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E. & J. Gallo Winery was founded in 1933 by Ernest Gallo and Julio Gallo in Modesto, California. The two brothers started the winery following the repeal of Prohibition after years of growing and selling grapes. Ernest and Julio were competing against larger, more established, and better financed companies, including more than 800 wine companies in the first few years after Prohibition in California alone. Their starting capital was less than $6,000, with $5,000 of that borrowed by Ernest from his mother-in-law. They learned the craft of commercial winemaking by reading old, pre-Prohibition pamphlets published by the University of California which they retrieved from the basement of the Modesto Public Library (Zimmerman).
Through their winery, Ernest and Julio were instrumental in introducing American consumers to wine and creating the modern U.S. wine market. They were among the pioneers of wine advertising on television and launched many memorable wine advertising campaigns. They were the first to introduce brand management and modern merchandising to the wine industry. They led the way in bringing new products to store shelves. They were first in breakthrough quality initiatives such as long-term grower contracts for varietal grapes and grape research programs (Zimmerman). They were also first to establish a truly significant foreign sales and marketing force to export California wines overseas.
Today, E. & J. Gallo Winery is the largest family-owned winery in the United States. This is reflected, in part, in the recent introduction of the Gallo Family Vineyards brand. The new brand recognizes the nearly 75 years of involvement of the Gallo family in the wine business (13 members of the family’s second- and third-generation work for the company) and their promise to consumers to consistently deliver the best quality wine for the value. In addition to the Gallo Family Vineyards brand, the company makes wine under other labels including Louis M. Martini, Mirassou Vineyards, MacMurray Ranch, Rancho Zabaco, Ecco Domani, Frei Brothers, Red Bicyclette, Bella Sera, Turning Leaf, Black Swan, Sebeka, Twin Valley, Napa Valley Vineyards, Barefoot, Thunderbird, Night Train Express, and Bridlewood. E. & J. Gallo Winery is the largest exporter of California wines. The company has been pivotal in establishing Sonoma County as one of the premier wine growing regions in the world.
In the vineyard, E. & J. Gallo Winery took the lead in developing and implementing the Code of Sustainable Wine Growing Practices, in a collaborative effort with the Wine Institute and the California Association of Winegrape Growers. The Code promotes sustainable practices which are environmentally sound, economically feasible and socially equitable. It covers virtually every aspect of the wine business including viticulture and grape growing, wine making, purchasing and building and maintaining productive relationships with neighbors and the local communities. E. & J. Gallo Winery also was the first winery in the United States to receive the prestigious ISO 14001 certification from the International Organization for Standardization. The certification was created to assist and guide companies throughout the world to reduce their impacts on the environment.
E. & J. Gallo Winery ranks among the world’s most award-winning wineries and is the only American winery to be named “International Winery of the Year” three times (1998, 2001 and 2002).