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January 29, 2016
Toll Gate Farm’s Bill Freitag Named VVA Grower of the Year
Contact: Tom Kelly, 540.974.1400

The Virginia Vineyards Association announced today that Bill Freitag, owner of Toll Gate Farm vineyard, Flint Hill, VA, is the 2016 Grower of the Year.

Mr. Freitag, chairman of the association’s Sustainability Workbook Committee, has overseen the development of the Virginia Sustainable Winegrowers Self-Assessment Guide, a tool that helps individual growers transition toward “green” products and sustainable land stewardship. Mr. Freitag also serves the VVA as a grower representative on the Virginia Wine Council. 

“Bill is a skilled grower who is committed to continual improvement of his practices and to producing high-quality fruit,” said VVA president Tom Kelly. “His service to the VVA and the industry, including serving on the Virginia Wine Council, is a reflection of his dedication to his craft.”

Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore presented the award to Mr. Freitag today at the VVA’s Winter Technical Meeting.

Mr. Freitag has written frequently about the sustainability workbook in Grape Press, the quarterly publication of the VVA.  He noted that sustainability, as defined by the committee, has three dimensions:

  • Environmentally sound care of the land we farm.
  • Socially equitable concern for our community and neighbors.
  • Economic viability: by enhancing our profitability, we stay in business.

Mr. Freitag retired from the U.S. Army after 22 years of service. Much of that time was spent in Germany, where he fell in love with the local wine. Along with his wife, Patty Hardee, Mr.Freitag purchased land in Rappahannock Country for his vineyard in 2000 and planted it two years later.

They now have a total of six acres in vines and grow four varieties of vinifera grapes: Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Pinot Grigio. Toll Gate supplies grapes to six wineries in Virginia: Pearmund Cellars, Rappahannock Cellars, Chester Gap Cellars, Gadino Cellars, Jefferson Vineyards, and Phillip Carter Winery of Virginia. 

Mr. Kelly noted that, “his vineyard and mine were only a few miles from each other so we would often collaborate and commiserate over the challenges of growing Viognier.”

However, Mr. Freitag has said previously that, “If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it all over again.” 

He graduated from the University of Michigan with a BS degree and received an MBA from the University of Georgia.

Toll Gate Farm dates from the mid-1700s and derives its name from a toll station along the old Richmond Road. The farm has witnessed its share of history. General Robert E. Lee and his Confederate troops withdrew from Gettysburg along Richmond Road. And Toll Gate Farm was a popular stop as a speakeasy during prohibition when corn was more profitable as moonshine.

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