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Ernest Gallo dies aged 97

Published:  23 July, 2008

Ernest Gallo, who created one of the biggest wine empires in the world with the help of his brother Julio, has died aged 97 at his home in Modesto, California.

He was born in 1909 in Jackson, California, about 90 miles east of San Francisco, and founded the E&J Gallo Winery with his wife Amelia and his brother in 1933, with the help of U$5,000 from Ernest's mother-in-law and Julio's U$900 savings.

Ernest concentrated on the sales and marketing side of the business, while Julio - who died in 1993 in a car accident - focused on winemaking. Together, they created a product named Thunderbird, a fortified-wine-based drink, before moving into the premium wine market in the 1970s.

Today, Gallo has more than 4,600 employees, and sells products in more than 90 countries.

Ernest's son Joe, the CEO of E&J Gallo Winery, said: 'My father's passion for the wine industry was matched only by his passion for life and for his family. My father died knowing that he had lived life to its fullest. More than anything, he believed the company's future is brighter than ever, particularly by remaining a family-owned business. In fact, one of his proudest achievements is that the company can remain family owned and operated as a result of the estate planning steps he took during his lifetime.'