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Franzias rebuild Valley wine industry after Prohibition

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 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 signed the loan for $60,000 to start the winery and to 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 Gallo had decided to start a winery of their own in the ‘30s and Teresa wanted to help her daughter Amelia and son-in-law Ernest get started with another loan.
Amelia Gallo 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 the five Franzia brothers would live along Highway 120 near their parents’ home place.

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.

In 1972 Franzia saw the groundbreaking of its new bottling plant with 1,100 acres in vines. 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.

John Franzia and Ernest Gallo stand by a rail car in Chicago in August of 1934. Gallo and Amelia Franzia were on their honeymoon trip when the photo was taken.