Gallo wines third generation family affair in California
Gallo doesn't produce the best wines in the Meridian market but undoubtedly they have the best and most successful salesmen.
There may be a wine store in our area that doesn't carry one or more of Gallo's wines but I don't know who or where it might be. Gallo is indeed the supermarket of wine producers, something for every one in all levels of quality and a price to fit every pocketbook.
Gallo of Sonoma was a founded by Julio Gallo and his brother Ernest. The third generation has now taken over. Matt and Gina Gallo are grandchildren of Julio. Matt, 35, is the general manager of operations. Gina, 32, is the winemaker.
The company maintains a research and development department, headed by Dr. Terry Lee, formerly chief of Australia's national wine research institute. He heads a team of U.S. and International scientists at the Gallo Basic Research Center in California's San Joaquin Valley. Members of the institute come from France, Ireland, Germany, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and, of course, Australia.
Each year, the winery makes several hundred small batch wines, only a case or two of each, to test the combinations of science and craftsmanship that produce fine wines.
The label seen most often in our local wine stores is Gallo of Sonoma. You'll find it on chardonnay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel and pinot noir. In other words, whether your choice is red or white, Gallo makes certain there's something with their name on it to earn your business.
The winery likes to tout the various medals it has won in national and international competition. Their promotion pieces list gold, silver and bronze medals in the Japanese International Wine Challenge, more in tastings held in London Shanghai, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Italy.
My problem with Gallo is I have trouble believing they won the "Winery of the Century" award at the Los Angeles County Fair, the "Winery of the Year" in San Francisco or the prize for "Best U.S. White Wine" in Japan.
I don't know who they were up against and how many entries there were. I have drunk many Gallo wines and would critique them as good, drinkable wines, worth the relatively low prices they command but hardly wines that can challenge some of the smaller California wineries which put their heart and soul in making small amounts of superior bottlings. I drank a bottle of Gallo of Sonoma just a week ago and found it pleasant but hardly competitive with such chardonnays as Landmark Overlook or Clos Pegase or a number of other wines.
There can be no argument that one man's taste buds are not the same as another's but, in truth, I like my wine wines crisp and the Gallo Chardonnay is a bit fruity for my taste. It is closer to Australia's Lindeman's Bin 65 than it it is to the Landmark. On the other hand, the Landmark costs nearly twice as much.
Their pinot noir is bigger (and better) than I expected, their cabernet sauvignon is a very nice bottle of wine and their zinfandel has much to recommend it. But "The Winery of the Century" or the "Best White Wine," I don't think so.
They have a winner in their Turning Leaf, a very acceptable wine, one notch below Gallo of Sonoma in quality, but markedly below their premium wines in price.
Where I really differ with their promotional material is in their Ecco Domani label. Made in Italy, Gallo describes their Ecco Domani Cabernet, for example, as full flavored wines with superb color and wonderful aroma, backed by a fine level of intensity."
Sorry, but we part company here. Not a single bottle of Ecco Domani has shown me anything but a very inexpensive every day wine with muddy flavors. Look in your wallet or purse and find the few extra dollars necessary to move up to Gallo of Sonoma wines or, at the very least, their Turning Leaf.
Gallo has created a niche for itself and as we said earlier, their distribution system is superb. But medals or no medals there are better wines on the market.
If you are just learning to appreciate the joys of wine Gallo products are a good place to start your education., They are not a good place to end it.
Stan Torgerson, a longtime Meridian resident, has written a wine column for several years.