Thank you so much for being on. So Ken, to talk to us. Tell us how did you get into the wine industry?

Ken Freeman  1:44  

Well, it’s it all comes down to a hurricane. I met my wife sailing a boat from Martha’s Vineyard to Florida when I got out of college and tied up the boat can’t sell in a hurricane and went to a friend’s keg party and I met my exchange student wife. Both of us grew up in Food Wine loving households, and we kind of had a shared mission to create a special winery out here in West Sonoma.

Drew Hendricks  2:10  

That’s amazing. Did you find the winery right after meeting her.

Ken Freeman  2:15  

But we had a few stops in between and I were in Asia for as an expat for five years, with Discovery Channels setting up their networks in Asia. My wife Akiko is from Tokyo, originally. And so it was about a 15 year delay before we could follow our dreams.

Drew Hendricks  2:36  

And then when we were finally able to follow your dreams, what drew you to Sonoma?

Ken Freeman  2:42  

So we moved back from Singapore in 1997. And we were introduced to wineries in this area. And we had really not been familiar with either Russian River or the Sonoma Coast. And we were just blown away by the fruit profile. And we wanted to make you know, wines specifically in this area. And I worked in business and we drove around for a couple years and we found a small little winery. And we gradually grew and fixed it up.

Drew Hendricks  3:13  

That’s amazing what I’m so founding a winery is always a huge endeavor. Um, what were the some of the skills that like your previous 15 years allowed you to enables you to undertake this venture?

Ken Freeman  3:25  

Well, I first got to say that when we talk to our friends, specifically in San Francisco about starting winery, they all roll their eyes, and here’s another knucklehead, my business and yeah, we were very focused on a specific area. So I think focus is is key and it was Pinot Noir Chardonnay, cool weather climate out on the coast of Rush River. The other thing we did differently was stylistically at the time in 2000. The bigger the wine you made, the bigger the score you got from the Wine Spectator, Robert Parker, we weren’t interested in making a big wine. We were burgundy drinkers, and I think my wife being from Japan are more subtle palate. So we did something very different where we made kind of a more food friendly wine. We did that by picking earlier. We use less oak, and we found the response from leading restaurant tours, and that’s really kind of how we originally built our business across the country. So it carried well food, but to answer your question, you know, to be successful, as a as a Bitner it. It’s unique to my array of skills. And I was fortunate that, you know, went to Northwestern, went to Kellogg School for business, I had worked for PepsiCo, I’d worked I mentioned Discovery Channel. So having business background in terms of understanding production costs, you know, things like that were just were crucial and understanding how to market but also you know, we went into it having studied the business and said the number one reason why people don’t do online business is lack of focus and also spent much money. And so we were very, you know, and again back to a Japanese wife, new to varietals, and we try to do those extremely well. And then yeah, that’s been been key. I

Drew Hendricks  5:13  

think those are the two key comments, they hit on. One, you knew exactly the type of wine that you wanted to produce. So you found an area that can do it. And then you understood that there’s a whole business behind just the wine other than making it and drinking it.

Ken Freeman  5:25  

Absolutely. And so we, you know, the story about our label. So I think, you know, it’s very simple. We want, you know, generally wines that have fancier labels and wines, not that great. But we wanted to, we wanted to, we wanted the wind to speak for itself, very simplistic, but, you know, when we got going, we reached out to a bunch of branding marketing companies, and they all came back with proposals, you know, 25 $40,000 and we had a tight budget. And so we posted the job on the Academy of Arts website, says this guy got 30 resumes. The gentleman who did all of our work, still does our work camshaft had done Altoids and Glenfiddich. She didn’t know anything about wine. So I said, I’ll teach you about wine.

Drew Hendricks  6:10  

Oh, here’s the labels. We were talking about the labels and Glenn, they are right at the Glenfiddich. Do you know anything about wine, and I’ll teach about wine.

Ken Freeman  6:20  

Great, so we ended up working with Jim chaff did Altoids Glenfiddich and we traded in wine for his work, and we talked about the wine industry.

Drew Hendricks  6:30  

That’s amazing. It’s a very classic label. Well, thank you. So you’ve got to see it. You had to label you’ve got your first 500 cases. How was that first vintage.

Ken Freeman  6:42  

So we did not have the capital nor the expertise to grow our own grapes. So we were fortunate to buy a rundown winery. And funny story on that we bought the winery for $875,000.04 acres and it had a 2000 case permit. And a bunch of leading winemakers looked at it and said too small to rundown. We drove in said just perfect. And the first call we got was from cost to brown. And they said they tried to buy it they couldn’t could they be our tenant? So the first year they made 1500 cases. We made 500 cases then we increased the capacity the winery through the county Snowbird is 6000 cases. And we both doubled our business for the next four years. And then they moved out. So that was also so we’re I think we’re the first one in history that was cashflow positive. Their first year we had costs around paying rent. And then we had a rundown house on the hill that we had rented out.

Drew Hendricks  7:40  

Oh geez. Yeah, you got to cover there’s the business background for you. Now one of the things that does set other than being phenomenal wine and cool weather, grapes, witches, and having that real Burgundian style, is that you do sell a large percentage of your wines into Japan directly to consumers.

Ken Freeman  7:59  

Yeah, well, you know, having Akiko being from Tokyo, and she’s actually 23 generations. Oh, wow, say how do you know you go so far back the Shinto temple sends the family a bill for all the previous family members. So we’re fortunate my father in law has 43 first cousins, how CVMA a little built in business there. So I should say that, you know, our DTC business in Japan is not giant, we have a great import partner, we work with wine and style. Michael KU used to run the Opus business opened up and manage Opus for 10 years in Japan. And that’s a big part of their business. So he represents leaving California wineries, and he’s been a great partner, my wife, you know, spends four times a year over there, I go over once a year. So it’s just an important part of our life, the connectivity and love with Japan.

Drew Hendricks  8:55  

Sure. Do you find I mean, how do you find the difference in sales going on between sales in Japan and sales in the United States?

Ken Freeman  9:02  

You know, it’s fairly similar and importer is really like a distributor in the US. You know, it’s by law in many states in the US, you need to work with a distributor. And so they’re the ones that have the relationships and with the leading restaurant buyers and hotels, and we work through them, but we also host a lot of Japanese guests here. The one I mentioned my wife’s market work, you know, speaking the language is really helpful. You know, when other American winemakers go over it’s, they need a translator and they can’t you know, they can’t really they need to be with somebody all the time. My wife can go out and see see restaurants and see hotels on our own

Drew Hendricks  9:42  

ciphering cipher Japan 25% of your sales going exported internationally as a as a large percentage. How did you build that business?

Ken Freeman  9:51  

Well, I think having been an expat and living overseas, we enjoy traveling have friends, you know, all over the world. You know Interesting, we sell more wine in Singapore, in Norway in Denmark than we do in New York City. So it’s all about, you know, finding your niche, I speak it at the Haas School of cow I speak at Stanford Business School, and, you know, go where others are not, you know, everyone maker wants to be in New York City, you know, the Somalis are very tough to deal with there. And, you know, we have, you know, we enjoy spending time overseas. And we were just able to meet some importers in different countries, they either had our wine in restaurants in the US, and they sought us out, or we were introduced to them through through friends.

Drew Hendricks  10:39  

So for for other wineries, that’s pretty great advice, go where other people are not

Ken Freeman  10:45  

go to thing, go to Minnesota go to, you know, everybody wants to be in Vegas, you know, Miami in New York City. And in fact, there’s sorts all sorts of great markets across the country.

Drew Hendricks  10:57  

Do you find more loyalty on the international shipments or the international sales? Like?

Ken Freeman  11:02  

I think so. I think it’s more relationship based generally. We haven’t lost an importer, internationally, and I mentioned, we have 20 Different importers. And you know, the US it’s been a bit of a challenge whether companies have been bought or change management. And so I think relationships play a bigger role, internationally. That’s something that we we really respect and like,

Drew Hendricks  11:28  

I’m sure also that there’s a stability in it, do you find it internationally that they’re a little I say, loyalty, but they like a consistent brand. And they tend to stick with the same sort of wine and tastes, whereas in the US, people kind of like to experiment with many wines.

Ken Freeman  11:44  

Yeah, that might be it. I mean, clearly, it’s a more competitive market. There’s just so many brands here, I think, you know, similar to the US that, you know, the price of Burgundy has gotten astronomical. And, you know, our wines, you know, the vines originally came burgundy, or techniques or barrels come from Burgundy. You know, we have a similar profile as burgundy at a fraction of the cost. And I think that’s really where we’re seeing a lot of crossover where Burgundy’s just priced themselves out of the market, you know, all over the world.

Drew Hendricks  12:16  

It’s a very big commodity, especially in the upper end ones, only so many, only so many bottles. As you grew from, like 5000 to 6000. And you’re kind of expanding your production, and you kept the quality in line. What um, I guess I was like to ask this question, as you grew, what would you have done differently?

Ken Freeman  12:39  

Yeah, great question. Yeah, we grew from 500 cases, 1000 cases, I was talking about vineyards that we, you know, originally didn’t have the capital or the expertise. So we looked at 300 different vineyards, we knew the grapes were 70 80% to making great wine. And our job is just to handle gently and not mess it up. So we were, we built a brand. And we were able to then kind of work backwards and buy land and plant vineyard. So we have 25 acres of estate vineyards. Now we have 10 here in the Green Valley, the Red River, and we have at our glorious state at the winery. And then we have 15 and Occidental, that are UK estate in the Sonoma Coast is going to be called hopefully the Western on the coast. So we’re in final stages of approval with the TTB with the government for new appellation. So yeah, what I would have done earlier, if I would have bought more vineyard, or planted more vines, no things have gone up in price dramatically out here in Sonoma County. So you know if I could have I would have, you know, had more vineyard more statement here.

Drew Hendricks  13:47  

Oh, yeah. We all we all regret that no one could really anticipated how much real estate would have gone up in the last 20 years, especially in the agriculture areas. Now with I guess something I’m super curious about is you’re on the Russian River. Is that true?

Ken Freeman  14:05  

Oh, we are about five miles from the river

Drew Hendricks  14:08  

five miles so you’re not really dependent on the Russian River Watershed to know we’re a lot a lot of issues going on with some of the Russian River producers with Oh, big

Ken Freeman  14:17  

time. Florida Western in Yeah, I’ve been on the board the snowmen Land Trust for many years, very involved with environmental issues here. And yeah, we’re fortunate we were never relying on the Russian River. We try to dry farm as much as possible. Oh, that’s good. We’re on. We’re on well water, where we are and, you know, small scale agriculture.

Drew Hendricks  14:39  

Yes. Speaking about the snow, Land Trust and kind of the philanthropy that you do. One of the unique aspects of your wine club is that a portion of the sales goes directly to charity or to charitable causes. Talk to me about Yeah,

Ken Freeman  14:54  

yeah, well, thank you juice, so yeah, 5% of our wine club sales are donated to local charities and you know Kiko and I are just very philanthropic, just, you know, we kind of grew up like that. And, yeah, we feel that we’re able to help support, you know, those in need out here. And I mentioned, the land trust, but we just came back from touring Sonoma family meals, which we’ve been supporting for since 2017. And, you know, they’ve, they’ve fed all the fire victims and the rescue workers during the fires, and now they’re helping elderly and, you know, lower income folks. So they’re building a new kitchen. So we’re helping them with that we’ve been supporting the Green Center, which is the arts center here. Yeah, number of a number of local charities we just enjoy giving back. CTA is a group that goes into high schools and trains kids for jobs, most kids in some high schools don’t go to four year colleges, and there’s all these great paying jobs, so we help them with, with various technical skills. So yeah, it’s just, uh, you know, we feel that we’re very fortunate. And I think a lot of folks who drink our wine hopefully, you know, more will see that, you know, look, people are there that are helping the community, they’re actually giving things back.

Drew Hendricks  16:13  

And really helps that authenticity. How, as far as your membership, How involved are they? Do they get the feedback in a, an email newsletter, or? Yeah, we

Ken Freeman  16:22  

we actually just so we’ve been just giving on our own, and we just put this program in place last year. And we’re now we do two open houses a year for for wine club, we have a Gemini chef, Chef soggy that cooks, Japanese street food, it’s a great, it’s a great time, we do that in the spring for our spring release of Russian River Wines. And we do in the fall for our Sonoma Coast wines. And we’re going to have a different charity at our open house. And it just gives a chance to have people interact, to see where their money’s going, seeing the difference that is making. So yeah, absolutely, we’re communicating. And we’re going to be putting up a donation page on our website showing that specific charities and where the money’s going.

Drew Hendricks  17:05  

That’s a great idea. And we spent a lot of time talking about the different generations of wine buyers. And I know the Gen Z and millennials, they like to place their dollars where their values lie. So by having a winery that they can align themselves with, is not only good for the charities, but it’s an excellent idea for business too. Yeah, do you do you find that seeing more interaction with kind of the younger crowd with with this sort of initiative?

Ken Freeman  17:34  

I think so I think, you know, we’re really fortunate on a whole number of fronts, we live in this amazing area in West Sonoma, and, you know, grow great grapes. You know, when you look at millennials, and the younger generation of wine drinkers, you know, we make a style of wine that’s approachable. And, you know, I think there’s been a shift in in dietary habits that less center the meat proteins, and more vegetables and fish and salads and birds. And just fortunate, you know, Pinot Noir goes well, with the new ethos of eating. And so we find a lot of our customers are younger, they want authentic, they want real. And, you know, Wes, West County Sonoma is, you know, it’s an agricultural place. Just an amazing place to visit. And, yeah, very fortunate to be

Drew Hendricks  18:22  

here. That’s great. And where do you see premium? What Where’s Freeman Winery? Headed? Over the next?

Ken Freeman  18:30  

Yeah, we, hey, we want to we haven’t needed to change styles or do any, you know, it’s kind of full, full speed ahead in terms of, you know, our model. And it’s, you know, we love having visitors the water, it’s been growing, growing each year, we have a team of people, that host folks, you get a private our experience. You can picnic under our redwood trees. And we love having people come out because they see how hands on and how small artists and we are. And so I think, you know, fortunately continued to have more visitors to the winery, building our friends of Freeman club, you know, we started it a year and a half ago, we’ve got over 500 members. And so we’re adding about 2025 a month. And a lot of folks are just telling their friends, you know, unique benefits where they just get to come up and experience the state of great Japanese food. And at the winery, we have some low cost shipping as part of that. And so you know, having a club allows us to just better manage our business. We’re very fortunate that, you know, 4000 of our cases get sent directly to people’s homes, mostly across the US. But not having to go through a password, not having to go through the allocation where you just, you know what you’re gonna get from a winery standpoint, it allows us to really kind of manage our business better, just more simplistic and the classic was Don Valentine He was one of our great customers. He’s the founder of Sequoia Capital, he seed funded Apple, Cisco legendary gentlemen and passed away a couple years ago, he called and sent an email because I love your wine, but I can’t remember my password and your internet’s terrible. And this is like the founder of the internet. And so a lot of folks, it’s just the allocation system, just kind of a pain. And when people know that we make a limited quantity of wine, it’s just much more efficient if we can just get them into into a club mob.

Drew Hendricks  20:32  

Sure, another club now works really, really well. Have you witnessed a lot of talk data between the club model and the subscription model, where people can just sort of pick the pick a wine, and it’s just sent to them monthly? Did you guys wrestle between the two?

Ken Freeman  20:47  

No, we did, we wrestled with the having a club because there’s a negative connotation when the club and people found there’s a lot of churn and, and we built our business originally, and I skipped over that on an allocation model. So right from the get go, again, it wasn’t changing stripes, it was all DTC orientated right from the beginning. And fortunately, you know, that business has, has continued to grow. But you know, clubs, we have found that, you know, we have less than 1% churn on our knees up, which is great. And I think people just find it a good service. And we Hey, we like your wine. And we just love to get it without having to, you know, go on the web and go, you know, remember passwords and do all that stuff.

Drew Hendricks  21:30  

So you that’s really interesting to me. So you had a full allocation model, and most of your wine was sold that way. Did you shift all those allocated customers into that club model?

Ken Freeman  21:39  

We shifted about 90%, folks that are buying 510 15 cases of wine a year, we kept them in a separate little bucket. And, you know, for obvious reasons. But yeah, we’ve been trying to shift over most of our other customers to, to being a friend of Freeman to our membership model.

Drew Hendricks  22:01  

What sort of tips do you give on winery wanting to shift because I know the allocations were huge in the early 2000s. And I know a lot of ways,

Ken Freeman  22:09  

I think that, you know, the cut through the negativity, but you know, our experience has been nothing but positive. And again, I think, you know, when you try to shift people over, you know, that churn issue comes up, I think if you’re developed, if you’re delivering real value to your customers, both in quality, cost, and service, we haven’t found that issue at all, it’s been purely positive for us,

Drew Hendricks  22:33  

I think you got to have confidence in your product and confidence that it’s going to sell. And I talk to a lot of whiners that you have four or 500 people in your club any kind of actually don’t want to call them because you don’t want to remind them that it’s going to be coming. So there’s always that little bit of trepidation where you have this allocation model that’s going great, then he kind of upset it, and everybody has to reach out and join the Club. And you’re wondering, where are they going to rejoin?

Ken Freeman  22:56  

Yeah, no. And we show if you want to get allocated wine, you know, there’s no pressure at all. But you know, we we continue to add benefits. For example, we have a guest cottage here at the winery only available for our club members. I mentioned low cost shipping. So you know, if you really love her wine and people know, you know, our permit is 6000 cases, that’s all we’re making. This is and that’s another reason why, you know, there is truly scarcity here and my wife does want to, you know, physically in terms of, you know, she does the punch downs herself and our small little team. And so, yeah, we want to keep it small.

Drew Hendricks  23:33  

No, I think that’s a good idea. I mean, as far as scarcity, to me wineries, you see him grow, but then they grow and set up different brands. And

Ken Freeman  23:44  

you know, you know, the other kind of we talked about things we did well, from the get go coming back to that we grew our production, you know, slowly in the beginning. So 500 cases, yeah, I mentioned we doubled with to 1000. It wasn’t like we came out of the gates with 1000s of cases of wine, that if you really want to control where your wine is going, which was key for us, we didn’t want to see it all over the place. We didn’t want to see it in supermarket shelves. We want to top restaurants, we wanted hand sell wine stores, you know, don’t feel pressure to ramp up your production, take it slowly and grow into as you build your brand. So you’re not under pressure to move the wine and doing kind of irrational things, either discounting or having wine being sold in places that are not going to help your brand.

Drew Hendricks  24:29  

That’s great advice. I’m going to shift back to the the app, hopefully upcoming on Western Sonoma AVA. A lot of people that’s a curious process. How do you go about starting an AVA? Yeah, well,

Ken Freeman  24:41  

this started almost 10 years ago, so five wineries in us form the West Coast association. So it was LiteRider. Redcar Failla pay, and Joseph Phelps, think I’ve got six monitors there. But any event we noticed that We have all of us have these high elevation vineyards near the coast, you know are mentioned our Yuki states 15 acres, and we’re getting lumped into this Sonoma Coast and, you know, hey look, crema Rogers strong, very good wines but they’ve got 500 acre vineyards that are at zero foot elevation. Yes. So Marcos, is goes to the town of Sonoma. So there’s vintners in town of Sonoma County and Sonoma Coast wine. And here we are. Two miles from the ocean 1000 feets very expensive to plant their farm in our yields. We’re getting less than two tons per acre. And so we thought that it was confusing for the customer. And so we started this process before in association now we have 35 winery members. And we started doing events around the country. We do tastings in New York and Chicago. We went to London a few years ago, we’re going to be going to Tokyo, Dallas and Houston. But we did a study, we hired a consultant that, you know, identified our areas being distinctive than the lower elevation areas and put a study together and we applied with the TTB, which is a government agency that also approves labels. And so we’ve been told that we’re going to we’re the next up on this new Appalachian the other part happens the Petaluma gap spun into their own a VA and that was about a third of the of the Sonoma Coast. That’s great, great wines from their very distinctive, they get their fog from the bay, we get their fog from the ocean. And so we’re just waiting, you know, during the Trump administration, they did no new approvals. So we’re in constant contact and they keep saying we’re going to get final approval the next month or two.

Drew Hendricks  26:41  

Next up is like next on the pile or is it like a Hall of Fame where they all vote for the next one they’re going to do?

Ken Freeman  26:46  

Hopefully we’re next on the path.

Drew Hendricks  26:51  

Wanna hear? You’re gonna win. That’s it. That’s that’s super interesting on the on the higher levels in that Western slumber. How are the soils different than, is you go Eastern a little bit? No,

Ken Freeman  27:03  

they they are. We are on sandy loam here, which is gold rich, sandy loam soil, very nutrient light, primarily in the green rat valley in the rush River as you go out toward the coast, a higher elevation, you get a little bit more clay, you get more Franciscan soils. So you get a little bit different terroir is you, you had you had washed and go higher up?

Drew Hendricks  27:29  

Well, those are, that’s all the definition of an ABA right there, you’ve got unique soil, you got a neat microclimate. You need a way to distinguish yourself. So that’s fantastic. Thank you. So what So 30, so there’ll be 30. So if that does come to pass, there’ll be 35 wineries, but then that

Ken Freeman  27:47  

35 are in our association. So you don’t need to be in our association, I think we probably have a majority and especially if the leading wineries were part we realized that if we band together, we’re all going to be stronger than if we go out individually. It’s very hard to go, you know, who’s going to go organize a tasting in London, but if we come together as a group we can do that are in New York City. So I think there Yeah, I’m guessing there’s probably maybe 50 wineries that are going to be able to meet the criteria that either own a vineyard or are supplying there’s not a lot of vineyards out in our area. But you need to with this new APA, you know, 95% of grapes have to come from this specific new area. That’s,

Drew Hendricks  28:33  

that’s gonna be neat to see on the system back to the kind of the Japanese Akiko what is, what’s her philosophy or what is the Freeman philosophy and making wine to pair to pair with food

Ken Freeman  28:45  

I know. She has a great saying that great grapes are like a woman in cosmetics, that if you’ve got a beautiful woman, you don’t need to put a lot of cosmetics on it. So if you have great grapes, which we are fortunate that terroir, we form our farmer vineyards organically and all by hand. We want to be as minimalist as possible. And that goes from everything from the handwork that we do these hand punch downs twice a day. To the oak that we use, we use the most restrained of the French barrel makers, five different Coopers and then we only use 30% New barrels on our Pinot Noir and then we use the barrels for four years and then 10% New barrels on our chart so everything is just minimalist. Why winemaking?

Drew Hendricks  29:33  

That sounds sounds fantastic. So when you’re not I was as we’re kind of wrapping down I always like to ask winemakers when you’re not drinking your own wine. What are some of your favorites out there right now?

Ken Freeman  29:44  

Yeah, I mean we we love spending time around the world visiting our friends. We had a P bought a winemaker at the winery on Saturday. We tried to get over to P matek. So we love Barbaresco Barolo and our nice white variety. So we get over there. Try to get over there every fall. Love the northern Rhone love champagne. We’ve got a new little sparkling project here at the winery. Oh really inspired by grower champagne.

Drew Hendricks  30:14  

Yeah, I was supposed to. I was supposed to go to Piedmont in two months, but we ended up postponing it for another year.

Ken Freeman  30:19  

Let me know I’ve got a we’ve got a number of friends there and I’ve got a great list of restaurants and wineries

Drew Hendricks  30:24  

are really happy to help off to layer restaurants there.

Ken Freeman  30:29  

Well, I’ll just tell you a quick story. We were this is about five years ago we were tasting at Rinaldi, which is one of the icons and frankly hard to get in. And Antonio Galloni. came walking and he was tasting with the owner. He goes Akiko. You know what I’m doing here? He goes, You guys figured it out? He goes, The people here are much friendlier than burgundy. The wine is more accessible. You know, Burgundy’s are so expensive, so hard to get appointments more beautiful, and the food’s a lot better in Piedmont than Italy. Or Piedmont, the burgundy.

Drew Hendricks  31:03  

pontiff food, do you have a favorite restaurant there?

Ken Freeman  31:07  

Yeah, we’ve got a number of restaurants that we love there. So, again, we have, you know, central store code is an amazing place. I go on and on. So I’m happy to share our list with you. Be great. Yeah.

Drew Hendricks  31:23  

Now, hopefully next year, hopefully next year, didn’t come with Omicron. It didn’t quite work out this year for us. So Ken, is there kind of wrapping down? What where can people find out more about Freeman and the friends of Freeman? 

Ken Freeman  31:37  

Well, thank you. Yeah, just online. The easiest way to do it. It’s I’m Ken Freeman. Ken@Freemanwinery happy to help. If you’re in the area, come by and make an appointment. Come see us. I think you’d have a great experience.

Drew Hendricks  31:54  

Oh, well, thank you so much, Ken.

Ken Freeman  31:57  

Drew, thank you for having me. Have a great afternoon.

Drew Hendricks  31:59  

Oh, you too. Thank you.

Outro  32:00  

Thank you for that. Thanks for listening to the Legends Behind The Craft podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.