Gallo is one of the best-known wine brands in the world, but it makes more than jug wines designed for family reunion picnics. A lot more. The Gallo Signature Series, made by Gina Gallo (granddaughter of Julio), are all small-release wines designed to compete with the top shelf. The 2013 releases, covering the basics of California, are just now arriving. Thoughts follow.
2011 Gallo Signature Series Chardonnay Russian River Valley – Burly and oaky, a traditional, wood-forward Chardonnay with plenty of buttery, nutty underpinnings. Missing out on balance, it goes more vegetal than fruity, although a moderate apple and marshmallow character on the finish offers a pleasant finale. B / $30
2011 Gallo Signature Series Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands – A modest Pinot, with reasonable cherry and strawberry notes. Some smokiness and wood, laced with a little green pepper and licorice… actually all coming together in a way that works reasonably well, alongside a little menthol kick that develops on the nose as the wine opens up. What it lacks in body (which is a lot), this wine offers in character. B+ / $35
2010 Gallo Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – The best of the lot, a 98% Cab (2% Petit Verdot) wine that is easy to drink (though quite high in alcohol at 14.8%). Fresh red berries play with light vanilla and wood barrel notes, creating a pleasant, if simple overall experience. The finish is long and lightly sweet, offering fresh mint and gingerbread notes on the back end. B+ / $40