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As Gina Gallo knows, it's all up to the grapes

Harvest for Gina Gallo means being on call.

"It's not so much the length of the days during harvest," mused Gallo, reflecting on the spontaneity of the season. "I may have to go in at 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. to check on things. It's all up to the grapes."

Mother Nature may rule during harvest, but Gallo has a say at the end of the day. Together they produced our wine of the week winner, the Gallo Family Vineyards, 2007 Sonoma County Chardonnay at $15.

Some say Gallo is just the face of the winery and doesn't spend a lot of time making wine. What's the correct perception?

"I am involved with the wines year round, including this one," she said. "I am totally involved during the six weeks of harvest, then I am on call during fermentation. I taste the wine every two weeks as it matures then assemble the final blend.

"Even though I enjoy traveling, sharing our wines and my family's history, my true love is making the wine."

Gallo said the most challenging part of harvest is "the promise you make to yourself. . . . The challenge is to create the best possible wine by managing effectively the elements over which you do have control."

The winemaker says she's grounded during harvest -- literally. "No travel during harvest," she said. "I am focused on what is going on in the vineyards and the winery. If you miss one day, it's akin to missing a whole week because things are moving so fast."

Gallo said what she enjoys most about harvest is "the camaraderie and the team energy, the coming together with a common goal."

As for the winning chardonnay, Gallo said one reason it's a standout is because "it tastes better than the ($15) price. . . . As my great uncle (Ernest Gallo) used to say, we try to make wine that 'drinks better than the price.' I do look at what other wines are out there at similar prices, and my goal is to create wines that consumers will see as a better value."


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