ERNEST AND JULIO by Ernest Gallo

ERNEST AND JULIO

Our Story

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Though the Gallos' wines might repulse you and their reputation give you the willies, their autobiography is worth a look, if only to get another side of the picture. Without too much pain, the brothers Gallo (with Henderson, And The Sea Will Tell, not reviewed) get past their aw-shucks-work- hard-and-get-anywhere drapery to their nuts-and-bolts shtick: control and marketing (with a nod to hard work, like 120-hour weeks and an annual six months on the road). Marketing: Gallo wine is where it is today--the number-one seller in America--because the brothers got their goods into the hands of savvy distributors, folks who got the wine at eye-level in supermarkets across the land and fused Bartles & James wine coolers into the national retina via television. Control: Need a decent glass supplier? Build a glassworks. Having competition trouble? Slash your prices and crush the buggers. Certain problems are tactfully ignored, like those surrounding Thunderbird, a Gallo-produced down-and-outer's wine rumored to have been marketed by strewing the bottles along skid rows to give the fortified concoction a high profile. Other problems are glossed over: The Gallos' controversial (some might say fascistic) treatment of labor is couched in terms of conflicts between unions (the Teamsters vs. the United Farm Workers). But there is a wealth of background material: family travails, like the murder/suicide of the brothers' parents; Depression days when they sold bulk lots of grapes at railroad sidings; the formation of trade organizations; Julio's obituary for his son Phillip, another suicide, which is enough to break your heart; children spurning the family business; and a vision of Gallo in the 21st century. Whether or not you buy into this version of the Gallo story, it's a family saga with all the makings of a television miniseries: adversity, intrigue, tragedy, manipulation, greed, and a slick presentation. (60 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-8129-2454-1
Page count: 380pp
Publisher: Times/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1994