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Wooden Valley Winery, a 75 Year History in Suisun Valley

Wooden Valley Winery

~ The Early Years ~

Brothers Manuel and Salvador Brea founded Wooden Valley Winery in Suisun Valley, at the end of prohibition in 1933. Salvador named the winery after the road where it was located. At the time, it was called the Wooden Valley Road. (Today, this road is called Suisun Valley Road.)

Family friend Mario Lanza, who worked as a partner in the Oakland Scavenger Company, became part of Wooden Valley winery in 1944. Injured in a workplace accident, Mario’s doctor recommended that he move from the Bay area to a warmer climate. So, Mario moved his family to Suisun Valley. Not only was it the perfect place for Mario’s health, but it also provided the opportunity for him to become a grape grower and vintner.

Mario joined the Brea brothers as a partner; and by 1955, Mario became sole owner. This was with the provision that the name of the winery would stay the same. On a handshake, Mario agreed to continue the business as Wooden Valley Winery.

Wooden Valley Winery ~ The Present

The Lanza family’s winery now has three generations of being a family-owned and operated.

Grandparents Mario and Lena Lanza, moving from San Francisco into Suisun Valley to enjoy a more rustic way of living and to improve Mario’s health, fulfilled all of their dreams. Their son Richard (Chick) was the next generation to be raised on the ranch, and to also become part of the winery. Chick married Adrienne, and together they’ve raised four sons, all of whom are the current generation managing the operations of the winery and vineyards.

[An image of the family, with the present generation of Lanzas when they were the kids at the table.]

The Lanza family is recognized in Suisun Valley as one of its viticultural leaders. For instance:

  • It was Chick Lanza who petitioned to have Suisun Valley become an American Viticulture Area, in the 1980s. In this year of 2010, they’re celebrating their 75th Anniversary at Wooden Valley Winery.
  • In this generation:
    • Ron Lanza one of the founders of the Suisun Valley Vintners & Grape Growers Association (SVVGA)
    • Ron presently serves as vice president; however, his brother Ken has also served as Vice President
    • Ron Lanza presently serves as chair for the marketing committee of SVVGA

Over the years, the Lanzas have been building the winery and working their vineyards. They’ve been creating rootstock and clonal combinations for each of the diverse microclimates in the Suisun Valley AVA. As a result, they’ve been producing their award-winning wines from this bucolic wine growing region, as well as selling their grapes to prestigious Napa and Sonoma wineries, and selling their fruit to those in other states, including a good many home winemakers.

They’re four brothers who have each found their place within the family business, while raising the next generation of Lanzas:

  1. Rick ~ Winemaker: Studied at UC Davis and became winemaker in the early 1980s.
  2. Ron ~ Marketing: Collaborating with Rick on winemaking decisions, and provides marketing leadership.
  3. Larry ~ Viticulture: Works closely with the four microclimates between I-80 and the end of the valley.
  4. Ken ~ Viticulture: Works to capitalize on each segment of the vineyard, with appropriate varieties, techniques and timing.

This generation has a vision for Wooden Valley Winery and Vineyards, which is to establish Suisun Valley as a world class wine region. As their family’s fourth generation matures, the future certainly looks bright for Mario and Lena’s great grandchildren.

The entire family shares a strong connection to their land, and an unrelenting commitment to improving the way they farm their vineyards and craft their wines. In addition to their estate varieties, they’re especially pleased to offer select wine under their new, luxury label, Lanza Family wines. The development of this wine has come since their journey began with SVVGA.

They’ve maintained the tradition of gathering on a regular basis with close friends and relatives for delicious food and wine, to enjoy the results of their hard work. In true Italian fashion, they all take the time to share food and wine with family and friends, enjoying a Mediterranean lifestyle in Suisun Valley.

2 Responsesto “Wooden Valley Winery, a 75 Year History in Suisun Valley”

  1. Marsha Collins-Vaughn says:

    Hi, I think you have a typo in the dates:
    “Family friend Mario Lanza, who worked as a partner in the Oakland Scavenger Company, became part of Wooden Valley winery in 1994.”
    I think the date should read 1954 as the following paragraph reads he became a partner in 1955.

    Otherwise a great article.

    Congratulations on the Winery’s 75th anniversary.


  2. Jo Diaz says:


    Thanks for the heads’ up. It was actually 1944, and is now corrected.

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