Giant interviews – the interviews of Ernest Gallo in the Oct 1993 issue of the Wine Enthusiast and of Bob Trinchero in the Jul 12, 1993, issue of the Santa Rosa, California, Business Journal

Giant interviews – the interviews of Ernest Gallo in the Oct 1993 issue of the Wine Enthusiast and of Bob Trinchero in the Jul 12, 1993, issue of the Santa Rosa, California, Business Journal – Wines & Vines

Two wine industry giants–Ernest Gallo and Bob Trinchero–are featured in interviews in the summer of this year; Gallo in the expanded version of the Wine Enthusiast and Trinchero in the July 12 Business Journal published in Santa Rosa, Calif.

The Gallo interview is written by Robert L. Balzer, who has known Ernest Gallo 30 years, and centers around the Gallo drive for quality including the current emphasis on Sonoma County super premiums including the 1991 Estate Chardonnay selling for $30 a bottle.

The Trinchero article deals with the best-selling White Zinfandel produced by Sutter Home winery (which Trinchero heads) at St. Helena, Calif., and its phenomenal growth from 1972’s 25,000 cases to 5.2 million cases in 1992.

The Gallo piece is in the October, 1993, issue of the Wine Enthusiast (apparently it is taking dead aim the Wine Spectator, with advertising rates half as much and an enlarged page similar to the Spectator’s–which is reducing its page. They both are vying for the No. 1, wine consumer publication spot).

The article is titled “The Gallo Legacy Updated” with a sub-head “In the world of wine, Ernest Gallo is as much as legend as he is an enigma. His contemporary, Robert Lawrence Balzer, visits Sonoma and Modesto to report on the state of the Gallo legacy in the wake of Julio’s death and the release of the winery’s first ultrapremium bottling.” Balzer adds:

“The path toward ultrapremium bottlings had been charted by Gallo executives as far back as the early 1980s.”

He tells of the giant earth-movers supervised by Julio’s son, Bob, re-designing the terrain of the Gallo holdings at Asti, Sonoma County, and of watershed dams to provide water for irrigation.

Shepherded by Dan Solomon, Gallo publicity director, Balzer visited the 2,000-acre vineyard holdings in Sonoma County (the family owns almost 1,000 acres more which will be left wild) and the Gallo headquarters in Modesto. He tasted the ’91 Chardonnay ultrapremium and assessed it at 19.3 on the U.C. Davis scale of 20. The tasting ended with a toast to the late Julio Gallo. He visited the probable sites for a small new winery, cellar and possible VIP Visitors Center and concludes: “I saw the purpose of it all–the slow, grand, deliberate creation of wines that deliver more than one would normally expect from Gallo. Singular wines, designed to bear the signature of the appellation, not merely the signature of Ernest and Julio.

An interview in Ernest’s office at Modesto “began with the big picture. It was clear that Julio’s death (in an auto accident last spring) had had a profound effect on Ernest. He had lost in one tragic moment, a brother, partner and lifelong companion. The sense of personal loss was clear, perhaps beyond what any words could convey. In a professional sense, in terms of winemaking, Ernest told me. ‘The same people who have been doing these specific assignments for almost 20 years. The same team. As far as the vineyards are concerned, Bob will take over.’ There is a plan for succession at the winery,’ he added. ‘It’s been in place for years.'”

About Trinchero’s interview, Maureen McDaniel, the Business Journal’s contributing editor, recounted how the Trinchero family purchased Sutter Home in 1947 and operated it as a mom-and-pop business for over a quarter of a century.

When Bob, now 57, his brother Roger, now 47 and sister Vera, 55, were old enough to be heard, the winery took a different turn. By the late 1970s Sutter Home was known as a high-quality, boutique-type winery producing beautiful vintage red Zinfandel.

Mc Daniel adds:

“The real growth, however, occurred during the last 10 years under the leadership of eldest son Bob Trinchero, who has served as chairman of the board and CEO since 1982. Whereas 10 years ago the small winery had a 15-acre vineyard and operated out of a 40,000 sf facility with a production capacity of 25,000 cases and storage capacity of 250,000 gallons, today Sutter Home, with approximately 400 year-round employees, owns and operates four facilities totaling more than 800,000 sf with storage capacity of more than 11 millions gallons and production capacity of 5 million cases and has acquired or planted 3,000 acres of vineyards in seven different counties. Included in those figures is Montevina Winery in Amador County, which the Trincheros acquired in 1988. Yet Sutter Home remains entirely family-owned (as is the Gallo empire).”

One of the most fascinating parts of the interview is where Bob tells of the progression of White Zinfandel:

“We first produced White Zinfandel in 1972 as kind of a curiosity, but it began to develop a following. Later, in 1978, when my brother and I were having a serious discussion about the direction of the business, we thought, why don’t we find out what people want and then give it to them? A bright idea with only one problem: How do we find out what people want to drink unless they’re drinking it?

“Well, we noticed the success of our White Zinfandel, and it dawned on us that the market was trying to tell us something. Basically, wineries follow a tradition set down in Europe, so in America we have been producing European wines for American tastes. We thought that maybe we should be producing wine that people wanted instead of what somebody thought they should drink.

“So we started doubling the production of White Zin every year, and we were still running out of it. One year it was 50,000 cases, then 100,000, then 200,000, then a big jump one year to 500,000 and 1 million cases in 1985. By 1990 we were producing more than 3 million cases of White Zinfandel. Last year, we sold 5.2 million cases.”

The success led to other innovations: “We started out with other varieties and pricing them where the consumer could afford them. The wine writers were just brutal. They raked us over the coals. But the consumers loved it.”

In 1987 Roger Trinchero came up with the idea of single-serving bottles, 187 ml, named Classic Singles. “In 1992 we sold more than 2 million cases with 24 bottles to the cases.”

Recently Sutter Home introduced Soleo chillable red and Sutter Home Fre, a nonalcoholic wine. Their winery packaging includes screw-tops.

In the fields, Sutter Home is within three years of all vineyards being organic; Bob explains:

“We didn’t do this to produce an organic wine, though, we did it primarily for the safety of our workers in the field. The cost to convert is a little expensive the first year but once it’s all set, it’s going to pay us back.”

About the Wine Institute and service on the Board of Directors, Trinchero said “we support the Wine Institute at this time because it is the oldest and strongest voice that we have.” He modified this by saying the Institute needs to get together with the other states (44 have wineries now) and create a national council of wine-producing states.


The 1993 edition of World Drink Trends, published by NTC Publications Ltd., is 128 pages and includes more than 7,000 statistics and covers 49 countries.

Its research shows that nearly without exception, consumption of licensed beverages has fallen worldwide during the past few years. Italy declined the most, 35% from 1990-91, compared with an overall decrease of 15% in Western Europe for the same period.

The United Kingdom ranked 25th in wine consumption, 22nd for spirits and 10th for beer. Wine consumption in the U.K. rose 300% between 1970 and 1991.

The leading gainer in licensed beverage consumption was Brazil as consumption rose more than 414% from 1970-91. In ’91 Brazilians downed 42 liters of beer, 1.3 liters of spirits and not quite two liters of wine per capita.

The reference work is 25 pounds, plus packaging and postage, from NTC Publications Ltd., Farm Road, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, RG9 IEJ, United Kingdom.

COPYRIGHT 1993 Hiaring Company

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group