Tony Terlato, founder of the Terlato Wine Group—and widely known as the father of Pinot Grigio in the United States—passed away June 29 at the age of 86. While the company that bears his name handles dozens of significant brands and labels, he will always be remembered for bringing the ubiquitous Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio to market here.
Coming up in the wine business in the 1960s, Terlato pioneered wine in Chicago from overhauling restaurant wine programs to seeking out international unknowns to import. (He discovered the Pinot Grigio in Alto Adige in 1979.) By the 1990s, the Terlato Wine Group, along with sons John and Bill Terlato, owned major Napa houses Rutherford Hill and Chimney Rock, Italy’s Terlato Vineyards, and properties in Santa Barbara, Washington, and Australia (with Michel Chapoutier). And chances are very high you know a large number of the brands they import from all over the world. A true pioneer in the wine business, he showed us that by getting wines—from consumer friendly quaffers to high end super Tuscans—into the hands of wine lovers, everyone could prosper.
The New York Times has a bit more.
This week, we raise a glass to Tony, a consummate host, lover of opera, and family man.
And let us remember also these other titans of the wine world.
Michel Lafarge, winemaker, Domaine Michel Lafarge, Volnay. I was in Burgundy in late January and had an appointment with Frédéric Lafarge at Domaine Michel Lafarge on a Friday afternoon. We had expected him to cancel, honestly, since he had buried his father, Michel, just a few days before. Winemakers and friends from all over the world had flocked to the tiny village to pay their respects to the 91-year-old legend. However, Friday afternoon arrived and Frédéric graciously welcomed us to his 13th century cellars (with its famous albino spiders) under the village of Volnay. We tasted 23 wines mostly from the 2018 vintage. For the last taste, he siphoned for us a sample of the 1er Cru Clos du Chateau des Ducs, the storied vineyard which is, quite literally, in their backyard. Then, he invited us to join him to drink a toast to his father. With tears in our eyes, we braved the cold drizzle to stand among the vines and let Frédéric know how much Michel had meant to us as wine lovers, travelers, and friends. Today, many underestimate the importance of winemakers like Michel Lafarge to regions like Burgundy, but he was one of the last of a generation who quietly influenced every aspect of winemaking in the region. From bottling his own domain wines to using farming techniques that set the standard for today, he not only understood how to foster excellence in Burgundian winemaking, but also why it was important to introduce Burgundy to the world. Along the way, he built his family domain into one of the most excellent in the Cote de Beaune.
Georges Duboeuf, industry firebrand, Beaujolais. It is, perhaps, unfortunate, that Georges Duboeuf is best known for his creation of the Beaujolais Nouveau phenomenon that grips some corners of the wine world in November. Serious winemakers of Cru Beaujolais will tell you how the region has spent a decade coming back from the economic disaster Nouveau caused for fine wines from Beaujolais. Still, the 87-year-old Duboeuf, who died in early January, will be remembered for his marketing savvy and branding prowess which built his name into an international brand. In many ways, he was before his time, pairing easy drinking and affordable Nouveaus (gamays produced via carbonic maceration, a process that lets early wines from the summer’s vintage hit the shelves by late fall) with the US and UK holiday seasons. And, hey, he made Beaujolais a household name. Today, makers of quality Cru Beaujolais finally see their markets returning as wine lovers look for their top quality reds from Morgon, Fleurie, and Moulin au Vent. But as we discussed at a recent tasting at Chateau du Moulin au Vent just down the road from the iconic windmill, sales are only just beginning to rebound after 10 years of serious industry work against the Nouveau marketing campaigns. Many may think of Duboeuf with mixed feelings, but one has to recognize the passing of a fearless industry leader who created a celebration for wine lovers all over the world.
Michael Broadbent, MW, writer and critic, London. I once read that Michael Broadbent could remember every wine he ever tasted. Who knows if that’s true, but he was famous for taking notes, with shelves of red notebooks with tasting notes for every wine he’d tasted in modern times. (Jancis Robinson gives us a great remembrance and photo of his red notebooks). Reading through his vast number of books, columns for Decanter and articles in the wine world give us a sense of the body of knowledge and perspective we lost in March 2020. With his encyclopedic knowledge of wines, producers and vintages from all over the world, Broadbent gave us some of the first books about wine (his book, Vintage Wine: Fifty Years of Tasting Three Centuries of Wine is still in print) and was critical to building the world of wine auctions we know today. He restarted Christies’ wine auction business in 1966 and built it the best wine auction business in the world. He was 92.