His grandparents immigrated from Italy to the United States. His father was Giuseppe Gallo, a.k.a. Joseph, and his mother, Assunta Bianco Gallo, a.k.a. Susie. Together his uncle Michael, his father ran the Gallo Wine Company, a wine distribution company. His mother's family, the Biancos, were winemakers. In the 1920s, his parents purchased a farm near Modesto, California, and sold their grapes. He had a brother, Julio Gallo (1910-1993), and another brother, Joseph. On June 21, 1933, his father shot his mother and killed himself, then making him an orphan.
He graduated from high school.
Shortly after the prohibition of alcohol from 1919 to 1933 in the United States, he co-founded the E.&J. Gallo Winery, using $5,900 in borrowed cash. He became head of sales, marketing and distribution.
He was married for sixty-two years to Amelia (Franzia) Gallo (1930-1993). The couple had two sons: David Gallo (died 1997), and Joseph Gallo. He was ranked 297th on the 2006 Forbes 400 list of billionaires, with an estimated wealth of US$1.2 billion. He died on March 6, 2007 in Modesto, California, at the age of ninety-seven. He was buried in the St. Stanislaus Catholic Cemetery in Modesto.
- Henderson, Bruce, with Ernest and Julio Gallo. Ernest & Julio: Our Story. Times Books, 1994