Wine Country Personality: Gina Gallo

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Gina Gallo: Winemaker for Gallo Family Vineyards.

By Claire Gabaldon

Gina Gallo followed the footsteps of her grandfather Julio Gallo to find her calling as winemaker for Gallo Family Vineyards. Today she creates award-winning wines from grapes grown by her brother Matt Gallo.

Read on for an intimate look into Gina's life, her earliest winemaking memories, wine she's most proud of, and what she does for fun!
What are your earliest memories of being introduced to winemaking?
The home where I was raised sits in the middle of a vineyard, so I learned about the farming side of winemaking first. As a little girl I listened to my family talk about making wine at the dinner table, and I remember visiting our winery with my father long before I understood what was happening there. I guess I was around seven or eight when I began to connect the dots that led from my vineyard home to the winery down the road.

Gallo_Family_Portrait_12B_G3v4F.jpgWho in your family has been the greatest influence on your approach to winemaking?
One of the most memorable lessons I had from my grandfather, Julio, came from his love for the land.  He always promoted sustainability; give back to the land, take care of the land, and it will give back two-fold.  He always said the quality of the vineyard sets the quality of the wine.  He meant the better we cared for the vineyard, the better the quality of fruit the vines would produce, in turn improving the quality of the wine.  Today we are building on that sustainable approach, always thinking how can we reduce our environmental impacts, how can we strengthen our communities, how can we do better for the next generation, and the generation after that ?

Did you ever consider heading into any other side of the family business?

As with many of the family in my generation, I worked in several jobs around the winery and vineyards before settling into winemaking. My father felt it was important for us to experience different aspects of the winery, so as we earned our driver's licenses, each summer we would work in a different function. After I graduated from college my first full-time job was in sales in Northern California. But winemaking is by far the most rewarding for me personally.

gallofamily - matt and gina 1.jpgIs there a wine that you are most proud of, and why?
What I am most proud of is the people who help make the wine - our teams of winegrowers and winemakers, our extended family who have helped us make these wines over the years and generations. I try not to get too fixed on any particular bottle - it's the journey that matters most to me. I admit I get a real kick out of it when people enjoy the wines, so I guess I'm proud of that, of the pleasure and appreciation that the wines inspire.

What do you think makes Sonoma County special?
Sonoma County is a very special community, an international community, really, of people of every age totally dedicated to making great wine and growing great food. The community has gathered here because of the natural gifts the county offers in climate, soils, and geography. This has been true since the Gold Rush, and I hope it stays true for generations to come.

How did the Winemaker Signature Series come about?
In our vineyards around Sonoma County, we have these little 'jewels', small blocks of vines of different varieties that give us exceptional results. We don't have enough to make wine for broad release, so we call those "Winemaker's Signature" wines because they are more personal, what you might call hand-made wines.  The signature is our way of expressing that personal touch.

How was the 2009 harvest for you?

The 2009 harvest can be summed up in one phrase: never a dull moment. A tricky weather year ended with a huge early rain in mid-October. It was 40 years ago the last time it rained so much in mid-harvest. But we had most of our rain-sensitive Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in before the storm, and the hardier varieties that ripen later, like Cabernet, stood up fine. It was definitely a year when we had to "listen to the vineyards" carefully and not break the cycle of sustainability.

GFV Tasting Room.jpgWhat do you for fun away from winemaking?
I love to be out of doors, on foot, on a bike, on horseback. I cook and read about cooking.  I visit other places where great wine is made. And Family is a big part of my life; sharing our lives, sharing the past, planning for the future and living in the moment.

People can taste and purchase Gina's Winemaker Signature Series and other premium Gallo wines at the tasting room in Healdsburg, 320 Center St. (707) 433-2458.

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Just wanted to say hi to my old slow pitch buddy Gina. You're looking good old friend.

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