Ken Friedenreich ##Photo by Kathryn Elsesser

In Memoriam: Ken Friedenreich


By OWP Staff

Kenneth “Ken” Friedenreich, longtime wine writer and industry devotee, died Sept. 5, 2021. He was 73 years old.

Born Nov. 11, 1947, in the Bronx, he grew up on Long Island, New York, where he graduated from Great Neck South High School. Although tall, he showed no interest in athletics, but instead drawing and music, playing clarinet and piano.

By high school, Ken had already cultivated a strong interest in listening to and understanding classical music. In his adult life, he supported classical music and musicians in whatever communities he lived. He also enjoyed jazz. Among his other talents, he was an amateur composer with some of his pieces performed professionally.

Ken earned a bachelor’s in English literature from Boston University, where he met his first wife, Phyllis.  He then earned his master’s and doctorate in English literature — with a major focus on Shakespeare’s contemporary Christopher Marlowe — from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1975. Ken taught for 10 years as a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and later, Saddle Back Community College in Southern California.

While in Texas, he served as an “underground gourmet” for a city magazine, as well as a producer on Austin’s local PBS station for a restaurant segment he called “Going into the Kitchen with Gun and Camera.”

Post-academia, he enjoyed a career in spirits distribution. He also worked in television for most of the ’90s, helping build a 24-hour cable news channel. After moving to the wine-soaked Golden State, his lifelong interest in wine transformed into a passion for writing about the beverage and reviewing bottles as well. He was the wine editor of California Homes Magazines and freelanced with wine publications, including Oregon Wine Press.

A major motivation for his final migration to Portland was “extensive field research” focused on the early pioneers of Oregon wines and the emergence of Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley. Ken’s book “Decoding the Grape: Oregon Wine Country Stories” is based on his wide-ranging interviews over a period of several years.

In his later years, his visual disability, late-onset Stargardt disease, became progressively worse but never stopped his interest in good books — via audio — and traveling, especially in pursuit of fine wine.

He’s survived by his sister, Eileen Friedenreich.

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