The Franzia Brothers Winery – the oldest in Ripon – was reopened after Prohibition when matriarch Teresa (Carrara) made a monumental decision with her sons at her side underneath a walnut tree and huller outside their rural home.
She went to the Bank of Italy in Stockton where she applied for a loan to start the family winery once again while her husband Giuseppe was away on a trip.
She was lauded for “thinking outside the box” in their new homeland as she signed the loan for $60,000 to start the winery still located along Highway 120 east of Murphy Road on the way to Escalon. It also helped build a new brick building that was completed in the fall of 1933 in time for the repeal of the prohibition law.
Ernest and his brother Julio had decided to start a winery of their own in the ‘30s. Teresa wanted to help her daughter Amelia and son-in-law Ernest get started with another loan. Amelia Gallo had reportedly asked her mother to help with the necessary funding and she did just that.
The Franzias and the Gallos had been able to sell only a limited supply of grapes during prohibition years to buyers out of state that they had shipped by rail cars.
Wooden vats were brought out of storage by the Franzias, cleaned and prepared for a new vintage. The brothers applied for a corporate bonded license and won approval. Their parents had no share in the winery but they did own several farms including vineyards that their sons operated.
Giuseppe and Teresa would later build homes along Highway 120 for Frank, John and Louie as each of their sons was married. Eventually all five Franzia brothers would live along Highway 120 near their parents’ home place.
Mark Morris was hired early on as a chemist who had worked for the Clorox Company in Oakland and the University of California at Davis. For a period in the early ‘40s Sal Franzia took care of the winemaking, later replaced by a professional enologist.
The price of wine grapes finally “skyrocketed” in the mid-40s because the liquor distilleries had entered the winemaking competition. Grapes were selling at $100 per ton on the vine, a fivefold increase over pre-war prices. In 1947 the family broke ground for additional wine storage tanks that would increase their capacity to 3.5 million gallons.
Family winemaker John Jr. built champagne tanks from obsolete ICBM tanks southwest of the winery in 1960 after graduating from college.
New bottling plant breaks ground in 1972
In 1972 Franzia saw the groundbreaking of its new bottling plant along with 1,100 acres of vineyards. In February of that year was the first stock sale with 420,000 shares going on the public market. It was sold to Coke NY a year later for $50 million.
Today the Franzia Brothers Winery site on Highway 120 is owned by The Wine Group – not a Franzia-family company. It is an employee-owned corporation continuing to produce wine with the Franzia label. The Wine Group enjoys a major share of the boxed wine business. Another irony in the family saw Salvador Franzia’s daughter, Crlyse, marry Arthur Ciocca, president of The Wine Group.
A younger generation of the Franzia family formed the Bronco Winery operation in Keyes that incorporated in 1973 that later purchased the old Petri Winery site in 2002.
Giuseppe Franzia was born near Genoa, Italy in 1871, sailing to America when he was 22 in 1893. He was believed to have stayed in the Hotel Campadaglio on Bleeker Street in New York City. It took him only a matter of days to cross the country by train to San Francisco where a cousin was expecting his arrival. Between 1880 and 1920 more than four million Italians came to the U.S. Many reportedly became prominent fruit merchants and winemakers locating in San Joaquin County.
After a year working in the truck gardens in San Francisco at 50 cents a day, Giuseppe moved to Stockton to find work with Italian farmers in the area. In 1897 he started his own truck farm on rented land in Stockton, now the junction of Highway 99 and Wilson Way. Later he moved near the present day Morada renting farmland near the intersection of Highway 99 and Foppiano Lane. It was the beginning of the Giuseppe Franzia Family where an outdoor brick bread oven he built still stands.
Sends proposal of marriage to girl back in Italy, gets her sister’s hand instead
Having saved some cash and 29 years old, he sent a proposal of marriage to a girl back in Italy. The sister of the girl responded saying her sister wasn’t interested but that she, Teresa Carrara, would come to America in her stead to be his wife. Her father Antonio, his brother and her uncle were already living in California which made the idea of moving so far from home easier.
Teresa, 21, arrived at Ellis Island June 20, 1900 and arrived in San Francisco by train on July 4 where Giuseppe had also traveled by train to meet his fiancée. They were married July 7 at the Church of Saints Peter & Paul in San Francisco before traveling up the San Joaquin River by paddle steamer to Stockton taking several hours. The pastor had refused Giuseppe’s request to be married on the Fourth of July.
Just nine months after the wedding their first child, Frank, was born in 1901 in Morada. The following year daughter Mary Catterina was born. In April 1904 son John became their third child. Mary would later succumb to a tragic home accident in July of that year. In 1906 a third son Louie joined the family followed by Salvatore and Amelia, born in 1910 and later Joseph. Amelia would marry Ernest Gallo of the Gallo Wine Company in 1931.
In 1906 he had purchased property in the Ripon area and moved his young family there in 1912.
The Franzias transported their belongings and farm equipment to their new home in Ripon by railroad flat car with the arrival of irrigation water to the farmlands where Giuseppe built a house for his family.
Immediately planting a vineyard, it took three years for the vines to mature and produce grapes. Teresa managed the house, meals and children and worked on the farm and served as the very successful family treasurer. The source of water to their home came through the San Joaquin Irrigation District after 1909 when serving rural areas was not often considered.
Their lives had changed greatly with the fall of the stock market in 1929 and the prohibition of alcohol sales, only to see a rebirth in their winery operation with greater demand and higher prices years later near the end of World War II.
Giuseppe and Teresa’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren continue with the same family work ethic today as they strive to forge ahead in their own lives with rich memories of the past and still bright futures.