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Martha Stewart lifts glass to Gallo deal

When it comes to selling wine, could there be any name as recognizable as Gallo?

Sure there could. It's Martha Stewart.

The doyenne of domestic arts announced Friday that she has joined with E.&J. Gallo Winery of Modesto to market three wines under her name.

The $15 bottles from Gallo's Sonoma County operation will be sold in six

U.S. cities, none of them in California.

"We just wanted to produce a wine that she would be proud to put her name on," Gallo spokeswoman Susan Hensley said.

The partnership has its roots in Stewart's visit

to Modesto in 1990 to speak to the Omega Nu women's group. Among the spectators was

Marie Gallo, daughter-in-law of winery co-founder Julio Gallo.

She and Stewart have remained friends. Stewart donated $10,000 in June to the soon-to-open Gallo Center for the Arts in downtown Modesto.

A 2000 installment of Stewart's television show featured Gina Gallo, who is Marie Gallo's daughter and oversees the Sonoma winemaking.

"There's a long-standing relationship and a personal one between Martha Stewart and the Gallo family, and it's based on their mutual love of food and wine and entertain- ing," said Elizabeth Estroff, vice president of corporate communications for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.

The company, based in New York City, provides advice on cooking, decorating, gardening and other skills through books and magazines, and on TV, radio and the Internet. It remains a force in these areas despite the founder's five-month prison term following a 2004 conviction in an insider-trading case.

The Martha Stewart wines are a 2005 chardonnay, a 2006 merlot and a 2005 cabernet sauvignon -- 15,000 cases in all in the first release. They will be sold starting in January in Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, N.C., Denver, Phoenix and Portland, Ore.

"These cities are a good geographical representation of the country," Hensley said. Sales in other cities are not in the works, she said, nor are partnerships with other celebrities.

In Friday's news release on the Martha Stewart wines, Chief Executive Officer Joe Gallo said the winery is "pleased to help bring her vision of wine and everyday entertaining to life."

Stewart said in the same release, "As a former caterer and a lifelong hostess, I understand the important role wine can play at a gathering. The wines were crafted with great care and attention to every detail."

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or 578-2385.

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