Recently I was able to visit the Gallo of Sonoma production facility and vineyards. It was quite an eye opener as I observed many state of the art features in the winery. The one thought that often comes to mind when people think of Gallo is that it is the largest family owned winery in the world. That being said, they are also at the top of the game with regard to quality and production technique. Many in the wine world think highly of Robert Mondavi winery and the advances he helped bring to the market since the opening of his winery in 1966. The Gallo family at the same time has brought the quality level of all ranges of wine to highs not previously seen. They are able to do things on a scale which involves many people at all levels that guarantees quality fruit and its transformation into top flight wine.
I visited and tasted at the Frei Ranch in Dry Creek Valley. Wines tasted were the Laguna series, Rancho Zabaco vineyard designates, and Gallo Signature series. After observing the barrel ageing area and fermenters we moved on to Mac Murray Ranch and tasted wines produced from that specific vineyard which was planted in 1992. Kate Mac Murray told stories of how her dad, Fred, loved farming in Sonoma. He raised cattle and grain on the land which became vineyard upon the sale of the ranch. Gallo has restored and improved the roads and the water stream that runs through the property. All of the wines tasted were of superior quality and true to type. Very well balanced and in harmony alone or with food.
Gallo owns thousands of acres of land throughout the entire state of California, and is moving into Oregon and Washington. They also contract out large amounts of fruit from various growers in all areas of California . They pay top dollar for grapes that meet their specifications. They are involved in all facits of the growing and harvesting of their wine grapes.
Gallo has a long time committment for the care of vineyards and land use. They practice a one-for-one philosophy which translates to one acre of open land for every acre of vineyard they own. The company practices water recycling, cover crop, minimal spraying, preditor animals to keep pests from damaging grapes. River stream restoration and habitat grounds are important to the ecosystem support in vineyard growth.
This is best seen in how they move fruit from vineyard to tanks to cellar. Everything is run by computer and this leaves no room for error. Vineyards are monitored for everything from frost to wind and moisture depth. Recycling of field material is composted and either sold or plowed back into the fields.
This is the bottom line in any winery. Gallo has a core of excellent winemakers and cellar staff. They produce not only large lots of wine but also smaller single vineyard wines which show not only superior quality but also a deft hand in bringing out the soul of the vineyard sites on the label. Looking at their portfolio indicates a high ratio of quality to dollar value.
Gallo is making wine from wide areas of the west coast but also foreign countries. They continue to be industry leaders in both marketing and volume but also in farming as well as environmental issues.
Gallo is a business, and they do it better than any other large scale producer in America. They understand the market and respond to trends which affect sales. Their objective of producing high quality wine at many price points is a success. Consumers are the ultimate winners in this market as they are able to choose a wide range of wines which provide very good drinking at favorable pricing. Keep an eye on the moves of Gallo in the premium wine business.