Welcome to Corvina Wine Company
Where the Best Things in Life are Simply Meant to Be
At the corner of Lincoln Avenue and 61st Street stands a building that has watched the industrial rise and ebb of the City of West Allis for nearly a hundred years. The building has worn a myriad of faces, first as a deli owned by Francesco LaSusa, and later as a print shop and a candy store, among others. Today, it is what it was always meant to be – Corvina Wine Company, owned and operated by brothers Frank and Joe LaSusa.
Walk into Corvina Wine Company and depending on the season, you might be welcomed with a glass of rustic-flavored Sangiovese, or if you’d like something sweeter, have a seat at the old church pew and they may suggest a Rhone White that tastes of golden pears and blushing apricots.
To say these gentlemen know their wine would be an understatement. They’ve spent the last several years traveling to Italy, Sonoma, Napa, Greece, and other wine capitals of the world gaining firsthand knowledge of the flavors they bring back to West Allis. In fact, Frank is one of only 9,000 people in the world to earn a Wine and Spirit Trust diploma, assuring a specialist-level knowledge of wine and spirits. He plans to continue his education and earn the Masters of Wine degree.
But they weren’t always wine connoisseurs. After graduating from Marquette University, Joe with a Bachelor’s in Science and Frank with a Bachelor’s in International Business, they each pursued a career in pharmaceuticals. Although they became disenchanted with that career path, it was through that work that they first shook hands with sommeliers and started tapping into their passion for wine.
When their father sold them the Lincoln Avenue building in 2012 to establish Corvina Wine Company, they discovered old barrels and wine presses in the basement. “That was the moment,” Joe explains, “that we knew this was all meant to be. It’s like the building always knew it was going to be a wine bar.”
An Homage to History
Growing up in an Italian family, the LaSusas revel in the memories of conversation and storytelling at family gatherings where there was always plenty of wine to go around. With Corvina, they’ve created a convivial atmosphere to encourage socializing with warm Edison lights and worn wood furnishings. The space pays homage to the city’s and their family’s history, too, with industrial chandeliers, signature Cream City brick walls, and framed photos of the building when it was their great grandfather’s deli.
When they first opened their door to West Allis, the brothers say they were impressed by the support of Mayor Dan Devine and the West Allis Department of Development team, and especially the community.
“It truly is a community,” Joe says. “There isn’t competition between businesses, but comradery.”
They’re hopeful seeing new businesses moving to West Allis and are eager to partner with them by hosting events.
“It’s an exciting time to be here,” says Frank, “because we can see the seeds of development. Young professionals are moving in. We’re happy to be involved.”
Connecting West Allis
The building happens to be located across the street from the brothers’ old grade school, and they laugh about the fact that back then, they never would have envisioned themselves across the street selling wine. It’s a lighthearted joke, of course, for Frank and Joe LaSusa do so much more than sell wine.
They build connections.
Traveling to different regions to see the wine being made helps them to not only gain organic knowledge of each wine’s process and origin, but to develop an intimate appreciation for the wine which they then bring home to West Allis. This deep connection with the wines they provide help them create profiles for their wine club members based on what they enjoy and what they would like to explore. In the future, they hope to invite some of their customers on these revelational trips.
A Resilient Grape for a Resilient City
The LaSusa brothers find themselves pulled toward wines that come from smaller, family-owned wineries. “We gravitate toward rustic wines,” Frank says. “Wines that someone’s worked with their hands. They have a certain soul to them that you can feel.”
That soul and hard-earned flavor is one of the reasons they were pulled toward the name Corvina. Grown almost entirely in the Veneto region of northeast Italy, the Corvina grape is resilient – reminiscent of West Allis.
It’s also a component of one of their favorite wines, Amarone, a rich, dry, Italian red wine perfect for when it’s cold outside. “It kind of gives you a warm hug,” says Frank.
“Sunshine in a bottle,” Joe laughs.
Just as their great grandfather’s building was destined to house wine and company, so too were the brothers meant to introduce the flavors of the world to West Allis.
With an in-house selection of over fifty wines from around the world for customers to experience and enjoy, Corvina Wine Company also has a tapas-style menu including a cheese charcuterie board, a retail shop with over one-hundred different wines, and several tasting events throughout the year. You have to ask, though, to see their top-secret collection of corks.