Died: March 6, 2007 (Modesto, California)
Best Known as: vintner
With little more than a high-school education, Gallo created one of the world’s largest wine empires. He grew up on a California vineyard owned by his father, who emigrated from Italy. Ernest and his brother, Julio, started their business with a wine recipe from a public library and $5,900. It is estimated that the company now produces 80 million cases of wine a year. In 2006 Forbes magazine listed Ernest Gallo as number 283 on its list of the 400 richest Americans, with an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion.