Tony Terlato introduced Americans to Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio in 1979, and it quickly became one of America's favorite premium wines. Recently voted the most popular imported wine, red or white, in top restaurants for the 14th consecutive year (Wine & Spirits, April 2009), Santa Margherita remains a favorite among wine enthusiasts for its crisp, ripe character and consistent quality.
Pinot Grigio was an unknown varietal in the United States in 1979 when Tony Terlato, then a young importer of Italian wines, went to Italy in search of the "next great white wine". He believed that as Americans' appreciation and knowledge of fine wines continued to grow, there would be demand for a complex, high-quality white wine. At a Milan hotel, Tony tasted a Pinot Grigio with a medium body, an elegant aroma that was fruity and spicy, and a crisp taste--he knew he had found his grape. He changed his travel plans and immediately drove to the small town of Portoguaro in Northern Italy's Alto Adige region, the premier area for growing Pinot Grigio. Upon arriving, Tony sat down at a small restaurant in a local inn and ordered 18 bottles of Pinot Grigio off of the wine list. Seeing the wealth of wines at a table with only one diner, the inn's proprietor joined him, and they tasted through the wines, testing each bottle against a variety of foods. By the conclusion of the dinner, they agreed on the best wine at the table: Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio.
As is the nature of small-town life in Italy, the inn's proprietor knew the owners of Santa Margherita. The next day Tony met with Santa Margherita's president, Count Marzotto. When he left that evening, Terlato Wines International (then Paterno Imports) was the sole importer. Back in the United States, Terlato made Santa Margherita a mainstay on wine lists in the nation's finest restaurants.
Today, as Pinot Grigio has become the most popular imported wine in America, Santa Margherita continues to be the varietal's standard-bearer of quality, and Tony Terlato has been widely-recognized as the father of Pinot Grigio.