Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Ernest Gallo, 1909 - 2007

Ernest Gallo died yesterday at age 97.

E&J Gallo Winery is the largest wine company in the US, with annual US sales of 75,000,000 cases (2005 estimate, Wine Business Monthly). Among the wines in the Gallo family: Barefoot Cellars, Livingston Cellars, Red Bicyclette, Redwood Creek, Boone's Farm, Turning Leaf, Peter Vella (5 liter box), Carlo Rossi (available in a 4 liter box), Bella Sera, Black Swan (which also recently came out with a 3 liter box), and more.

From the Gallo website:

MODESTO, Calif. (March 6, 2007) – Ernest Gallo, who with his brother Julio, helped build the American wine industry and, in turn, achieved one of the greatest American business successes of the twentieth century, died today at his home in Modesto, California. He was 97. Julio passed away in 1993. Ernest had a younger brother, Joseph, who had his own business interests and passed away earlier this year.
. . .
The son of Italian immigrants, Ernest was born March 18, 1909, in Jackson, California, about 90 miles east of San Francisco in the Sierra Nevada foothills. His parents, Giuseppe (Joe) and Assunta (Susie), ran a boardinghouse for immigrant miners. It was not an easy life. After moving several times, in the early 1920s Joe bought a small farm in Modesto, California, about 70 miles east of San Francisco. Ernest and Julio, who was one year his junior, were required to come home directly from school to work in the fields, and they worked all weekend as well. It was here, in the late 1920s and the early 1930s, that the family’s grapes were harvested and loaded on rail cars for shipment to Chicago for sale to home winemakers, a small market dominated by immigrant communities in the big cities of the East and Midwest. By age 17, Ernest was already displaying his talent for salesmanship, traveling by himself to Chicago, where he was able to sell his family’s grapes and hold his own against older and wiser men. The experience instilled in him an independent, self-assertive nature and a fierce work ethic that remained with Ernest throughout his life.
. . .
The Gallo brothers pursued a dream few could ever envision. Their starting capital was limited to less than $6,000, with $5,000 of that borrowed from Ernest’s mother-in-law. In the first few years after Repeal in 1933, hundreds of companies were entering the wine business – more than 800 in California alone, some of them with extensive pre-Prohibition experience and access to millions of dollars. The brothers began without knowing how to make wine commercially. Ernest and Julio learned by reading old, pre-Prohibition pamphlets put out by the University of California and retrieved from the basement of the Modesto Public Library.
. . .
The sacrifice was often great. During the company’s infancy, the Gallo brothers often worked around the clock, sometimes 36 hours straight. In the first year, the winery produced 177,847 gallons of wine and earned its first profit. It became routine to work 18 hours a day, seven days a week. Although he cut back in recent years, Ernest remained active in the business on a daily basis until his death.

Gallo Public Relations

They founded the E.&J. Gallo Winery in 1933, at the end of Prohibition, when they were still mourning the murder-suicide deaths of their parents. Ernest and Julio rented a ramshackle building, and everybody in the family pitched in to make ordinary wine for 50 cents a gallon — half the going price. The Gallos made $30,000 the first year.

Winemaker Ernest Gallo dies at 97 - U.S. Business -

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