Bill and Patty come from distinctly different backgrounds, each bringing unique skills to make a strong team. Bill retired from the U.S. Army and worked for a major computer company (Ross Perot's EDS), eventually becoming an independent consultant. Patty was an independent technical writer and marketing consultant until taking a position in EDS as well. She subsequently worked for a major consulting company, Booz.Allen.Hamilton, and recently became an independent consultant again.
When they met, Bill was already keen to start or acquire a vineyard or winery. Patty embraced the dream, warning Bill that she had never in her life been able to keep a plant alive. So they set out to find a place to relax from the hectic corporate environment in Northern Virginia and establish a vineyard. Toll Gate Farm met the requirements for a house and suitable land. In 2001, the vineyard was laid out and the soil prepped for the 2002 planting of the first vines. Additional plantings took place in subsequent years. We now have a total of six acres in vines. See the Our Grapes tab.
We take great pride in the quality of our harvest. We never seem to have enough to meet the demand. Of particular note is the success that the customers for our Pinot Grigio have had.
February 6, 2016, Charlottesville, VA
The Virginia Vineyards Association announced this week that Bill Freitag, owner of Toll Gate Farm Vineyard in Flint Hill, is the 2016 Grower of the Year.
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 to "green" products and sustainable land stewardship. Freitag also serves the Virginia Vineyards Association 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 Tom Kelly, president of the Virginia Vineyards Association. "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 Freitag at the VVA's winter technical meeting.
Freitag has written frequently on the sustainability workbook in Grape Press, the quarterly publication of the VVA.
He noted that sustainability, as defined by the committee, has three dimensions:
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, Freitag purchased land in Rappahannock County for his vineyard in 2000 and planted it two years later.
They now have a total of 6 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.
Kelly said 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."
But according to Freitag, "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 bachelor's 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.