California wine: Gallo’s Cal Dennison on Carlo Rossi products designed for China

carlo rossi sonoma county cabernet sauvignon 2011 for china market

By Jim Boyce

Californian wine giant E&J Gallo plans to introduce two Carlo Rossi wines designed specifically for China. Both are Cabernet Sauvignon dominant, one hailing from Sonoma County (suggested retail price rmb318) and the other from Napa Valley (rmb600), and the plan is to release them in late July.

Cal Dennison, Gallo’s director of wine-making for table wines, said that Carlo Rossi has been in China for many years and the aim is to “bring it up a level”. He said part of the inspiration behind these new wines came from a visit to China. See the interview below for more details.

The Sonoma County Cabernet uses wine from the Alexander and Dry Creek valleys and also includes Merlot and Petit Syrah. It has an initial sense of sweetness, is plummy and jammy without being heavy, and has some pleasant spice smells and tastes. I tried it last month during a stateside visit arranged by Sonoma County Vintners and Jumpstart Solutions and will soon post more on wineries visited and wines tried.

After the Carlo Rossi tasting, I sent a few questions to Dennison, who has been with Gallo for more than ten years and making wine since graduating from UC Davis with a degree in Viticulture and Enology in 1983. Below are the answers I received via Gallo’s PR team (my highlights).


Why make a wine specifically for the China market?

At Gallo, we like to make great-tasting wines for all occasions that can be enjoyed around the world, so when China became interested in California wines, we jumped at the chance. I believe there is a huge opportunity to not only grow and succeed in the marketplace, but also to expand knowledge of California wine in China. Specifically for China, I am focused on crafting wines that pair well with the culture, cuisine and palate of the Chinese people.

You did a lot of background research, including visits to China. Would you give us some details about what went into making this wine?

I have visited several cities in China and met with consumers and restaurant patrons, all the while gaining invaluable insight into their taste preferences. Based on my visits and interactions, I thought I could make a wine to fit their needs –- one that is fruit forward, smooth and a great representation of California and our premier appellations. To me, this is the most gratifying part of winemaking -– the artistry of making wine for those who enjoy it!

What attributes does the wine have that you think will particularly appeal to wine consumers in China?

I think the vibrant red color, approachable fruit forward aromas and smooth rich taste and the specially designed appealing label of Carlo Rossi will find great success in China. [Click here for Sonoma County notes and here for Napa Valley notes.]

Are there any plans to produce any more wines, perhaps a white, designed for the China market?

We are planning to make a Carlo Rossi Lot 1933 Chardonnay for China, possibly to be released next year.

carlo rossi sonoma county napa valley 2011 cabernet sauvignon for china


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