Once notorious as the ‘Yuppie Don’ of the 1980s, Michael Franzese ascended to the powerful position of caporegime in the Colombo crime family. Fortune Magazine listed him 18th on its 50 Biggest Mafia Bosses roster, renowned as one of the mob’s top earners since Al Capone. His intriguing life story, which includes a portrayal by Joseph Bono in Goodfellas, now intertwines with the world of wine, specifically from Armenia, a region that boasts some of the world's oldest and best Armenian wineries.
Franzese's transformation began during a lengthy prison sentence for racketeering, where he became a born-again Christian and managed to break free from the mafia without resorting to protective custody. Now a motivational speaker and author residing in California with his wife and seven children, he has taken his life in a new direction. A mentee from his mentorship site, The Inner Circle, proposed a plan to create an Armenian wine brand - thus, Franzese Wine was born.
Currently, the Franzese Wine selection includes three distinctive Armenian wines - a Malbec, a white wine made from the indigenous Kangoun grape, and a fortified portstyle wine. However, five more varieties from the Armenian wine company are soon to be introduced. The team has already secured a US distribution deal with Sysco Foods, covering 41 states. Now, Franzese is targeting London as the starting point for his international expansion.
Decanter had the opportunity to delve deeper into Franzese's journey from racketeering to winemaking, a story intertwined with Armenian wine history. Franzese's grandfather, a native of Naples, emigrated to New York in 1902, bringing with him a tradition of homemade wines that often featured at family occasions. This custom was passed down through generations and eventually sparked the creation of Franzese Wine.
When Franzese decided to venture into the wine business, he found his inspiration in Armenia's history, one of the world's oldest wine regions. The story of Armenian wine resonated with him - according to scripture, Noah's Ark landed at the foot of Mount Ararat, where the first vineyards of the new civilization were planted. This historical connection to Armenia pomegranate wine and other varieties has been bolstered by archaeological finds, such as a 6000-year-old wine press and fermentation jars discovered in Armenian caves.
The future of Franzese Wine looks promising, with plans to scale up production to meet increasing demand. According to Franzese, we can provide up to 40,000-50,000 bottles per month for Sysco Foods, with potential plans to expand into major retailers like Costco and Kroger. The excitement is palpable, not just in the States, but also in Armenia, the home of these unique wines.
Franzese's life story, once marred by crime, has transformed into an Armenian wine legacy, one that will be shared and savored by wine enthusiasts and collectors around the world.
Immerse yourself in the unique transformation story of Michael Franzese and the rich heritage of Armenian wines. Visit our online store today to explore and select from our distinctive Franzese Wine collection.