Freemark Abbey’s history began in 1886, when Josephine Tychson established the original winery along Route 29 in St. Helena, becoming one of the area’s first woman winegrowers. Although its name might indicate otherwise, the winery was never a monastery, nor was it ever inhabited by monks. Instead, the current winery name originated in 1939, when its three owners – Charles Freeman, Markquand Foster and Abbey Ahem – combined their names to form Freemark Abbey.
In 1967, the winery was sold to a group of seven partners, which actually set the stage for a new era of winemaking creativity. In fact, the winery garnered the nickname the “University of Freemark” due to the sheer number of innovations and significant winemakers that emerged. During the 1960s, Freemark Abbey winemaker Brad Webb, (subsequently known for his time at Hanzell) pioneered a number of methods that have since become California winemaking standards. And, his use of non-malolactic fermentation for Chardonnay is still used at Freemark Abbey today. In the 1970s, Jerry Luper (of Château Montelena and Diamond Creek fame) worked his magic on the red wines, cementing Freemark Abbey’s position as a quality Cabernet house.
When wine shop owner Steven Spurrier conducted his now legendary blind tasting in Paris, pitting the upstart wines of California against the established wines of France, Freemark Abbey was among the 12 American wineries chosen to participate. In an upset that shocked the wine world, California wines won every category of the tasting, elevating Napa Valley and California wines onto the world stage. Owned by Jackson Family Wines since 2006, the legacy continues with the same winemaker for nearly 30 years.
Join us as we talk with Ted Edwards, winemaker at Freemark Abbey since 1985. We’ll get some history, and hear what it takes to continue to make the wines he likes to make at this venerable Napa landmark.
For more info: Freemark Abbey: www.freemarkabbey.com
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