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Escalon-Modesto - Notable Wineries By District And Region

[Escalon-Modesto - Part 1]  [Escalon-Modesto - Part 2] 
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(Note: Information Originally Published In 1955 - Presented For Historical Perspective!)


F. Pirrone & Sons, Inc., Salida

Located in Salida, some seven miles north of Modesto, this winery was founded by Frank Pirrone, Jr., and Frank I. Pirrone, his son. Frank Pirrone, Jr., was born in Sicily and came over to this country as a youngster, becoming an architect at the age of twenty-one in Garfield, New Jersey. In 1919 he purchased some vineyards near Salida as an investment and went into the grape-shipping business as an avocation, while practicing architecture. In 1936 he built the winery and the family went into the wine-producing field.

Frank Pirrone, Jr., is president and general manager of the enterprise, while his three sons are also active in the business, Frank I. being vice-president and sales manager, Alfred F. vice-president and wine maker, and Joseph P. the bottling foreman. Until 1950 all bottling was done in Garfield, New Jersey, but since then this operation has been transferred to the Salida winery.

The main brand is Pirrone, under which a full line of the regular dessert and table wines is marketed, with distribution in the East as well as in California. Port and Burgundy are the featured wines and the company was among the first to market a red table wine of the "home-made type" under the brand name of "Vino Naturale" back in 1937.

Table uiines: RED: Burgundy, Zinfandel, Chianti, Claret, Barberone, and Vino Naturale;

WHITE: Sauterne and Rhine;

ROSE: Grenache Rose.

Aperitif and Dessert wines: Pale Dry Sherry, Sherry and Mellow Cream Sherry; Ruby Port and Tawny Port; Muscatel, Tokay, White Port, and Angelica.

Since 1949 F. Pirrone & Sons also produces altar wines, notably Angelica, for which they have the ecclesiastical approbation from the Roman Catholic Church.

E. & J. Gallo Winery, Modesto

An up-and-coming concern, producing and marketing sound standard-quality wines of the table, aperitif, and dessert types, which have become increasingly popular and enjoy a national distribution.

The story is a recent one, as time goes, of vision and enterprise, which goes back to a spring day of 1933 at Modesto, heart of the The Great Inland Valley Region 193 historic county of Stanislaus, with its winegrowing tradition dating back to about 1854, when George H. Krause, a native of Germany, laid out what was to become his famed Red Mountain Vineyard on part of the old Mexican grant El Rancheria del Rio Stanislaus.

Some eighty years later, on that spring day of the last year of Prohibition, two youthful brothers, Ernest and Julio R. Gallo, visualized the coming rebirth of the California wine industry, dormant during the dry years. They thought of creating a modern winery and imagined that someday in the future homes throughout the nation would proudly serve wines from shiny bottles bearing their family name. Wine also had not had the chance to catch up with the progress of modern American marketing ways and this was the ideal time to do something about it.

It was an ambitious plan for the brothers Gallo; Ernest was twenty-four and Julio a year younger. They had been brought up in the tradition of good wine, born as they were in the third generation of a California winegrowing family, whose forebears had cultivated vineyards and made wine in Italy's famed province of Piedmont. The brothers had been educated in the public schools of Modesto and knew about viticulture firsthand, having worked in the family's vineyards. Ambitious as they were, they lacked the necessary funds to start a winery.

Ernest and Julio Gallo were determined to go ahead with their plans. They borrowed and scraped enough dollars together to rent a warehouse in Modesto to house a few casks and a grape crusher and to serve as a winery until they could build a cellar of their own. They bought their equipment on credit. In the old warehouse the first Gallo vintage was crushed and fermented that same year, I933.

A few months later they built a small wine cellar on the outskirts of Modesto. This first concrete structure on the bank of the Dry Creek was carefully planned as the first unit of the modern winery the brothers envisioned. It was built and ready for use in 1935.

At first the Gallos made only red and white table wines, selling them in bulk to wholesale bottlers. They still lacked wine-aging facilities and bottling machinery, but were planning for the future and the day when they could perfect and mature their products. In 1937 they were able to build an extension to their cellar and to install further equipment. They began to produce port, sherry, and muscatel in addition to their table wines. They studied modern developments in viticulture and wine making and searched for the best types of cooperage and other winery equipment. Julio Gallo devoted himself increasingly to the development of the most suitable grape varieties in the family's vineyards and to the production of the wines, while Ernest Gallo studied consumer and trade problems and marketing.

In the Gallo vineyards at Modesto, which the family had owned since 1925, new varieties were grafted onto old rootstocks. Additional vines were planted to grow the choicer varieties suited to local soil and climatic conditions including Petite Sirah, Palomino, Mission, and Salvador. The Gallos gradually increased their vineyard acreage, planting vines in the Keyes district of Stanislaus County and acquiring a vineyard near Livingston in Merced County.

The brothers realized that, while in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Merced counties a wide assortment of choice grapes for all wine types was grown, Fresno and other southern San Joaquin Valley areas yielded many varieties desirable for the sweeter dessert wines, while such districts as Napa and Sonoma in the north coast counties provided the best grapes for dry table wines. Accordingly they selected grapes from each of these several regions to complete the assortment of varieties grown on their own vines.

It took seven years before the Gallo brothers felt that they were producing wines of the quality they wanted to market in bottles under the Gallo family label; it was 1940 when they first appeared on the market. A following of consumers soon developed and Gallo advertising began.

From a small beginning in California and Louisiana the Gallo wines steadily gained acceptance. The company concentrated on trying to please the consumer. The Gallo brothers and their staffs interviewed buyers of their wines to learn the exact qualities of wine flavor, of dryness or sweetness, and of color that pleased house holders. They talked to retailers and salespeople to learn what their customers wanted and they strove to get their wines efficiently displayed and stocked. In this manner Gallo wines were introduced market by market in the various parts of the country.

The assortment of Gallo wines was broadened. A more complete line of aperitif and dessert wines was established in addition to the expanded selection of table wines. A Concord wine was added, made from labrusca grapes grown in the Pacific Northwest. In recent years a light and mellow wine of the "vino rosso" type was developed with success, the Gallo "Vino Paisano," and in 1953 a Rose was marketed with promising results, made from Grenache grapes grown in the Gallo family vineyards.

The selection of grapes from different viticultural areas was continued. The Gallos entered into long-term arrangements with other wineries, beginning with the Napa Valley Cooperative Winery of St. Helena and Calistoga in Napa County, owned by some 150 growers. The brothers also provided an outlet for grapes and wines produced by their neighboring growers; in 1953 the Gallo winery began to receive the entire vintage of the Modesto Cooperative Winery produced by its sixty farmer members. Similar arrangements were made with the Del Rey Cooperative Winery Association of Fresno, owned by eighty-five growers; with Frei Brothers of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County; with Vella Brothers Winery of Salida, Stanislaus County; with the St. Helena Cooperative Winery, comprised of thirty-five Napa County growers. In all the Gallos provide an outlet for the crops of almost a thousand California wine-grapegrowing farmers.

To these other wineries the technical advice of a highly trained staff of enologists is available. The Gallo experts, headed by production manager Charles E. Crawford, a graduate of Cornell University and of the University of California, assist in solving vineyard and winery problems for the growers and in maintaining the required rigid specifications of quality.

In 1954 the Gallo brothers decided to eliminate the hundred-mile transportation of grapes from the southern San Joaquin Valley to Modesto. They acquired the historic Las Palmas winery, situated in the famous vineyard district near Clovis, Fresno County, and initiated a remodeling program to bring the winery buildings and equipment up to modern standards.

By that year, 1954, the Gallo production and marketing principles had proved their value and the brothers had come a long way since that day in 1933 when they first formulated their farsighted plans.

Much credit is due to the Gallo brothers, along with the other producers of nationally advertised brands, to bring sound winesmostly of the generic types-to the American public at a very reasonable cost and creating thereby many new customers for the wine industry. The Gallo principles are as sound as their wines; their production and marketing methods modern and their advertising efficient.

The Gallo brothers consider their work as having only begun. Another generation of the Gallo family, the fourth in California, is being prepared to carry on the wine-making tradition. Ernest Gallo's two sons, Joey and David, still in their teens, work in the vineyards and winery during vacations, and Julio's sons, Bob and Phil, are also preparing to carry forward. A younger brother of the founders is also active in the firm, having charge of the family's vineyards.

In October 1954 the Gallos announced the undertaking of an extensive, long-term research program for the development of improved viticultural practices, broader markets, and better returns for the products of California wine-grape growers.

The Gallo brand wines available include the following:

Table wines: RED: Burgundy, Chianti, Claret, Zinfandel, and Barberone;

WHITE: Sauterne, Haut Sauterne, Rhine, Chablis, Light Dry Muscat;

ROSE: Grenache Rose (an outstanding wine of its type);

Aperitif and Dessert wines: Pale Dry Sherry, Cocktail Pale Dry Sherry, Sherry, and Cream Sherry; Port, Tawny Port, and Ruby Port; Marsala, Muscatel, Tokay, White Port, and Angelica; Dry and Sweet Vermouth;

Berry and Fruit wines: Blackberry, Loganberry, and American Concord Grape Wine (from grapes grown in the Pacific Northwest).

A featured wine, and one of the best of its kind, is the popular "Vino Paisano di Gallo," an "old country style" table wine of the "vino rosso" type.