In the October 1993 issue of Wine Enthusiast, Robert Lawrence Balzer wrote a profile of Ernest Gallo, visiting him shortly after the death of his brother, Julio. Here are some excerpts:
On one hand, I was visiting an old friend, Ernest Gallo. On the other, my intent was to take stock of the vast Gallo wine domaine as it entered a new era—in the wake of Julio Gallo’s untimely passing and on the brink of the winery’s entry into a brave new world of ultrapremium wines.
I had noted with keen interest the Gallos’ entry into varietal wine production, saying it hurled a challenge that was bound to shake the industry. The Gallos approached their varietal mission with utter focus and confidence. In retrospect, the move was prescient—the wave of “fighting varietals” crested years after th Gallos tested the waters.
Time is a commodity with Ernest; he wastes it not. We began with the big picture. It was clear that Julio’s death had had a profound effect on Earnest; he had lost in one tragic moment a brother, partner and lifelong companion. The sense of personal loss was clear, perhaps beyond what any words could convey. In a professional sense, in terms of winemaking, Ernest told me, there is a plan for succession at the winery. “It’s been in place for years.”
“Where will Gallo be in the year 2000?” I asked.
He replied, “In our varietal program, there are many reigons: the Sonoma area, Stanislaus County, Merced, Monterey, Napa…but primarily the Sonoma region. By that time, they will all be in mature bearing.”
Turning squrely to the Sonoma venture, I finally had a chance to ask two questions that the vinyards could not answer: “Why the $30 price tag on the new Chardonnay? And when might we see a Cabernet?”
“We have our regular tasters,” Ernest explained. “That included Julio. We tasted a lot of Chardonnay wines, not only from California, but some great French wines that cost a whole lot more. We thought about $40. But we believe that as an introduction, we’d like to give as many people as possible the chance to taste these wines. For the people that buy these ultrapremium wines, and really appreciate them, budget is not a basic consideration. As far as the Cabernet is concerned, right now, it looks great, but if it’s not up to my expectations, we may not release the ’90.