During a decades-long tenure at E. & J. Gallo Winery, Joseph E. Gallo calmly charted a course for the world’s largest wine producer.
When Joseph E. Gallo took the reins of the E. & J. Gallo Winery in 2000, he had already been in the family business for decades. But he had big shoes to fill, those of his father, Ernest Gallo, who cofounded the Modesto, California-based winery with his brother Julio Gallo in 1933.
During his 20-year stint as president and chief executive officer, Joseph E. Gallo calmly charted a course for the world’s largest wine producer through waters crowded with competitors, constantly discovering opportunities for growth and identifying the top talent within the company and among family members to pursue the company’s growth strategies.
Under his leadership, the privately held wine company welcomed a third and fourth generation of Gallo family members into the business and virtually reinvented it in the process. Gallo’s wine and spirits empire expanded into more imports, more exports, more spirits and ownership of more luxury wine properties in California—including Stagecoach Vineyard in Napa Valley—and Washington.
A number of Joseph E. Gallo’s contributions to the company, to the wine and spirits industry and to consumers around the world, can be tallied along with the brands created and acquired during his tenure as CEO, which ended in 2020. These include the perennial best-selling Barefoot brand, Dark Horse, Talbott Vineyards, Louis M. Martini Winery, J Vineyards & Winery and Orin Swift Cellars in California, to name just a few.
Under his leadership, the company launched and rapidly expanded into the spirits category with New Amsterdam gin and vodka, Familia Camarena Tequila and forged partnerships with luxury spirit producers including The Dalmore scotch whisky. It also added imports to its portfolio, including LaMarca Prosecco and Whitehaven.
Gallo explained his approach to growing the business in a Wine Enthusiast article in 2012 when he won the Wine Star Award for Person of the Year. He said expansions into new product categories must be based on the potential for huge growth.
“There has to be a certain minimal scale [to everything we do] or else it doesn’t fit into the plan,” he said. “When things come up, you have to move fast. And we can make decisions very quickly,” due to the company’s family-owned structure.
“There are opportunities every day,” Gallo said. “The secret is to see them.” The only thing that scares him, he asserted, “is all the opportunities you don’t see.”
Beyond its many launches, acquisitions and vastly expanded revenue (estimated by Forbes at $5 billion in 2019), the Gallo organization that he helped mold can also claim successes of other kinds. The company now counts its commitment to sustainability in environmental, economic and social equity areas as a company value.
Programs for diversity and inclusion include supporting its own Employee Resource Groups such as Latino Association for Career Advancement, Women of Wine & Spirits, Pride, Gallo Veterans Organization and the Gallo African American Network.
The company won LEED Gold Status for its Dry Creek Building in Modesto, California, was the first winery in the U.S. to receive ISO 14001 certification for rigorous environmental standards in its wineries and was ranked No. 14 out of the top 100 Best Places to Work in the nation.
For a lifetime of stellar accomplishments that benefited his family, his employees, the wine and spirits trade and three generations of consumers, Wine Enthusiast is proud to honor Joseph E. Gallo with the Lifetime Achievement Award. He will be honored at the Wine Star Awards on Feb. 5, 2024, in Miami.
Published: October 3, 2023