Ernest Gallo died on March 6, 2007 at the age of 97; he was an American businessman, born on March 18, 1909, to Giuseppe Gallo, known as Joseph, and Assunta Bianco Gallo, who was called Susie, in Jackson, Calif.
The father, and his younger brother, Michael, had a business buying wine from small wineries and selling it in bars in Oakland and San Francisco.
In the 1920s, Ernest’s parents bought a farm near Modesto and like their neighbours, began to grow grapes. Their fruit was loaded on railcars and shipped east (private winemaking was still allowed during Prohibition).
The railheads in Eastern cities, from Boston to the Carolinas, from Pittsburgh to Cleveland and Buffalo, were dominated by thugs who took a cut of whatever was sold. By the time he was 17, Ernest was travelling with the grapes to ensure the family received top dollar.
His father was Giuseppe Gallo, a.k.a. Joseph, and his mother, Assunta Bianco Gallo, a.k.a. Susie. Together his uncle Michael, his father ran the Gallo Wine Company, a wine distribution company.
His mother’s family, the Biancos, were winemakers.
In the 1920s, his parents purchased a farm near Modesto, California, and sold their grapes. He had a brother, Julio Gallo (1910-1993), and another brother, Joseph.
In 1986, the Gallo brothers sued their younger brother Joseph for selling cheese branded with the Joseph Gallo Farms name.
Joseph then counterclaimed, alleging that Ernest and Julio conspired to steal his share of the inheritance from their father.
This claim included the winery, where the evidence submitted by Joseph’s attorney suggested that it was actually started by their father.
Joseph Gallo lost both suits and was forced to change the name of his business to Joseph Farms.
In addition to the Gallo Family Vineyards brand, the company makes, markets, and distributes wine under more than 60 other labels.
The company also makes the low-end fortified wines Thunderbird and Night Train Express.
In October 2009, the California Agricultural Labour Relations Board (CALRB) revoked a 2007 election to eject the United Farm Workers from Gallo Winery, citing interference from Gallo.
Carlo Rossi is a brand of wine produced by the E & J Gallo Winery. The brand was named after Charles Rossi, at the time a salesman for Gallo and a relation of the Gallo family by marriage.
Charlie Rossi starred in TV ads for the brand in the 1970s.
Carlo Rossi wines were at one point the second best selling brand in the United States.
Carlo Rossi is reflected in popular culture in E-40’s single, “Carlos Rossi.”
Gallo has invested $70 million since 1995 in its premium winemaking facility in Sonoma.
It processes 35,000 tons of grapes a year, sending their juice into 20-foot-tall stainless-steel fermentation tanks or Australian-made rotary tanks that sit on their sides.
Next door 60,000 oak barrels rest in a massive underground wine cellar that looks more like a bomb shelter.
In 2006 Forbes magazine listed Ernest Gallo as number 283 on its list of the 400 richest Americans, with an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion.