Larry and Polly Solari
In 1948, Bruno (Larry) Solari and his wife Polly bought Larkmead Vineyards. As a boy of nine, he had immigrated to the US from Tuscany with his family in Geyserville, California in 1920. In 1933 he was the first in his family to earn a college degree, graduating from UC Berkeley at the height of the Great Depression. Despite difficult times for the wine industry in the years following World War II, Larry recognized the huge potential of the historic vineyard site and acquired it in 1948. Larry was enormously optimistic about Larkmead's future.
He commuted to San Francisco during the week, where he worked as President of United Vintners, which owned Inglenook, Beaulieu and Italian Swiss Colony. Polly ran the winery and supervised daily winemaking operations from 1948 to 1952. For Polly, the mother of three young children, this was no easy task, and was highly unusual work for a woman at that time. To their delight, their first harvest at Larkmead was so bountiful the Solaris were able to make a sizable payment on their mortgage.
Larry continued to work as President and CEO of United Vintners, the 1,500-member grape grower cooperative that owned Italian Swiss Colony and Inglenook, and later Beaulieu. President and CEO of United Vintners, an Executive Director of Heublein (which acquired United Vintners) and Chairman of the Wine Institute, Larry had a distinguished career in the Napa Valley and California wine industry. Regarded as one of the 'giants' of the wine industry, his good friend Robert Mondavi referred to Larry as his "mentor." After Larry's death in 1984, the family continued winemaking and growing premium varietal grapes from the historic vineyard. The property has now remained in the Solari family for over 60 years.