Ernest Gallo Passes Away at Age 97
Ernest Gallo, co-founder of the wine producing giant E & J Gallo, has passed away in his hometown of Modesto, California at the age of 97.
Along with his brother Julio, Ernest established E & J in 1933 immediately after the United States repealed Prohibition. The business was founded with $5,900 and a winemaking recipe the brothers found in the Modesto Public Library. Ernest spearheaded sales and marketing for the company, while Julio made the wine. Julio passed away in 1993.
For many years, E & J Gallo was the largest wine producing company in the world. It has since fallen behind Constellation Brands, but the company still sells an amazing 75 million cases a year. Ernest’s son, Joseph, is now the head of E & J Gallo.
One of the reasons E & J was so successful was that the brothers did not just focus on making wine; they bought and planted enormous tracts of vineyards and were involved in every aspect of distribution. Ernest and Julio even manufactured their own bottles at a glass factory they owned. This gave them unparalleled control and led to the meteoric rise of the winery.
E & J produced and marketed generic table wines named after European wine regions such as Burgundy and Chablis. The brothers are also famous for developing such brands as Thunderbird, a high-alcohol fortified wine, and Ripple, a fruit-flavored wine.
In an interview on his 90th birthday, Ernest stated, “My brother Julio and I worked to improve the quality of wines from California and to put fine wine on American dinner tables at a price people could afford. We also worked to improve the reputation of California wines here and overseas.”