Wooden Valley Winery and Vineyards is Celebrating 85 Years of Making Wine
~ Four Generations Later ~
We’re so fortunate to be part of a hardworking, successful American dream family. It began with first-generation Italian immigrants Mario and Lena Carlevaro Lanza. Today, the great-grandchildren hold the future in their eyes, while their parents hold the present in their hearts and hands. The following is a quick snapshot of our family arriving in California near to the beginning of the Twentieth Century, with some significant steps along.
First Generation: Mario and Lena Carlevaro Lanza
Mario Lanza and Lena Carlevaro met in Oakland, California in 1934, then married in 1937. Both of their families came from Silvano Di Orba, a small town in Northern Italy. Mario was working as a partner in the Oakland Scavenger Company. Injured on the job, his doctor recommended that he find a warmer climate. Mario didn’t go very far. In 1944, Mario and Lena moved north into bucolic Suisun Valley. Mario’s friend Salvador Brea and his brother Manuel had founded a small winery in Suisun Valley, at the end of prohibition in 1933. They called it Wooden Valley Winery.
In 1944, Mario joined the Brea brothers as a partner; and by 1955, he became sole owner. This was with the understanding that the name of the winery would stay the same. On a handshake, Mario agreed to continue the business as Wooden Valley Winery, so that it would leave an important historical fingerprint. Salvador had named the winery after the road it was on at the time – Wooden Valley Road. The same road is now Suisun Valley Road. Mario’s promise has allowed the history of “Wooden Valley” to continue in Suisun.
Son Chick and Adrienne Lanza
Chick Join Parents to Help Grow Their Winery
The property had grown to over 300 acres, with prime vineyards. Soon, Mario and Lena’s son Richard (Chick) was working with them. Growing up at Wooden Valley Winery and Vineyards (with farming in his genes), by 1960 Chick had become the winemaker, a position that he held for the next 23 years. In 1961, Chick married Adrienne, and together they began growing their business.
Selling their wine from the tasting room, Chick also delivered wine along a route, much like a milkman, in gallon jugs or 25-gallon barrels. With his route extending into the Bay Area, Chick got to know his customers well, establishing many bonds.
In 1982, Chick Lanza realized they needed proper regional recognition for their wines, so he lobbied the government, thereby establishing Suisun Valley as California’s twelfth official American Viticultural Area (AVA). This was just a year after Napa Valley was acknowledged.
Our Four Sons
Rick, Ron, Larry, and Ken
As Wooden Valley Winery grew, so did our family, with Adrienne giving birth to four sons. Raised on the ranch, each son learned to drive a tractor by the age of 10. Each worked all of the jobs in both the winery and vineyards. At Chick and Adrienne’s invitation, each son found his place within the family business. Their full-time involvement provided the impetus for a conversion to premium wines.
- Mario’s oldest grandson Rick Lanza is Wooden Valley’s winemaker.
- Ron Lanza works very closely with Rick and focuses on sales and marketing.
- Larry and Ken Lanza are joint vineyard managers, growing their wine grapes
Working together, we’ve completed an important transition to the exclusive production of estate wines. Wooden Valley Winery and Vineyards has a range of varieties and rare classics, to meet everyone’s tastes.
This generation of Rick, Ron, Larry, and Ken Lanzas have a vision for Suisun Valley and for Wooden Valley Winery and Vineyards: to establishing Suisun Valley as a world-class wine growing region, through our world-class wines.
As the family’s fourth generation matures, we feel confident that the future looks very bright for Mario and Lena’s great-grandchildren.