ST. HELENA -- Ernest and Julio Gallo were named Thursday to the Vintners Hall of Fame, created last year to recognize giants in the state's wine industry.
The late brothers, who built E.&J. Gallo Winery of Modesto into one of the world's largest producers, will be inducted with six other men at a March 7 dinner at the California Culinary Academy.
"I think that this vote recognizes the importance of the Gallos to the California wine industry," said W. Blake Gray, chairman of the nominating committee. "They were instrumental in introducing tens of millions of Americans to wine and really changing America from a liquor-drinking nation into one that was much friendlier to wine."
Gallo was founded in a downtown Modesto shed in 1933 and now is headquartered on Yosemite Boulevard. The company long has been known for low-cost wines but in recent years has moved into premium products.
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"The Gallo family very much appreciates our co-founders, Ernest and Julio Gallo, being inducted into the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) Vintners Hall of Fame," said Joseph Gallo, son of Ernest Gallo and chief executive officer for the company, in a written statement. "We believe they were great visionaries whose combined mission was to build a wine-drinking culture in the United States. They would have been honored to have been recognized by such a prestigious organization."
Julio Gallo died in 1993 at 83. Ernest Gallo died in March at 97. The company remains under the family's ownership.
The hall's first class last year included Maynard Amerine, who grew up in the Modesto area and became a leading expert on wine production and tasting.
The inductees are chosen by wine writers, critics and historians. The other honorees this year:
Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards, based in the Santa Cruz Mountains
Milijenko "Mike" Grgich of Grgich Hills in the Napa Valley, who stunned the wine world by winning a blind tasting by Paris judges in 1976
Darryl Corti, a Sacramento grocer known for fine wine and food
John Daniel, a winemaker at the old Inglenook winery in the Napa Valley
Louis P. Martini, whose namesake Napa Valley winery is now owned by Gallo
Carl Wente of Wente Vineyards in the Livermore Valley
Last year's inductees, in addition to Amerine, were Napa vintner Robert Mondavi, Beaulieu Vineyards founder Georges de Latour, Beaulieu winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff, Napa wine pioneer Charles Krug, Buena Vista Winery founder Agoston Haraszthy, Inglenook founder Gustave Niebaum, Brother Timothy Diener of Christian Brothers Winery and viticulturist Harold Olmo.
The academy holds the induction dinner to raise scholarship money for its Rudd Center for Professional Wine Studies. Tickets are $250. For reservations and more information, call 707-255-7667 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2385.