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Gallo founder dies aged 97

Published:  23 July, 2008

Ernest Gallo, who with the help of his brother Julio created one of the biggest wine empires in the world, has died aged 97 at his home in Modesto, California.

Gallo was born in 1909 in Jackson, California, about 90 miles east of San Francisco. He founded the E&J Gallo Winery in 1933 with his wife, Amelia, and his brother, using US$5,000 borrowed from Ernest's mother-in-law and Julio's US$900 savings.

Ernest concentrated on the sales and marketing side of the business, while Julio - who died in a car accident in 1993 - focused on winemaking. Together, they created a product named Thunderbird, a fortified-wine-based drink, before moving into the premium wine market in the 1970s.

Today, Gallo has over 4,600 employees and sells its products in more than 90 countries.

Ernest's son Joe, the CEO of E&J Gallo Winery, said: My father's passion for the wine industry was matched only by his passion for life and for his family. My father died knowing that he had lived life to its fullest. More than anything, he believed the company's future is brighter than ever, particularly by remaining a family-owned business. In fact, one of his proudest achievements is that the company can remain family owned and operated as a result of the estate-planning steps he took during his lifetime.'