The Makers of American Wine: A Record of Two Hundred Years

By Thomas Pinney | Go to book overview

EIGHT
Ernest and Julio Gallo
CREATING NEW MARKETS

RETROSPECT

If, at the end of his long life, Ernest Gallo (1909–2007) troubled to look back over his career, what he saw was the whole extent of American wine history since its rebirth after the repeal of Prohibition at the end of 1933, the year that he went to work as a winemaker. He could take great satisfaction from the view, for what it showed was that, of all the many wine-making enterprises that had appeared in that dawn, his alone had survived and prospered: Roma, Petri, Italian Swiss Colony, Fruit Industries, Inglenook, Beaulieu, Larkmead, Christian Brothers, Paul Masson—all were gone or had been swallowed up and transformed by big conglomerates. Gallo himself now owned Louis Martini and Mirassou and Frei Brothers, though they were mere appendages to the huge body of his enterprise. The names of the big competitors that he had had to face at the beginning—mostly Italian Americans who, unlike Gallo, had enjoyed the backing of A. P. Gianinni at the Bank of America—no longer figured in the trade talk: Cella, Martini, Rossi, Petri, Lanza, Baccigaluppi, Cribari. All, without exception, had disappeared. The Gallo winery alone still flourished. And how it flourished!

Ernest Gallo, with his younger brother Julio,1 had taken out a license to make wine in the last months of the Prohibition era, when the authorities, knowing that repeal was certain, handed out permits with a free hand. The repeal amendment, the Twenty-first Amendment, would not actually be ratified until December 5, 1933, and until then the manufacture and selling of wine “for beverage purposes” would continue to be illegal under the laws of Prohibition. But there was no law against making and storing wine against the day when it would again be legal to sell it for the purpose for

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