FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000

E. & J. Gallo

Brothers Ernest and Julio Gallo, sons of Italian immigrants, built their wine empire from the bottom up. Starting after repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the Gallos took over their father’s grape-growing business and set out to make affordable wine by becoming what Ernest called “the Campbell Soup company of the wine industry.” Ernest handled marketing and sales and Julio oversaw production, an arrangement that lasted until Julio’s death in 1993; Ernest died in 2007.

Gallo winery, 1967

Gallo winery, 1967

The storage capacity at the Gallo winery in Modesto, California, grew from 100 million gallons in 1965 to 330 million gallons in 1986.

Photo by Merced Sun Times. Courtesy of E. & J. Gallo Winery

Ernest and Julio Gallo in the bottling room, 1966

Ernest and Julio Gallo in the bottling room, 1966

Courtesy of E. & J. Gallo Winery

Time, 1972

Time, 1972

Ernest and Julio Gallo were the largest producers of wine in America. With huge vineyards of their own, grape contracts with other growers, and enormous wineries in Modesto and Fresno, they drove many of the changes in the way wine was produced and marketed.

Magazine ad, 1965

Magazine ad, 1965

As more Americans developed an interest in foreign travel, Ernest and Julio Gallo marketed their California wines by linking their American-made products to the fine wine regions of Europe.

Magazine ad, 1975

Magazine ad, 1975

One of the new grape varietals developed by Harold Olmo at Davis was Ruby Cabernet, which could thrive in the heat of the Central Valley while retaining the flavor characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon. This ad targeted a growing market of discerning American wine drinkers.