When your Napa heritage is deeply rooted in agriculture as with the Gallegos Family, the transition to making wine is one of passion and comes from a true respect and connection to the earth.
Gallegos Wines. The family heritage as it relates to Napa Valley began in the mid 1950s when Ignacio Gallegos Sr. moved here from Yuma Arizona; previously he was living in the small town of El Llano in Michoacán, Mexico. Their immigration to California was part of the World War II Bracero program. Bracero, in Spanish means “manual” laborer – this program came about through various laws and agreements in 1942 between the United States and Mexico to bring in temporary workers to Stockton California. This program was extended after the war and was active all the way until 1964.
During this post prohibition period of Napa’s history there were very few wineries in the valley, however by the late 1950s there were approximately ten wineries in Napa Valley who are still producing commercially today. One of these wineries, was Beringer – Ignacio’s father found work in their vineyards through an uncle who was already living and working in Napa Valley. The Gallegos family was one of the earliest Mexican immigrant farming families to settle in St. Helena.
At that time Beringer was still family owned and Ignacio Sr worked for Otto Beringer. Roy Raymond at the time was their winemaker; he later started Raymond Vineyards. Ignacio Sr. worked for Beringer for 30 years eventually retiring as a supervisor (he passed away in 2014). And by 1966 Ignacio ultimately brought the rest of his family to St. Helena including Ignacio Jr (winemaker for Gallegos Wines).
Ignacio Jr at the time spoke no English; his son Eric remembers him telling stories of how he was placed in first grade in elementary school despite being much older than usual for this grade. He quickly learned English and how to care for grape vines at a young age. Ignacio’s older brother Maurelio worked for Edgar Beard Sr. of Beard Ranches, one of the early vineyard management companies of which are so common today in Napa Valley and Ignacio Jr. learned viticulture from working with his brother. Beard Ranches is still very much active, run by Ed Beard Jr.
Ignacio Jr was also one of the first students in what was at the time, a fledgling viticulture program at Napa Valley College in 1976. He left this program to work full time among the vineyards and worked his way up to foreman at Rutherford’s 100-acre J.J. Cohn Ranch. The original ranch was divided and sold and is now owned by Francis Ford Coppola and Scarecrow Vineyards. His son Eric grew up here and like his father learned how to manage vines from an early age. The oldest commercially producing Cabernet Sauvignon vines still growing on this ranch, dating back to the 1940s. Eric recalls his formative years in Rutherford and how the value of a hard worth ethic was instilled in him by his family.
Ignacio started his own vineyard management company, Gallegos Vineyard Management in 2008 and today manages over 200 acres of vineyards in Napa Valley for a number of clients.
After Eric graduated from Fresno State with a degree in viticulture, he worked for a larger winery in the valley visiting hundreds of vineyard acres across multiple counties – ranging from non-Napa vineyards producing $8 bottles of Chardonnay to hillside Napa vineyards producing $100 bottles of wine. This gave him an appreciation for various styles of vineyard management practices as well as styles of wine.
He decided he wanted to as he says, “share his family’s story and history through wine” and approached his father about producing their own wines. Wine making was not new to his father – rather he had been making home wine for many years from harvesting second crop grapes and processing all the fruit by hand from picking, to destemming, to foot treading.
With such a variety of vineyards around the valley, they decided to focus their wine production from vineyards they had personally planted or currently manage. Intimately knowing these vineyards has given them the perspective of which blocks they consider the best within vineyards and even down to the choice specific rows of vines.
The Gallegos wines are respective of their vineyard sites – sourcing from regions which are best suited to each variety.
The 2020 Gallegos Rosé of Grenache, Monterey County is light salmon orange in color. This bottling offers aromas of strawberry and rose petal. It features mouthwatering acidity across the palate with plenty of minerality nuances and a slight hint of a petrol on the finish. Lingers with a noticeable brightness. This is a crisp clean and enjoyable offering.
The 2019 Gallegos Pinot Noir Boekenoogen Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands sports an intriguing bouquet with aromas of graphite, chalky notes and plenty of fruit. There are also notes of rhubarb. It is earth driven but without being earthy. This very balanced Pinot Noir reveals flavors of red cherry and red berries. The palate lingers with a tartness framed by mouthwatering acidity and complemented by long-lasting but smooth and integrated tannins. This is an extremely well-made wine that is more Burgundian in style than California styled. It showcases the typicity of the variety.
The 2013 Gallegos Sauvignon Blanc was fermented in stainless tanks and aged in neutral barrel on the lees. It reveals pleasing aromas of pineapple along with hints of graphite and is somewhat tropical in nature. There is a creaminess that shows on the front of the palate and slightly on the finish. This is a balanced wine.
The 2012 Gallegos Chardonnay is sourced from vines greater than 30 years old that Eric’s father planted from a single vineyard in Yountville. This wine was aged in 25% new French oak barrels and only 25% of the wine underwent malolactic fermentation. It is an elegant bouquet which showcases a diversity of fruit aromas including pear, honeydew, caramel notes and other baking spices. This wine has bright acidity and a clean finish.
During one of his classes at Fresno State Eric met a rancher, Garrett Boekenoogen from Soledad (Monterey County) whose family had planted 200 acres of vines. They became friends and Eric remembers telling him if his family ever made wine, he would be sure to source some grapes from his vineyard.
The 2012 Gallegos Pinot Noir is from the Boekenoogen Vineyard in the St. Lucia Highlands. Two clones are represented: Dijon provides more of a fruit driven, jammy quality and Pommard highlights the the texture and mouth feel. The bouquet on this wine is seductive and is all about the fruit, showing cherry notes, cherry cola and raspberry; the aromas are lively and “jump” out of glass. The complexity of fruit continues onto the palate revealing flavors of boysenberry spread and raspberry with a finish that lingers with notes of white pepper, light wood tannins and fruit.
The 2012 Gallegos Red Blend had been bottled at the time of this review but not yet released. This wine is simply a 50/50 blend of favorites. Ignacio enjoys Petite Sirah and his brother Maurelio enjoys Merlot. Maurelio owns 14 acres in Rutherford which is the source for the Merlot (and more recently planted to Sauvignon Blanc) and through a prior client – they sourced Petit Sirah from hillside vineyards in eastern Napa County. This wine is dark purple in the glass with a tempting bouquet that offers black fruit, a black liqueur component along with notes of toasted oak and tinged with tones of mocha. Red fruit shows more on the palate with notes of red licorice. The tannins are very well managed and integrate beautifully. They are fine grained, dusty and linger on the palate for some time. Petite Sirah is a variety that can certainly bring some structure to the wine, as a result, during fermentation the skins are pulled early in part to best manage the mouth feel and tannin structure.
NOTE: a major update is coming to this review by April 2024 including tasting notes for current release wines .
Gallegos currently produces about 1,800 cases annually; the wines are selectively distributed in California, New Mexico and Florida. We even brought some of their bottles to showcase to several distributors in Cabo San Lucas one year, but due to difficulties with taxes and importing wines, we were ultimately not successful in our efforts.
Their wines are on the wine list in a number of premium restaurants in Napa Valley including the Rutherford Grill and Celadon and at a number of local wine shops including Backroom Wines in Napa.
For more information or to purchase wine, visit: www.gallegoswines.com