subscribe: Posts | Comments      Facebook      Email Steve

Former Wine Institute CEO John DeLuca to be senior advisor to Gallo board


I was glad to be phoned by John DeLuca on Tuesday evening, barely an hour after he had been named “senior advisor to the board of directors” of E&J Gallo.

My first thought when I got the electronic press release had been, This is a pretty big step for a guy nearly 75, an age when most people are retired.

But John was excited. “I’m blessed with good health. I really want to stay active. I feel like a silk worm eating mulberry leaves spinning out threads of silk.” He’d been intending to write his memoirs when the call from Joseph E. Gallo came. “I’m still dedicated to starting it, and dedicated to finishing it in 2 years.”

The politically-savvy DeLuca, a former White House fellow under President Lyndon Johnson and also a former deputy mayor of San Francisco, headed the Wine Institute for 28 years. He will advise family-owned Gallo on political and business issues, including international competition. “We’re going into a global period, and there are so many issues that arise as a result. This [appointment] is a natural extension of all the work I’ve done for the past 33 years. I don’t want [California wine] to go the way of cars in Detroit.”

The role of a John DeLuca is largely hidden from the public (which is fine with him). DeLuca is a behind the scenes guy, the power behind the throne who takes satisfaction in what gets done, rather than who gets the credit. Under his tenure at Wine Institute, DeLuca was instrumental in a range of complex legal and technical decisions concerning California wine, from preventing higher taxes to settling the lead closure issue in the 1980s to furthering research into the health benefits of moderate consumption.

Four years ago at my urging Wine Enthusiast gave John DeLuca our Lifetime Achievement Award. He said at the time, quoting Shakespeare, “There is a tide in the affairs of men…” He was then retiring as head of the Wine Institute and people perhaps thought DeLuca’s tide was ebbing. Clearly it was not.

  1. Kind of jealous, he had a pretty cool job working with wines all day. Also the quote he used is one of my favorite Shakespeare quotes. Personally though, I learned all the wine stuff from, in their wine channel dedicated to tips, techniques, and even reviews of wine.

  2. Steve – I am a member of Wine Institute (WI) and have been for years. I know this is going to sound a bit snarky, and it is, but it should be no secret that owners of many of the smaller wineries in California felt that under Mr. DeLuca’s tenure the institute’s initials should have been “GI” – if you get my drift. So some might say Mr. DeLuca has gone back to the nest, as it were.

    That said and behind me, I salute Mr. DeLuca for his years of tireless support and promotion of California wine, and wish him well in his new position. All of us should be so blessed that we may still have this kind of energy and impact after more than three decades of service.

  3. John,

    I remember the GI complaints. I know they used to bother DeLuca and he often found himself in uncomfortable situations caught between the majors and everyone else. In fact, that’s part of the reason why Family Winemakers started (or so I recall). In general, what DeLuca and Wine Institute did benefited all the wineries in California, in my judgment.

Leave a Reply


Recent Comments

Recent Posts