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Originally published September 28, 2012 at 11:00 AM | Page modified September 29, 2012 at 8:18 AM

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Gallo grandkid signs up to honor the past

The new Gallo Signature Series is the personal project of Gina Gallo, granddaughter of co-founder (and longtime winemaker) Julio Gallo.

Special to the Seattle Times

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GALLO, THE world's largest family-owned winery, is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. I hold no prejudice pro or con about Gallo, but the sheer numbers of labels, imports, varieties and vineyards that fall under the corporate umbrella make it difficult to get a grasp on what — other than size — makes Gallo special.

The new Gallo Signature Series is a start to sorting it all out. It is the personal project of Gina Gallo, the granddaughter of co-founder (and longtime winemaker) Julio Gallo. Gina Gallo is the face of the company these days. In a phone conversation, she explained to me that these are her personal wines, made in limited quantities and designed to showcase estate-grown grapes from three special vineyard regions.

"Stylistically, I'm not too far out of the vein of what my grandfather believed in and taught us about wine," she enthused. Clearly these wines are meant to honor that legacy.

They will be sold mostly at restaurants and specialty retailers — not grocery stores — at prices that are modest for California, but ambitious for Gallo. Given that Gallo has just purchased Columbia Winery here in Washington, I take it as a very good sign that honoring the past is a priority. I hope that will play out here as well.

The Signature Series wines sport black-and-gray front labels that are restrained to the point of being almost invisible. They carry the name of the grape, the region and vintage, Gina Gallo's signature and a vertical strip with technical information. Packed in six-bottle cases, the package suggests rather than boasts about the quality inside.

If you are going to try just one of these wines, I'd go with the 2010 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($30). Loaded with tropical fruit flavors, it moves well beyond the buttery/fruity California style, though it has plenty of both. The alcohol is listed at a comfortable 14.5 percent, and the wine has marvelous poise and balance, exceptional length, and tastes just as good if not better on the second day.

The 2010 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir ($35) comes from a region widely admired for making some of California's finest pinots. It's fruit forward, with strong, sweet candy flavors of berries and cherries. I think you'll find it balanced, with good focus. To my palate, the wine seemed front-loaded, without the herbal earthiness that adds depth and gravitas to the best Oregon pinots. But set it against its California peers, and it delivers an extra dollop of flavor and value.

The 2008 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($40) includes small amounts of petit verdot and petite sirah, all sourced from the rather cool William Hill and Monte Rosso vineyards. Cherry and cocoa rule the palate, which is fresh, flavorful and modestly proportioned.

Paul Gregutt's blog is www.paulgregutt.com. Email: paulgwine@me.com.

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About Wine Adviser

My column is all about sharing the joy of exploring all the world of wine. I want to guide people to make inspired choices, and encourage them to try as many different styles of wine as they can. I will always seek out the best wines at the best prices. Wine Adviser runs on Sunday in Pacific Northwest Magazine.
paulgwine@me.com

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