This month’s column marks the final installment dealing with those men and women of Italian origin who contributed in their own unique way, to the appreciation of wine. This month, we travel once again to California and look at the contributions Gina Gallo has made to wine making.
If the last name Gallo sounds familiar, it should be. She is the granddaughter of Julio Gallo, of Ernest & Julio Gallo fame. The Gallo’s trace their roots, like many of the first wave of Italians to California, to Piemonte. Their father Giuseppe, had a grape growing business. The young brothers saw the potential of wine making in what was then, a part of the world where wine drinking was still a foreign tradition to many Americans.
The company we know today began in 1933. Through good times and bad (prohibition), the company faced many challenges and prevailed.
Today it is the largest family-owned wine business in the United States and the largest exporter of California wine. It owns wineries in the U.S., Italy, Argentina and Australia. Besides its own E & J Gallo Winery label, it oversees another 60 labels, including some of my favorite California labels: Louis M. Martini, Frei Brothers, Gallo Family Vineyards Estate, and MacMurray Ranch.
The Gallo brothers are no longer with us. Ernest passed away in 1997 and Julio in 1993 in a car accident. Their legacy and influence lives on however. Today, the company is run by the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. One of the grandchildren that fell in love with wine making was Gina Gallo. After studying Physiology in San Francisco, she decided to enroll in a basic wine appreciation course at the University of California at Davis. She became hooked with the art of wine making.
After 6 months, she told her dad Robert, who in turn told her to see her grandfather Julio. He was very supportive of her decision at the time to become a wine maker. Today, she makes all the wine making decisions for the Gallo Signature Series and Gallo Family Vineyards Estate while her brother Matt, has the responsibility of getting her the best quality grapes to work with. Many of those grapes are sourced from throughout Sonoma. For Gina Gallo, the land where the grapes grow plays the pivotal role in determining a wine’s quality. The wines, Ernest and Julio Gallo made were affordable wines meant to be consumed every day. Gina Gallo has respected family tradition taking the quality element up a notch while still being affordable for all to enjoy.
At the LCBO, you’ll find her wines under the Gallo Family label and Estate label. I would recommend the Gallo Estate cabernet sauvignon 2007 at $39.95 a bottle. The grapes for this wine are entirely from Sonoma County and from only 2 vineyards: Monte Rosso and Barrelli Creek. The grapes were harvested and sorted by hand. According to Gallo, the grapes were cold soaked for 2 days to achieve maximum extraction of colour. With cold soak or pre-fermentation, berries are chilled to stop fermentation.
Many wine makers use this technique with reds especially, to extract colour and flavor. The cold temperatures will also eliminate any organisms which at warmer temperatures could spoil the wine. After the cold soak, the juice received 14-25 days of skin contact. These 2 processes will become obvious when you take the wine home and see the dark violet colours.
This is an indication of the complexity that is to come with this wine. After primary fermentation was completed, it underwent malolactic fermentation. Which is not fermentation at all but a process whereby the wine maker converts the harsh acids to softer acids to achieve a rounder and smoother mouth feel in the future finished wine. The wine was then allowed to age in new French oak barrels for 22 months. This is a very rich wine. Full-bodied with smooth tannins.
On the palate, 2 things jumped out at me: the jamminess with mature fruit flavours at first than followed by spice and white pepper. Having spent 22 months in French oak barrels, vanilla flavours are present on the lengthy finish. It’s a gorgeous wine! The alcohol by volume comes in at 14.5%. I would recommend placing the bottle in the fridge for at least 20-25 minutes to take a bit of the edge off the alcohol. Roast beef is an excellent match for this wine. The complexity of this cut of beef, needs a wine that has some weight and presence. This wine with its tannins and full-bodied weight can handle the richness of the meat. Enjoy!
Grazie e salute!
By: Domenico Cellucci