What is in this article?:
- Six decades of grape growing for Los Alamos, Calif., farmer Joe Carrari produces compelling history.
- Carrari was awash in an acre foot of wine and going broke when he created Dago Red California coastal red wine.
- Dago Red was far ahead of Two Buck Chuck and has a gold medal to prove it.
- Bulking wine not for faint-of-heart growers.
Joe Carrari spends his time at Rancho Alamo, a 3,600-acre ranch at Los Alamos. He leases out 400 acres for vegetable production and the rest is foothills where cattle are grazed.
Gallo down the drain
Everything seems positive for California wine grape growers today and Dago Red would likely not be necessary in today’s market, but no doubt Carrari would like to do a sequel.
The wine with the ancestral insult is his legacy. He can talk about it all day and bellow at every story of the decade-long Dago Red saga. It resulted in one of his favorite stories he tells often about dealing with a fellow Italian by the name of Julio Gallo.
E and J Gallo Winery is the California wine behemoth. The family is noted for holding on to pennies hard enough to make Lincoln weep.
Joe tells first-hand about one of his dealings with Julio. Dago Red was already a hit, and Gallo knew Joe still had bulk wine in storage.
“Julio called me and said he had heard I had some good red wines in storage. ‘I do’ I said,” Joe recalls.
Gallo asked for some samples, and Carrari happily sent them to Modesto, Calif., Gallo’s headquarters.
Gallo called back and said he was willing to pay “top dollar.”
“I told Julio I like the sound of that,” Carrari says. Gallo offered Carrari 92 cents per gallon.
“When he said that I started calling him Mr. Gallo. I said ‘Mr. Gallo, why don’t we meet at the winery.’ He responded that it was not necessary to meet to make a deal. We could make the deal on the phone.
“I told him, ‘Who said anything about making a deal? Mr. Gallo I want you to come to the winery and watch me open the valves on the tanks and let the wine go down the sewer before I sell it to you for 92 cents a gallon, and I hung up. He knew I had a lot more in the wine than that.” Not many people have hung up on Gallo.
And of course, when Carrari gets through telling that story, he roars with laughter.
Regrets from six decades of wine grape growing?
“Only regret I have is that it took me so long to learn anything” with another trademark Joe Carrari howl.