US wine giant Tony Terlato dies

Winery owner, retailer, distributor and importer Tony Terlato, founder of the Terlato Wine Group, who helped introduce Americans to Italian wine, has died aged 86.

As reported by Wine Spectator, Terlato introduced Americans to high-end wines from the likes of Gaja, Chapoutier and Piper-Heidsieck through his Chicago-based Terlato Wine Group.

With Italian roots, Anthony ‘Tony’ Terlato championed Italian wines in the US and helped to put Pinot Grigio on the map in America.

“My brother John and I learned everything we know from our father. He taught us so much. We were fortunate to have him for 86 years. We only wish it could have been more,” Bill Terlato, CEO of Terlato Wine Group, told Wine Spectator.

In the 1990s Terlato branched out into wine production with the purchase of California wineries Rutherford Hill and Chimney Rock in Napa, and Sanford in Santa Barbara. Today the company owns seven wineries in the Golden State.

Born in Brooklyn, Terlato moved to Chicago aged 21 when his father Salvatore opened a wine shop stocked with classed growth claret.

“There’s no glut of Gaja. There’s no glut of wines like Pétrus or Mouton, no glut of Cristal. No matter what you’re doing, if you’re not making decisions for quality reasons, you’re going backwards. Quality is the only thing that endures,” Terlato told WS in a 2004 interview.

After marrying Josephine ‘JoJo’ Paterno in 1956, Terlato started working for his father-in-law Anthony’s Chicago-based bottling company, which he swiftly turned into a wholesale business that supplied a diverse range of European wines to local restaurants.

Keen to show Americans that there was more to Italian wine than cheap Chianti in fiascos, Terlato travelled the length of Italy’s boot to bring back quality wines to the US.

In 2002, Terlato sold the distribution arm of the business to focus on wine production, marketing and importing. He is survived by his wife Josephine, sons Bill and John, six grandchildren and a number of great-grandchildren.

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