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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1960-1970

During the mid-1960’s, the Franzia grape fields, along with Ernest and Julio Gallo’s, were picke

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  • Bronco Wine Company Vineyard

Although the Franzia brothers achieved marked success for an era of limited education, the Great Depression, and World War II, there was a lack a vision that permeated the company that prevented it from competing successfully in the 1970’s. One Franzia described Franzia Brothers as an “amoeba,” expanding without direction, but the five Franzia brothers had achieved far more than their peers of that generation. They provided a high pedestal from which to launch the next generation.

In the 1970’s the Franzia brothers were aging. Of the younger generation of Franizas, Frank Franzia, Jr., known as “Frankie,” Ernest Franzia, and Charles Franzia had already left Franzia Brothers Wine Copany. Three of the brothers, Frank, Louie, and Sal, wanted to retire and sell their interests in the 6.5-million-dollar company. There had been some discord for awhile. In June of 1971, their 60% interest was sold to Dan Lufkin, a director on the New York Stock Exchange; and Louis Marx, owner of the Marx Toy Company. The company’s stock was placed on the New York Stock Exchange, and Coca Cola of New York, in the fall of 1973, purchased all of Franzia Brothers Wine Company. John and Joe had retained their 40% interest because they had sons interested in continuing in the wine industry. However, operating with less-than-controlling interest created problems for them; so they, too, sold their interests—to Coca Cola, which also owned Mogen David Wine Company. Whenever any family corporation reaches its end, there are usually some family members who still have the family business in their blood. So it was when the Franzias sold Franzia Brothers Winery to Coca Cola in 1973. When the decision was made to sell the last of the family stock, Joseph S. Franzia and Fred T. Franzia [sons of Joseph J. Franzia] and their first cousin, John Franzia, Jr., decided to start a winery of their own.

They turned in their resignations to Joseph Franzia, Senior. Since the name Franzia was sold with their fathers’ company, the younger Franzias could not use their own name for their business. On December 25, 1973, the three filed incorporation papers. They named their winery The Bronco Wine Company and purchased eighty acres near Ceres, in Stanislaus County, California, as the winery site. Bronco has since grown to become the fourth largest winery in the United States. It owns over 35,000 acres of vineyards and has storage and production facilities in Ceres, Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, Escalon and Madera. It has the capacity to produce 61 million gallons of wine annually. [In the Franzia Brothers Wine Company, the maximum production was about 16 million gallons annually.] Fourth-generation Franzias also work for the winery. The family appears poised to be associated with the wine industry for decades to come. The story of the current Franzias in the wine industry is left for future historians.