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Granddaughter reflects on the life and legacy of wine industry titan

Stephanie Gallo, granddaughter of E.&J. Winery co-founder Ernest Gallo, corresponded via e-mail with Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti on Thursday. Stephanie Gallo is marketing director for Gallo Family Vineyards, which includes the wines formerly known as Gallo of Sonoma, along with the Twin Valley wines made in Livingston.

Q: What's your family's reaction to the worldwide outpouring of support being offered in response to your grandfather's passing?

A: The outpouring of support from around the world has been overwhelming and my family is greatly appreciative. It is a wonderful feeling to know that my grandfather had such a positive impact on so many people and in so many ways. He had an extraordinary zest for life and lived life to the fullest each and every day.

Q: Since the funeral services are private, how would your family like the public to show its support for your family and appreciation of your grandfather?

A: My grandfather had a great passion for his family and he was particularly proud to see his grandchildren and his brother's grandchildren become involved in the family business. I think a great sign of appreciation for his contributions would be for people this weekend to seek out their family and friends, enjoy conversation over a meal and a bottle of wine, and appreciate all that life has to offer. He loved engaging in conversations, sharing good food and, of course, a glass of wine, and he enjoyed seeing others do the same.

Q: Please share a personal story or memory about your grandfather and what he was like in private.

A: My grandfather always had an amazing zest for life and taught us to experience life. In fact, his constant quest for knowledge and experience in life was the greatest gift he gave us growing up. His gifts to us weren't material, they were amazing life experiences — fishing trips to Alaska and Canada, taking us sailing — things like that. My grandfather's last family trip was when he was 89 and the immediate family went to Turkey. I recall him swimming with us grandkids in the ocean and kayaking. The only thing he didn't do was water ski, but he watched and took pictures and was probably trying to figure out how he could. He was always there for us. He really appreciated the love of his grandchildren and enjoyed his greatgrandchildren. My daughter is 2, and we would visit my grandfather almost every Saturday for lunch. We'd eat pasta or risotto, take walks together and feed the squirrels and fish. He looked forward to spending time with his great-grandchildren until the very end. He just loved new life and was extremely energized by small children.

Q: Your grandfather had a reputation for being a difficult man to deal with. Was he misunderstood?

A: Yes, I think he was misunderstood. My grandfather was a down-to-earth man who was enormously optimistic. He never removed his name from the Modesto telephone directory so that anyone could contact him. He was very passionate and he always sought perfection in everything he did. He had a very warm heart and was very generous to causes and charities he supported. I often hear stories from employees, local residents and others how he positively impacted their lives at some point in their life.

Q: Will the Gallo Winery remain family-owned, family-run and headquartered in Modesto?

A: Being an independent, family-owned winery is our company's greatest asset and there are no plans to go public. The Gallo Winery will always be in Modesto; that will never change.

Q: With your grandfather's passing, what changes in direction are expected in the Gallo companies? For example, will we see more secondand third-generation family members becoming the public face of Gallo? Or might the winery start offering public tours or wine tastings?

A: There will be no changes in our company's leadership. A number of years ago, my grandfather turned over day-to-day operations to my dad, Joseph, who now serves as the company's chief executive officer while Julio's son, Bob, and Julio's son-in-law, Jim Coleman, serve as co-chairmen of the board of directors. Currently, there are15 Gallo family members working in the company and affiliated companies. As for the future, we are constantly focused on ways to improve and best meet the needs of our customers.

Q: How active in business decisions was your grandfather during his final years?

A: About 10 years ago, my grandfather stepped away from day-to-day operations; however, he did come to the winery regularly until the last couple of years. Throughout, he continued to be a mentor and a valuable source of insight for many within the company.