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Tuesday, March 06, 2007 

A Toast to a California pioneer

who has passed. Salud, Ernesto. Love him or hate him....you have to admit, what an amazing life.
Ernest Gallo, who with his late brother Julio created a post-Prohibition wine business that became one of the most dominant in the world, has died. He was 97.

.. Gallo "put California on the wine map of the United States and then, through exporting, put California on the wine map of the world," said Nat DiBuduo, president of Fresno-based Allied Grape Growers, the state's largest wine-grape-growing cooperative.

.. Ernest, who was the power behind the company, handled the marketing and business end, while Julio, sometimes called the farmer at Gallo, oversaw wine-making.

When the Gallo brothers first started the business, the joke was that Ernest's goal was to sell more wine than Julio could make, and Julio's was to make more wine than Ernest could sell.- LATimes
Ernest Gallo -- who, it is said, once told his brother "you make the wine and I'll sell it'' -- was a ruthless businessman. He reached a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission in 1976 for using strong-arm business tactics such as forbidding his wholesalers to carry non-Gallo brands. He played hardball with the United Farm Workers union, earning himself and his company widespread enmity that has never dissipated. Gallo was the subject of a long UFW boycott in the 1970s and another in 2005. - SFGate
The stock market crash of 1929 decimated the elder Gallo's finances. In 1932, he retreated to a rundown raisin-grape ranch south of Fresno, while Ernest and Julio tried to keep his Modesto vineyard going.

On June 21, 1933, hired hands discovered the bodies of the elder Gallos at the Fresno ranch, dead from an apparent murder- suicide. The father's debts totaled almost $30,000, while his assets were scarcely a 10th of that amount.

Ernest Gallo sought a probate judge's permission to continue his father's grape-growing business. He persuaded Julio to start a winery in a leased building in Modesto with equipment bought on credit. It was Ernest who devised a profit-sharing plan to pay grape growers only after their wine was sold. Then he went to a local public library to research commercial winemaking.

The shelves were bare of helpful books, in the same way Prohibition had decimated the ranks of experienced winemakers. But in the basement, a librarian unearthed pre-Prohibition pamphlets written by a research scientist at the University of California at Davis. - Bloomberg.com

Ah...the power of libraries.

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You may be interested to hear you were quoted in Modesto's local paper today as they reported Gallo's death. We were too. Here's the link

via vecchia can be reached at viavecchiawinery@yahoo.com / viavecchia.blogspot.com

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