March 7, 2007
'The Henry Ford of Wine'

Word of Ernest Gallo's death yesterday caught up with me too late last night for me to contribute anything to today's coverage in The Sacramento Bee.

Several months ago, however, as word circulated that Gallo was faltering, I asked some longtime key players on the nation's wine scene to comment on Gallo's impact on the trade.

Marvin Shanken, publisher of The Wine Spectator in New York City: "Ernest, with his brother Julio, has been enormously committed to producing quality wine consistently and at a fair price...Many, many people now running other companies went to school at Gallo or worked for their distributors. Ernest set the benchmark for the sophisticated marketing and sale of wine in America. Directly or indirectly he taught all of us how to build wine sales in America...He's probably the Henry Ford of wine."

Richard Peterson of Napa Valley, a California winemaker for 50 years, including a stint with E.&J. Gallo: "Ernest was first in recognizing that if he was going to sell wine he couldn't charge too much for it. He sold on low price and quality...He started from scratch, kept the price low, and when he could he advertised. They sold to common people, like Italian immigrants, who wanted everyday wine. He never forgot that he was selling to the common person."

Bob Thompson of Napa Valley, dean of the nation's wine writers: "Robert Mondavi and Ernest Gallo were interchangeable. If Bob had been born into commodity winemaking he'd be Ernest Gallo. If Ernest had been born in the Napa Valley he would be into luxury winemaking. But Ernest has been much more single-mindedly a competitor. He very much wanted to win. He was relentlessly curious, willing to experiment, and a driven participant in whatever he did. He felt that the next wine to come out would be the most important of all. He never lost that drive, he was always moving forward."

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