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Mangels Family Contributes to Suisun Valley’s Rich Wine Grapegrowing and Winemaking History

Three generations in the Mangels Family: Bompa, Louis Mangels, and Uncle Claus.

Louis Mangels arrived in New York City in 1866, with his parents. At 14 years of age, he had just emigrated from Germany and immediately left for the West Coast, by way of Panama. There was a distant connection to the Spreckles, another German family that was already experiencing financial success in San Francisco. They arrived on June 22, 1866.

During the next ten years, through the Spreckles connection, Louis learned to be a cooper. He also studied and saved enough money to buy 240 acres of land in 1876. He planted grape vines right away. By the following year, Claus Mangels was born to the Louis Mangels family.

Thirteen years later, in 1889, Louis expanded his land holdings. Already owning the 240 acres in Suisun Valley, he bought the Schultz brothers’ business, stock, cooperage, and equipment. He continued working the ranch; and by 1893, Louis Mangels decided that it was time to build his first wine cellar. Solano Winery went on to become one of the largest producing wineries in the state of California.

By 1906, the Mangels winery had grown to produce 500,000 gallons of wine a year. Just the year before, Louis’s son Claus married Cecelia Rohwer. The family then took another interesting road to expansion. In 1910, Louis Mangels brought his two oldest sons into a business partnership, naming the company Mangels & Sons. By 1920, Prohibition hit the United States, with Mangels & Sons being only one of seven wineries allowed to continue to legally produce wine for the government. A lot of the tonnage was shipped to the East Coast, to large eastern markets. Within a year, Claus Mangels became sole proprietor.

When it became unprofitable to ship grapes to the East Coast, a partnership with the Colonial Grape Products Company was formed. This entity became known as the Solano Grape Products Company. By 1932, the Solano Grape Products Company was incorporated under the name of Solano Winery.

After Prohibition in 1933, the government began to bond wineries. “Solano Winery” became Bonded Winery Number 42. Claus planted more vineyards and leased another 153 acres with a Bonzi Vineyard at Monticello, in Napa County. After the repeal, the Solano Winery’s wine cellar was well stocked with many products, including both aged (fortified) sweet and dry wines. The building and cooperage were rented from Claus Mangels. Wine sales were brisk, most especially the Solano Winery “house” brand. This led to the selection of its own name, which became “Chief Solano.” Other successful brands were Cordelia, Solano, and C. R. Mangels.

In just two years, the market for the Mangels wines had spread over the nation and to foreign lands. In 1936, Claus Mangels purchased the stock formerly held by the Colonial Grape Products Company, which gave him 97 percent of the stock held in the company. One year later, Solano Winery was producing 350,000 gallons of wine a year, crushing nearly all of the grapes in Suisun Valley. In order to continue succeeding, Gary’s family sold its interest in the winery to Sunnyside by 1943, since they were faced with a need to upgrade equipment, yet again. Claus Mangels sold the recently renovated Solano Winery property, with about eight acres of land, to partner Horace O. Lanza of Sunnyside. Current production at that time was between 450,000 and 500,000 gallons of wine a year.

Horace O. Lanza was an official of the California Grape Products Company of San Francisco, and had been a business partner for six years during prohibition. With the sale, however, Clause maintained his home, vineyards, and other property. By 1950, the winery was no longer in operation.

Claus passed away in 1950, and the family property passed on to Gary’s father Lewis Mangels. Lewis had a great love for raising livestock. Years prior to his own father’s passing, Lewis had also bought a ranch, while he continued to grow great quantities of grapes that were sold to Sebastiani and Christian Brothers.

Gary talks fondly about the close bond between his father and him.

In 1988, Gary, continuing in the agricultural traditions of his family, purchased the land that would eventually become Mangels Vineyards. At the time, it also had a pear orchard on it. Gary remembers removing the orchard and planting a pasture. After talking to neighbors and learning about their grape growing experiences, Gary decided it was time to plant grapes. He planted the first vines in 1991. He chose to plant Merlot because he knew that, at that time, the market was more commodities focused, and there was great demand for Merlot. When the market fell off, after the heyday of the 90s, Gary realized that the positive outcome to that situation would be that he could take the time to learn which varieties were really best suited to his terroir. He replanted, changing the rootstock and the clones, and split his planting evenly between Merlot and Syrah.

Presently, Gary Mangels and Gina Richmond have formed a partnership, and are now making wine under Mangels Vineyard label.



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