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Cheesemaker Joseph Gallo Dies at 87

Dairy magnate raised profile of California cheeses despite legal battles with vintner brothers

James Laube
Posted: February 26, 2007

Joseph Edward Gallo, a dairy farmer who lost an acrimonious legal battle with his famous winemaking brothers over the use of his name on the cheese he produced, has died at the age of 87. The youngest of Joseph and Susie Gallo's three sons, Joseph had been in declining health for several years, his friends said.

Gallo resided in Livingston, Calif., near Modesto, where his brothers, Ernest and Julio Gallo, built their wine empire starting in the 1930s. After working with his brothers and managing family-owned vineyards near Modesto for 20 years, Gallo struck out on his own in the 1960s. He owned a cattle ranch, vineyards and eventually a dairy farm that became one the state's largest producers of cheese under the Joseph Farms label.

In the early 1980s Joseph began marketing cheese under the Gallo name. But his brothers filed suit, claiming a trademark infringement, which a court upheld.

Joseph Gallo then filed a countersuit in 1986, claiming a one-third interest in the billion-dollar E&J Gallo wine company. He claimed that his parents had started the Gallo winery and owned the name, and that he was entitled to a one-third interest. One of his attorneys was Jess Jackson, who in 1982 founded Kendall-Jackson winery, which has since grown into one of the nation's leading wine companies.

Younger than Ernest and Julio by 10 years, Joseph Gallo was never close to his brothers, despite being raised by them after the murder-suicide deaths of their parents. Like his brothers, Joseph led a private life until his legal battles with his brothers became front-page stories. His farming operation was among the largest in the country, and he is credited with helping cheesemakers market their products nationwide.

He is survived by his family and oldest brother, Ernest Gallo. Julio Gallo died in 1993.

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