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A tale of two young brothers

Modest start: Ernest and Julio Gallo started their business in a small warehouse in Modesto and bought some winemaking equipment on credit

The year was 1933. Two brothers, aged 23 and 24, rented a small warehouse in Modesto, California for $60 a month and bought some winemaking equipment on credit. Little did they know that, today, their descendants would still be running the family enterprise that remarkably produces one out of every three bottles made in the United States.

They came up with the new idea of having a sales team to only sell wine and it was actually one from their winery who suggested to J.E. Lightbourn, back in 1975, that they hire me and send me out to California to learn about the wine trade. I had the privilege of knowing one of the brothers and meeting him on occasions in California and even showing him our island.

Their names are Ernest and Julio Gallo and, as young boys, they helped their immigrant Italian father as he worked in the vineyards.

Of course, they have been instrumental in the production of good “Monday to Thursday” night wines and they have also grown by the purchase of other wineries. For instance, on January 20 (very appropriate for today’s same date of Grape Expectations) in the year 2005, they bought an independent winery called Barefoot Cellars.

The family realises that wines in the $20 and above price range are growing rapidly. With this in mind, they have been on a quest to purchase iconic wineries. One example is historic, 80-year-old, Louis Martini, in Napa Valley.

A shipment of their Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from the vaulted 2013 vintage has just arrived. It is rich and broad in the mouth with silky tannins and finely etched flavours of black cherry, blackberry, framed by liquorice and a touch of smoky cedar. Wine Spectator gave it a 91/100 rating and it will only get better as Robert Parker has just awarded the 2014 (that we do not have yet) a quite remarkable 93-95/100. I use this superlative as wines in this valley so often exceed $100, but our Louis Martini 2013 Napa Valley Cabernet is yours for $32.10.

At an even better price of $21.15 you can try the Louis Martini Sonoma County 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon which is certainly one of our best buys, but let me share what Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate has to say about it: “90/100 one of the best values in cabernet sauvignon anywhere in the world remains Louis Martini’s Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2014, 89 per cent cabernet sauvignon, 4 per cent merlot and the rest cabernet franc and petite sirah is just a beautiful wine. It is a dense ruby/purple, with classic tobacco leaf, blackcurrant, loamy soil notes and a touch of wood-spice. This wine has relatively modest alcohol for these days of 13.5 per cent, and the suppleness and upfront charm to be drunk now, but don’t discount for this wine to hold on to life and last without losing its fruit for another 7- to 10-plus years. It is a great value.”

We, buy Alamos wines from the Catena Family in Argentina and have done so for years, but today Gallo is responsible for the Alamos brand in the USA and they are also involved with the marketing of some very fine offerings from Italy. Our most successful one that is pale, golden straw in colour, with persistent bubbles and fresh citrus with hints of honey and white flowers, is Lamarca Prosecco that sells for $20.10. It is certainly much in demand in this rapidly growing category.

In 2015 they bought “J” winery in the famed Russian River Valley that added to their 2,500 acres of prime vineyards that they own in the Sonoma appellation alone. At this time, we do not have any of these, but do stay tuned for a story about some of our world’s most exciting wines that are presently on order from this amazingly diversified family.

• This column is a paid-for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East, 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George’s (York Street, 297-0409). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits is available at www.wineonline.bm.