Friday, May 24, 2024

Grape Expectations: Terlato Family Vineyards

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With a legacy spanning decades, Terlato Family Vineyards has seamlessly woven innovation and tradition into every bottle. Savoring the elegance and finesse of their meticulously crafted varietals – from the sun-kissed vineyards to the expertly guided fermentation process – Terlato’s commitment to quality is evident in every sip.

Wine grapes harvest

LS: Could you go ahead and introduce yourself a little bit?

ET: My name is Elise Terlato and I’m a marketing manager and fourth generation family member at Terlato Wines International. I grew up in a northern suburb of Chicago, went on to study at the University of Miami, in the School of Communications, and became interested in creative advertising, psychology and marketing. After graduating, I worked in marketing at Chicago Social Magazine and then went on to work in advertising as an account executive at FCB Global Chicago. After about three and a half years working on travel and healthcare brands, at FCB, I wanted to focus more on food and beverage. Growing up in an Italian American family, these topics were important and always interested me. I applied for many different positions, one of them being a competitor of our family. That is when my dad approached me and said that he’d like me to apply for an open marketing position on one of our family brands. In our family business we require at least 3 years of outside experience, and a promotion that requires you to manage others, before working for the family business. It’s been about five years that I’ve been working for my family’s business. I started working as an associate marketing manager on our estate and family brands and then, right around when Covid happened, moved into more of a digital marketing role, helping to enhance our family website and our direct to consumer business, on our family owned brands, which are Rutherford Hill in Napa, Chimney Rock in Napa, Sanford in Santa Barbara, Klipsun in Washington State, and Terlato Vineyards in Friuli, Italy. I’ve also worked on our direct to consumer website,, where you can purchase most wines from our portfolio. Now I work as a marketing manager, continuing to manage all of the assets on our websites as well as some exciting side projects that I’ve been able to work on. During my time working for the company, I also earned a WSET ll Certificate, Sake Specialist Certificate and Diploma in Wine Management and Gastronomy from Le Cordon Bleu in London.

wine tasting

LS: So let’s start from the beginning. Tell us a little about your family history and how Terlato came to be.

ET: We are a fourth generation family business headquartered in a suburb right outside of Chicago. It all started in 1938 when my great grandfather, Anthony Paterno, owned his own retail store here in Chicago. Eventually, my grandfather, Anthony Terlato, son-in-law of Anthony Paterno, began working in the retail store for his father-in-law. And eventually, as the company continued to grow, he became the CEO, and then Chairmen in later years. At
which point my father, Bill, became the CEO in the 90s and is the existing president and CEO. As a family business, we’re dedicated to continuing to build and foster long term relationships, and work exclusively with other family owned businesses. Many people don’t realize this, but all of the brands represented in the Terlato portfolio are family owned.
We strongly believe in supporting other family owned businesses who have a like-minded vision and passion for what they do. One thing that is consistent across many family owned brands, especially in the beverage industry, is quality. So when looking at our history, you’ll notice that we have been successful in every level of the industry. We started out as retailers, as mentioned, then went on to be wholesalers, eventually selling our distributing business, and then importers, marketers as well as winery and vineyard owners. This
experience in all aspects of the industry makes us unique.

Wine bottles

LS: You guys recently got into Spirit Brands as well. Can you tell us a little bit about your current Spirit Brands’ distilling process?

ET: We’re very excited about the growth of our spirit portfolio. We represent a handful of premium artisan spirits. We recently acquired Riazul Tequila, and Dublin Ink Irish Whisky, and are investing in bourbon, as well.


Napa Valley Vineyard

LS: Are there any obstacles that you’ve had to overcome working together as a family?

ET: Yes – it can be difficult in a family business to know when to stop. It’s not your typical 9 to 5, and it’s important to learn how to have a healthy separation between work life and family life, especially when your work comes home with you to the dinner table. Another big one in general is family planning and governance. As the years go on and each generation continues to get larger, it’s best to move forward with a plan for the next generation versus picking up the pieces later on. It’s also about maintaining the family vision and tradition, while also staying relevant and current
in our ever changing industry and world.

Wine barrels

LS: What do you enjoy most about working as a family owned company?

ET: The fact that you’re working for something greater than yourself. My hope is that our brands and portfolio will continue to evolve and grow and that we continue to have future generations involved.


LS: What do you think separates Terlato from other competitors that are out there?

ET: Definitely the fact that we are family owned and we want to continue as a multi-generational family company. It is also the years of experience and success that we have had, in all aspects of the industry, that has positioned us as leaders in luxury for more than 50 years. All while being dedicated to our simple philosophy – “Quality Endures.”

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