Drink Wonderful

We don't often get the opportunity to meet someone whose family changed an important segment of the American economy. Last week at a marketing conference that my company hosted, I had the true pleasure and sincere honor to spend time at dinner and during our conference with Stephanie Gallo.  Her grandfather, Ernest Gallo, was the most influential individual in the U.S. wine industry and a major force globally. 

Ernest, along with his brother Julio Gallo founded the E&J Gallo wine company shortly after prohibition in 1933. Stephanie mentioned that it was her great grandmother who lent about $5,000 so they could begin their company. Without any real knowledge of wine making, they turned to the library to learn some basics about fermenting grapes. It reminds me of a story I heard from Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield from Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. They too started their business and didn't know the first thing about making ice cream. 

A Powerful Work Ethic 
 Like my own strong affection for my grandfather George, Stephanie talked with deep respect about Ernest who even into his last few years was bubbling with marketing ideas that could ferment growth. He worked well into his 90's, loved his chosen profession and planted seeds of opportunity for generations to come.  

What an honor to talk with her about the Gallo family heritage. Wine is clearly in her DNA and she is an exuberant marketer who loves the work and the chance to make a difference in the larger wine community. Stephanie is the Vice President of Marketing for the Gallo enterprise.  Everyone in the wine marketing community that knows her has always spoken highly of her. I got a chance to learn why. 

She has a remarkably optimistic view of the wine industry which is a wonderful trait for someone with her responsibilities. She remarked that only 3 out of 10 Americans drink wine, the chance for growth of the category is overflowing. With a keen wit, I can see why so many marketing professionals admire her and want to be part of her organization. 
Stephanie Gallo and Jeffrey Slater

Democratizing Wine
At the marketing conference, I literally had a front row seat to hear her share her story about the Gallo mission of democratizing wine.  Wine like few other categories has an elitist background. Like theatre and opera, wine has searched for ways not to be seen as a beverage for the rich and to get down from the pedestal. The Gallo family has strived to find ways so that wine has become a beverage for the average Joe or Jane. 

Many of the wine cognoscenti think of recent trends like Moscato grapes or sweet red blends as appealing to an uninformed wine drinker. You notice them turning up their noses at the very idea. I see it differently. I admire new and inventive ways that a category can bring new users inside the tent and build a bigger base of potential customers. 

From the insight...

 “I love wine, but not when it is hot. I drink other beverages. If only there was a wine I could drink when it is warm in daytime and in casual social settings.” 

This foray into new ways to serve wine like Barefoot Refresh proclaims on the label, “it’s okay to put this over ice” is a wink to millions of consumers who are hesitant to enjoy wine on their own terms.   

I shared with Stephanie a personal story about their new super successful Apothic red wine. It is part of the sweet red blend trend that doesn't appeal to me. However, my wife has found the Apothic brand to be a perfect wine that she enjoys without apology. She loves the taste and I proudly buy it for her. Although I try to get my wife to taste other wines, this wine has become her home base or house red. Apothic was designed as to meet a certain taste profile and my wife just happens to be that target. 

Our Grandfather's Generation 
Ernest Gallo was a man from my grandfather’s generation. Both were born in the earliest part of the twentieth century. Both men were hard working pioneers who cared passionately about their family and with remarkable dedication to their business. I bet they would have enjoyed each other’s company. I can imagine Poppa George taking photographs of Ernest pouring wine for his family. 

I know one thing, their grandchildren enjoyed meeting and getting a chance to share a glass or two and to talk about the marketing of wine. 

Gallo Wine Ads from the 1960's and 1970's

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