BLOOD AND WINE by Ellen Hawkes


The Unauthorized Story of the Gallo Wine Empire
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 A fast-paced, gossipy rundown on the House of Gallo, whose octogenarian patriarchs helped make wine a mass-market commodity in the US while concealing a past replete with personal and business scandal. Although Ernest and Julio remain the most familiar Gallos, they have a younger brother, Joseph, Jr., who has no stake in the family firm. When the two elders, who built the immensely profitable E & J Gallo Winery, sued Joseph during the mid-1980's to prevent him from putting his own name on the cheese he made for sale, they opened a Pandora's box. Drawing on the vast troves of documentary material released by the protracted litigation, and on his access to many Gallo principals, relatives, and ex-employees, Hawkes (Feminism on Trial, 1986) offers a revelatory, generation- spanning chronicle. In addition to piercing the corporate veil, the author discloses that Joseph, Sr., an Italian immigrant who became a successful grape grower in northern California, murdered his wife and then killed himself in 1933. His estate gave Ernest and Julio the means to get into the wine business in a big way--with an unacknowledged assist from a bootlegging uncle. Hawkes leaves little doubt that the ruthlessly autocratic Ernest euchred a trusting Joseph, Jr., out of a potentially sizable legacy. Moreover, she points out, for all its oenological pretensions, Gallo's most profitable products are so-called street wines (Thunderbird, Night Train Express, Gypsy Rose). Covered as well are: the strong-arm tactics used to gain distribution for Gallo wares; frequent run-ins with federal authorities; the peace of mind attained by Joseph, Jr., despite primal betrayals; and a host of familial fancies long accepted as facts. While Hawkes gives Joseph, Jr., the benefit of almost every doubt, she provides a slick reckoning on the Gallos, a would-be dynasty that, by her account, may be nearing the end of the line. (Eight pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-64986-8
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993