In any American restaurant with even a basic wine list, you are likely to find a bottle of Pinot Grigio available for your enjoyment. What you might not realize, however, is that as recently as 30 years ago most Americans were unaware that such a varietal even existed. The presence of Pinot Grigio in our marketplace today can be credited to the discerning palate of Anthony J. Terlato, a longtime Chicagoan and a pioneer in teaching America to appreciate the nuances of fine wine.
Terlato first experienced the wine industry through his father, who owned Chicago’s Leading Liquors wine retail shop, one of the city’s first self-service liquor establishments. After learning about the finer European wines through the merchandise his family sold, Terlato set about revolutionizing his family’s wine import business, specifically spotlighting the underrepresented wines of Italy. In 1979, on a trip to Italy, Terlato discovered the Italian’s Pinot Grigio varietal, sampling several bottles in one evening and then choosing one, the Santa Margherita, as the best of the bunch. He negotiated with the winery to import their Pinot Grigio to America, and it steadily caught the public’s attention, becoming an extremely popular imported wine.
Today, Terlato Wines International runs a number of California wineries and continues to tantalize American wine aficionados with imports of fine European varietals. Terlato himself maintains a hands-on presence—no doubt spurred by his passion for the art of wine—and his company works constantly to shape tastes by releasing, each month, ratings for new vintages.
The next time you open a bottle of your favorite Pinot Grigio, you might want to take a moment to toast the man who made that bottle’s purchase possible. To Anthony Terlato!