Department of Viticulture and Enology Notes the Passing of Wine Icon, Ernest Gallo

Photo features Amelia and Ernest Gallo with Dr. Linda Bisson at a 1992 V&E Celebration.

Ernest Gallo was truly an American wine pioneer. Along with his brother, the late Julio Gallo, he led the U.S. wine industry out of the “dark ages” of Prohibition and into the modern era. His view was that wine was for everyone, not just the elite, and he was probably more responsible for bringing wine to the table of the average American than any other single individual.


Ernest was a genius at marketing. He surprised most in the industry by targeting the lower end of the market with the introduction of Thunderbird, in the 1950s-selling a record 2.5 million cases in the first year. The 1980’s saw another Gallo marketing coup when they introduced Bartles & Jaymes Wine Coolers; the product and cleverly created advertising icons--Frank Bartles and Ed Jaymes--Gallo was able to capture the wine cooler market. Not only was wine available to the average American, it was a younger and previously untapped market that Ernest Gallo brought to the table through his marketing brilliance.


Ernest and his brother Julio were long time supporters of the Department of Viticulture and Enology at UC Davis. Not only has their family winery employed many a UCD graduate, but their educational trust created the first endowed chair at UCDavis in honor of Maynard A, Amerine, former Chair of the Department of Viticulture and Enology. The passing of Ernest Gallo marks a sad day for the Department of Viticulture and Enology, for we have truly lost an old and dear friend.