E. & J. Gallo may be the largest wine producer in the world and one of the oldest and best-known wine brands in the United States, but there was one thing the company always lacked.
A tasting room.
That will change in October when Gallo opens its first tasting room, on the plaza in downtown Healdsburg, not far from the company's production facility in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley. While the Modesto, Calif.-based wine giant produces everything from cheap fortified wine to high-end Cabernet Sauvignon, its tasting room will offer samples only from its Gallo of Sonoma brand, which currently includes 17 wines ranging in price from $11 to $70.
The tasting room will be located at 320 Center St., which previously served as a satellite tasting room for Trentadue Winery in Geyserville. Gallo joins a number of other wineries with tasting rooms in downtown Healdsburg, including Rosenblum Cellars, Windsor Vineyards and Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates.
A selection of Gallo of Sonoma wines will be for sale, said company spokesman Tim McDonald, including wines that Gallo doesn't generally make available, such as a sparkling wine, a Barbera and a late-harvest Chardonnay.
"Gina [Gallo] does a lot of experimenting, and none of these in the past have made it to the market," McDonald said.
Asked why Gallo had waited so long to open a tasting room, MacDonald would say only, "I think the popularity of Gallo of Sonoma wines require that we give wine lovers a place to taste and acquire them."
The tasting room should be open by mid-October, and McDonald does not expect there will be a fee to taste, except for special themed flights of three wines, which will cost $3. "You might have a chance to taste a '94, '95 and '96 Cabernet, for example," he said.
The tasting room will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, but during peak tourist season from Memorial Day through October, the hours will be extended from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. "We're going to see how it is to be open late," said McDonald. "The square kind of comes alive in the 5 to 7 p.m. period."