The Franzia Wine Family




By 1931 Giuseppe, aged sixty, owned several farms and had saved a lot of money. He announced to his






The great experiment, Prohibition, became law on January 16, 1920, and would last until December 5,



In 1923, despite his work requirements, Giuseppe managed to attend citizenship training classes in Stockton. On November 22, 1923, the Bureau of Naturalization granted him citizenship of the United States. In 2011 the framed citizenship certificate hangs in the home of a daughter of Joseph J. Franzia.

The following year, on October 1, 1924, Giuseppe Franzia, born January 13, 1871, in Vado, Italy, living at Route A, Ripon, California, applied for a passport. He was again traveling home to Italy. Records show that he arrived back in the United States on March 16, 1925, aboard the Conte Rosso at New York, having embarked at Genova. The Conte Rosso was used by Italy as a troop ship during World War II. It was sunk May 24, 1941, by a British torpedo off the coast of Sicily with 1,112 casualties.

These years saw great prosperity for the Franzias. They were selling 60-63 carloads of grapes per year. In 1927 California grow-ers shipped 38,000 carloads of grapes to eastern markets, 6,500 of these just to Chica-go, according to a Cali-fornia Grape and Wine-grower article.

Giuseppe and Teresa bought several farms with their profits. As the 1920’s ended, it appeared as if Prohibition was a failure and was soon to be repealed, which had the stifled vintners of California anticipating better days. But then the stock market crashed in October of 1929, sending the country into the Great Depression. The eastern market for wine grapes dried up considerably, and grape-growers had to use their ingenuity to survive. The Franzias only sold about thirty carloads during the early years of the Great Depression.

On page 37 of Our Story, Ernest Gallo described meeting Giuseppe Franzia for the first time:

I had met my future wife’s father, Giuseppe Franzia, a wine-grape grower and shipper from Ripon, on the sales tracks in Chicago. Early one November in Chicago, Franzia had come up to me and asked when I was planning to return home.

“Tomorrow,” I said.

“I’m done,” he said, “but I wait for you and we go back together.”

We met at the train station the next morning and found seats together in a crowded coach car. He was carrying a large, covered laundry basket, which he shoved under the seat. At noontime he brought out the basket. Inside were slabs of cheese and salami, bread, whole garlics, and huge red onions, which he sliced with a pocket knife. Soon, the passengers around us began moving away. Franzia pulled a bottle of homemade wine out of the basket to wash down the meal. Before the trip was over, he invited me to visit him at home sometime soon.

A month or so later, I did. When I arrived, I found him catnapping on a bench in the yard.

I woke him up, and, as we chatted, I spotted a very attractive young woman peeking out from behind a screen door. While Franzia kept me outside with talk about grapes, irrigation, and fertilizers, I kept wondering how I could get inside the house. Finally invited in for a glass of wine, I met his daughter, Amelia, who became my first girlfriend.