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Changing Of The Guard: Ernest J. Gallo To Lead California Wine Giant

July 9, 2018

E. & J. Gallo, by far the largest wine marketer in the world at 86 million cases, according to Impact Databank, is preparing to pass the torch to the next generation of family leadership. Ernest J. Gallo, the son of current president and CEO Joseph Gallo and grandson of co-founder Ernest Gallo, has been appointed chief operating officer, and is scheduled to become president and CEO effective May 1, 2020. Gallo, who has been with the family business for 23 years, has served across a variety of roles including domestic and international sales, marketing, new product development, and finance. Most recently, he was vice president and general manager of Gallo’s spirits unit. Shanken News Daily recently caught up with Gallo to discuss his new appointment and his vision for the company moving forward.

SND: What are your main goals as you ascend to a new leadership role in the business?

Gallo: I want to continue our growth and success. With that said, since I’ve only been in the position a short time, my main priority right now is to listen and learn from as many people as possible.

SND: Gallo has premiumized its portfolio along with the wine market over the years—do you see that general direction continuing?

Gallo: The success of the Premium Business Unit team has been remarkable. We’re committed to trying to constantly improve and evolve along with the market. As the market premiumizes, Gallo will as well.

SND: Along with premiumization, Gallo has embraced more imported wines—especially at upscale price points—in recent years. Do you foresee more activity in the import segment looking ahead?

Gallo: The Lux Wines import team has curated an incredible portfolio and has grown our import partners’ U.S. business. I’m confident that they and their demonstrated success will continue to attract great complementary partners.

SND: Domestic wines from outside California are beginning to play a bigger role in the market. Do you see more opportunity for Gallo to expand in Washington and Oregon, for example?

Gallo: We recognize that regions outside of California, like Washington and Oregon, are attracting more interest from consumers. That’s one of the reasons that we acquired the Columbia Winery in Washington in 2012 and just acquired Locations, which has wines from Washington, Oregon, and Texas. We’re constantly evaluating new opportunities outside of California.

SND: What does the future look like for Gallo’s spirits unit?

Gallo: The future looks bright. We have a great team and supportive distributor and supplier partners. There is still much for us to learn in spirits and there are many segments that we have just entered or have yet to enter.

SND: What lessons do you take from your forerunners in leading the family business, including your father Joseph, and founders Ernest and Julio Gallo?

Gallo: Hire great people and then invest in them, listen to them, and create a culture and an environment for them to thrive. Constantly strive to improve and innovate. Cultivate mutually beneficial partnerships with growers, suppliers, distributors, and retail customers. And constantly talk with and listen to customers and consumers.

E. & J. Gallo’s Key Brands

Mass Market Wines: Barefoot Cellars, Gallo Family Vineyards, Apothic, Bridlewood, Dark Horse, Liberty Creek, La Marca, Alamos, Ecco Domani, Starborough, Mirassou, Locations, Edna Valley Vineyard, Souverain, Carnivor, Columbia Winery, Ghost Pines, Prophecy, The Naked Grape, Vin Vault

Luxury Wines: Louis M. Martini, Orin Swift, William Hill Estate, MacMurray Estate Vineyards, J Vineyards & Winery, Talbott Vineyards

Spirits: New Amsterdam vodka, New Amsterdam gin, E.&J. brandy, Argonaut brandy, Germain-Robin brandy

Agency Brands: Wine: Allegrini, Renato Ratti, Argiano, Pieropan, Poggio al Tesoro, Jermann, Martin Codax, Brancaia. Spirits: Whyte & Mackay, The Dalmore, Jura, John Barr

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