The Franzia Wine Family

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1970-1973

Although the Franzia brothers achieved marked success for an era of limited education, the Great Dep

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1936-1960

To enrich the alcohol content of their fortified wines, the Franzias installed a distillery in their

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  • Franzia Brothers

During the mid-1960’s, the Franzia grape fields, along with Ernest and Julio Gallo’s, were picketed by the United Farm Workers under Cesar Chavez. Chavez orchestrated a national grape boycott that affected the American wine industry negatively, but the Franzias survived the long siege. In 1964 Franzia Brothers began making champagne. At some point they added vermouth to their line of production. By 1968, the company was the sixth-largest producer of wine in the United States. In 1970 the brothers began brandy production as well.

Working at the winery were several of the Franzia grandsons. Charles Franzia, son of Frank, was in charge of the truck fleet and deliveries; he also worked in the warehouse. His brother Frank, Jr., who attended the University of California at Davis awhile, worked in sales; he was in charge of the tasting room. Louis Franzia, son of Louie, was in charge of the bottling department. His brother, Ernest Franzia, worked at making brandy; he did not work very long at the winery. John’s son, John, Jr., who graduated from the University of California at Davis, began working at wine-making in 1960. Joseph S. Franzia and his brother, Fred T. Franzia, sons of Joseph J. Franzia and graduates of the Bellarmine Preparatory School and the University of Santa Clara, worked at sales, Fred eventually managing all sales. Louie Franzia’s son-in-law, Joe Reichsmuth, married to Dorothy Franzia, worked in the shop at Franzia Brothers; Joe would later work for the younger Franzias’ Bronco Wine Company.

By October of 1969, the company owned 1,500 acres of wine grapes and employed between 100 and 200 Mexican nationals under the Bracero Program in the vineyards. The tonnage from their vineyards produced only one sixth of the grapes that the family processed into wine annually. Their own vineyards consisted of Palomino, Thompson seedless, Grenache, Valda, and Carignane grapes. The Franzias distributed their own wines with their fleet of 12 trucks. They employed 50 people all year at the winery and up to 75 people during the busy time of year. They made 16 million gallons of wine per year at the end. The expanded winery building had a storage capacity of 3,000,000 gallons. In 1969 the company built a tasting room that would host numerous events.

The winery tried to be active in the civic and social life of San Joaquin County. Joseph S. Franzia, after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. in Vietnam, headed a mobile wine-tasting unit that worked such events as boat-excursions; agricultural teachers’ “Ladies Night,” etc. John, Jr., hosted a wine-tasting of the San Joaquin Chapter of the [University of California at Davis] Aggie Alumni Association, of which he was a member. The winery also hosted a tasting for the area’s Almond Blossom Festival. Another time, the Tidewater Southern Railway and Franzia teamed up to create an excursion from Oakland to the Franzia Brothers Winery for a wine-tasting event. The event was very successful, and the partiers didn’t get back to Oakland until after 10 p.m. that night.