The Scotto Family Wine Story
Our family’s wine history started in the mid 1800’s with my grandfather, Salvatore Dominic Scotto, in Ischia, Italy. Like many in his day, he made wine for the family table and sold the excess; while presenting his wine to a new neighbor, he met his future bride. He taught his first son, Dominic, everything he knew about making wine.In the years ahead Dominic followed in his father’s footsteps, making wine for his family in his spare time while he worked as a ship’s caulker.
In 1903 his family immigrated to New York and eventually settled in Brooklyn, where he practiced his trade on the wooden ships docked at ports up and down the east coast. He would bid on repair jobs or new construction and organize teams of caulkers to help him finish each ship. He also resumed his second career as a winemaker and started selling five gallon crocks of red wine to the neighbors from his horse drawn wagon. As his wine business grew, he decided to become a retailer and opened Scotto Liquors right after Prohibition. Sal, the first of his four sons and my oldest brother, was born in 1920.
My wine career started in 1940 when I was 13 years old, selling and delivering my father’s red wine in our Brooklyn neighborhood. The two wheeled cart I pushed through the streets was pretty heavy because it was filled with one gallon bottles and many customers bought by the case -$4.00 for four gallons of wine. A pretty good value, even in those days!
Later on, my older brother Sal returned after two tours in the Army, and in 1953 we bought Colucci Wholesale. For $5,000, we got a Brooklyn distributor with one salesman who sold wine to the neighbors and only spoke Italian. Obviously, Colucci wasn’t very big, but we were excited (and more than a little scared) to have our own business. Sal came up with the idea of creating a new brand, Villa Armando, in 1948. We called these wines “Rustico”, the Italian word for rustic. Our younger brother, Father Dominic, created the face on the label, which has not changed since 1955.
For the next few years, Caesar Mondavi bottled Villa Armando for us at his California winery. In 1961, we were finally able to buy the Gariti Winery in Pleasanton, which we renamed Villa Armando. For the first time, we could make the wine ourselves and control the quality from the vineyard to the bottle. Today, Villa Armando is one of the oldest wine brands in the U.S., and has been poured into more than 200,000,000 glasses! Lots of people still appreciate the quality of a traditional Italian style wine, and I’m happy that I didn’t have to sell it off the push cart like the old days!
Sal was a big part of our family’s wine business until his death in 1973, but he rarely mentioned the adventures he’d had while serving his country in World War II and Korea. We were all very proud of him, and the Army was too – they made him a Field Captain and awarded him two Purple Hearts, a Silver Star, and more ribbons and medals than we could count. We like to say that he helped us start our business, but more importantly, men like Sal protected our opportunity to be in business.
Our other brother, Leo, wanted to be a retailer so in 1949, he took over Scotto Liquors from our father. The store is still in business today, making it one of New York’s oldest retail liquor licenses.
I’ve sold a lot of wine, but the best sale I ever made was in a Greenwich Village liquor store in 1955. I was putting bottles of Villa Armando on the shelf when I met the store’s new clerk. Seven months later, she became my wife, thus making me the second Scotto to meet his future bride while selling wine.
Our oldest son, Anthony II, was born a few years later and started in the family business when he was a teenager. He became a winemaker, winery owner, exporter and wine consultant, so I guess he has some Villa Armando in his veins, too.
Today, I’m proud that the latest generation, Anthony III and his younger sister Natalie have carried on the family business in a new format, ADS Wines. They still sell Villa Armando, along with their newer brands, in the U.S. and Europe, and continue to make wine at their two Lodi wineries. They’ll tell you their story on the othe pages of this website, and we hope you’ll share our wines with your family and friends, like the Scotto’s have done for five generations.