Goodbye, Bob Gallo

Bob Gallo passed away on June 22, 2024, at the age of 89. A scion of the Gallo family business, the largest winery on the planet, he was an avid proponent of advancing the grape and wine industry through science. I’m proud to say that NGRA is a small part of his legacy.

Bob was a driving force in the original conception of NGRA. In 2003, he and 20 other leaders and key stakeholders of the California wine industry and UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology met to address a growing crisis in research funding, and to develop a process for establishing research priorities that would mutually benefit the industry and academic and research organizations. Following that first meeting, the participants agreed to formalize the effort as the Winegrower’s Critical Research Investment Initiative. This forward-thinking group outlined a vision for the future of grape and wine research and funding, and for how the grape and wine industry, university research institutions, USDA and other government agencies could work together. It sought to assure the American grape industries would lead the world in wine science, innovation, economic impact, and environmental and business practices.

After our establishment as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit named the National Grape & Wine Initiative in 2005, Bob served on our Board of Directors until 2017, just prior to our rebranding in 2018 as NGRA. All along, he ensured that the best and brightest of the Gallo team—over the years they included Mary Wagner and Tom Smith and still today, Nick Dokoozlian and Keith Striegler—were actively working to ensure the success of our organization. The contribution of their time and attention has been invaluable.

Bob also was a founder and longtime Board member of the American Vineyard Foundation, and served on the Board of the Wine Institute, as well—both NGRA member-organizations. Until I read his obituary, I didn’t know about Bob’s commitment to habitat conservation, helping to restore populations of Aleutian cackling geese to the Modesto area through the company’s 50/50 program, which sets aside an acre of property for every acre planted in the North Coast Vineyard to help protect and enhance wildlife habitats. I wasn’t aware of Bob’s involvement in the development, with other California wine producers, of the Code of Sustainable Wine Growing Practices. And I didn’t know that the Gallo Glass Co. has its own rigorous standards for environmental sustainability, including recycling waste into new bottles.

But I had heard stories of Bob’s belief that, when it comes to the wine industry, a rising tide truly does lift all boats. For example, the legend holds that, when asked why Gallo would support research into the development of new, say, cold-hardy grape varieties to support the wine industry in emerging regions, Bob was mystified. Why wouldn’t you? If someone in Minnesota tries a red wine from a local winery and likes it, it’s only a matter of time until he goes into a grocery store and sees a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from a California producer and decides to give it a go. Getting people engaged in the category with well-made wines—no matter where they come from—only helps everyone, he would argue. To Bob, we all succeed together.

We celebrate the extraordinary generosity of Bob Gallo and his family, and all the ways they’ve contributed to the industry’s collective success and continued sustainability. And it’s with great sadness that we say goodbye, Bob—and thank you.

Donnell Brown