March 9, 2007
Mondavi's In, Gallo's On Hold

This is Robert Mondavi’s day. At the Napa Valley branch of the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena this evening, he will be the first “pioneer” to be inducted into the CIA’s new Vintners Hall of Fame.

At the outset of the night’s ceremonies, however, a toast is to be proposed to Ernest Gallo, the Modesto vintner who died Tuesday at 97.

To the world’s wine drinkers, the name Gallo is more closely associated with California than the name of any other vintner, with the possible but doubtful exception of Mondavi.

So why isn’t Ernest Gallo also being inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame? Neither he nor his brother Julio, who died in 1993, even were on the ballot to be considered as “founders” or “icons,” other levels of candidates in the first class of inductees.

Tim Ryan, president of the CIA, which has its headquarters in Hyde Park, N.Y., says no slight of the Gallos was intended. The hall, however, is in Napa Valley, and that’s where Robert Mondavi made his name, as well, many people can argue, the name of the valley. “Being in the Napa Valley, we chose to focus on Robert,” says Ryan. “Everybody acknowledges that Ernest and Julio were great pioneers in the industry, and I’m sure they soon will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”

This year, Mondavi will be the only “pioneer,” a designation for those people who have contributed most significantly to the California wine trade. Mondavi was chosen by a committee convened by CIA officials.

“Founders” to be inducted, all deceased, are Andre Tchelistcheff, Georges de Latour, Charles Krug, Agoston Haraszthy, Gustave Niebaum and Brother Timothy. The CIA defines a “founder” as someone who planted the roots of today’s industry.

“Icons” to be inducted, also deceased, are Maynard Amerine and Harold Olmo, both faculty members of the department of viticulture and enology at UC Davis. An “icon” is defined as someone whose achievements contributed to the establishment and growth of the state’s wine trade.

Full disclosure: Founders and icons were chosen by 70 wine writers who were sent ballots with the names of several nominees. The CIA nominated the candidates. I was one of the 70 voters. Four of the eight I voted for are among the inductees. Maybe next year Jacob Beringer, Charles LeFranc, Pierre Pellier and Father Junipero Serra also will be inducted, along with the brothers Gallo.

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