Gina Gallo at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium - "The greatest challenge to me is the balance of life"
"I challenge all of us here to reflect on our own values and determine how we can do better in our business and in our personal lives"
by Kerana Todorov
January 24, 2018
Gina Gallo of E&J Gallo challenged the guests attending her keynote address Tuesday at the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento to balance their pursuit of success with an enriching and fulfilling family life.
The senior director of winemaking at E&J Gallo, Gallo also described herself as a wife (to vintner Jean-Charles Boisset), a mother of two young twin daughters, and a breast cancer survivor. She said she has had to learn how to balance her various roles.
“The greatest challenge to me is the balance of life,” Gallo told the 600 guests gathered at the Sheraton Grand in Sacramento.
Her family has brought more discipline into her file, she said.
Gallo challenged her audience to forge stronger personal and professional communities in 2018.
“If we do this we will all become stronger,” Gallo said. “The wine industry will become stronger and, being more unified, we have a stronger voice when we face adversity as an industry.”
Millions of dollars were raised after the October fires. “The Wine Country fires have forced us to look inside ourselves for what we can offer to others. What we have found is that we are capable of so much as individuals. But we’re capable of so much more as a striving, strong community,” Gallo said.
Growing up, Gallo said she learned about her family history and values, including passion, hard work and integrity, at family dinners.
“It was over these family gatherings that we built camaraderie, between our brothers, our sisters, our many cousins. They were our first friends, our confidantes, the people closest to us, with whom we had an instant connection,” she also said.
She also developed a love for the land by helping grow and pick fresh fruits and vegetables in the family garden, she said.
What moves and motivates her as an adult is her belief that everyone should have access to fresh food grown as “locally as possible by hardworking farmers and ranchers.”
She is a member of the board of directors at American Farmland Trust, an organization that has protected more than 5 million acres of land over 35 years.
Gallo also supports Taste of the NFL, a group that raises money and support for food banks and other organizations that fight hunger in the United States. The nonprofit group has raised and donated $25 million since 1992.
Alone, few can raise $25 million to fight hunger or save 5 million acres of farmland, Gallo noted. “But all of us together, we can.”
Finding mentors is critical to personal and business success, Gallo also said.
Her “first and greatest mentor” was her grandfather, Julio, who co-founded E & J Gallo 85 years ago.
“He taught me the importance of tenacity and that the quality of the wine is what makes a winery successful,” Gina Gallo said. “He encouraged me to prove myself in the cellar. He challenged me like he challenged so many others to work as hard as they could – as hard as I could,” she said.
Her grandfather also challenged her to “always ask questions and if I did not have the answer to that question, ‘go find out where to get it.’ He taught me that once you stop asking those questions, you stop learning,” she said.
Other mentors included her father, Bob Gallo, head winemaker at Gallo, who had the same expectations as her grandfather; and master winemaker, Marcello Monticelli.
Both were on hand Tuesday.
“I challenge all of us here to reflect on our own values and determine how we can do better in our business and in our personal lives,” she said. “We have all had mentors. But are we serving as a mentor for others?” Gallo asked. “We also need to continue to enrich ourselves to seek out new mentors for ourselves or reconnect with those who have helped us in the past.”
Her communities in her life have helped her have a successful career while make sure family ties remain strong.
“I encourage all of us to evaluate how we can balance our lives better. I encourage all of us to have a family dinner at least once a week where we put down the phones and put them away and we connect with and learn from each other.”
Today, she juggles her career with mundane tasks like scheduling a plumber and planning the family dinner. She is “lucky” to be married to a wonderful man,” she said of Boisset.
“But — I have to say — he is no handyman and he is nor a chef,” Gallo said as the audience laughed. “But I do know he is my champion,” she also said. Her husband, who has his own family business and career, supported her “100 percent” while she fought breast cancer.
“My communities have helped me have a successful career while also making sure the bonds of my family are strong. I encourage all of us to evaluate how we can balance our lives better. I encourage all of us to have a family dinner at least once a week where we put down the phones and put them away and we connect with and learn from each other.”
She is “honored and humbled” to be part of the Gallo family, winery and “extended Gallo community,” she said. “I’m honored to be part of the organizations like American Farmland Trust and the Taste of the NFL. They’re enriching and improving our world.”
“It has been an honor and blessing to have had so many people in my life to look up as mentors and guides,” she continued. “I hope you all become that blessing to others in your community.”