Chief Executive Officer of Terlato Wine Group and Terlato Wines since 2008, William A. “Bill” Terlato continues to blaze new trails through innovation, reaffirming his family’s position as the premier importer, marketer and vintner of luxury wine in the United States. Today, due in large part to his vision and dynamic leadership, Terlato Wines has a leading market share of wines $20 and up sold in the U.S.
Building on a tradition of excellence his father and grandfathers established more than 60 years ago, Bill Terlato has expanded the company’s luxury portfolio far beyond its original core business of importing fine Italian wines. Terlato now represents acclaimed family-owned premium wine producers from Italy, France, Austria, Spain, Greece, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Japan, Canada and California, fostering powerful brands.
In 1994 he was appointed President of the company. During his tenure, Terlato has maintained a disciplined focus on leading in the Fine Wine Segment, investing in proprietary consumer research and crafting the company’s portfolio to read like the world’s greatest wine list. Terlato Wines now represents more than 80 global wine brands, covering the world’s finest regions, varietals and styles.
As President, Terlato made the strategic decision to move into wine production and vineyard management. In 2002, he led the family’s decision to sell its five Illinois distributorships, and focus all of its resources on building Terlato Wine Group (TWG), and investing in fine wine production around the world. His family, now four generations in the wine business, has entered and succeeded at every aspect of the wine business — as retailers, distributors, importers, marketers, winery owners and vineyard developers. In 1996, with the purchase of Napa Valley’s Rutherford Hill Winery, the family completed the circle and became producers. Founded in 1976, Rutherford Hill pioneered the development of California Merlot, which remains its signature varietal.
Under Terlato’s leadership, more investments in winemaking and vineyards followed. Today, along with Rutherford Hill, TWG also owns Chimney Rock Winery (Stags Leap District, Napa Valley); Terlato Vineyards (Napa, Sonoma and Friuli Colli Orientali, Italy); EPISODE (Napa Valley); Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier (Victoria, Australia); and holds majority interest in Sanford Winery (Santa Barbara County), and sole ownership of the iconic Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, the first vineyard in Santa Barbara to be planted to Pinot Noir. The company also holds interests in M. Chapoutier (Rhône Valley, France) and joint ventures in Australia, Italy and California.
In 2013, Terlato spearheaded the formation of Terlato Artisan Spirits. The portfolio began with a collection of best-in-class spirits including Riazul Tequila, Don Pancho Origenes Rum, Langley’s No. 8 Gin and others.
In 2015, Terlato expanded the Spirits division with a joint venture with Distell USA, an arm of South Africa’s largest spirits company, Distell. With the JV, TD Artisan Spirits broadens it reach across the country with a larger sales force and exceptional portfolio additions that include some of the most renowned Scotch whiskies in the world from Bunnahabhan, Ledaig, Deanston and Tobermory, as well as Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky, Black Bottle Blended Whisky, and Amarula liqueur, among others.
Always with an eye toward the future, Terlato also launched a new Pinot Grigio in 2015 under his family’s name – Terlato Friuli Pinot Grigio. After building another brand of imported Pinot Grigio for more than 36 years into the #1 imported Italian white wine in America, Terlato wanted to establish a new benchmark of excellence for Pinot Grigio. He partnered with renowned Italian viticulturists Simonit & Sirch, from Friuli, Italy, and the trio worked to craft a Pinot Grigio that has set a new standard, becoming the highest ever rated Pinot Grigio (93 points).
Terlato is active in many organizations dedicated to the knowledge and appreciation of fine wine. Current memberships include Commanderie de Bordeaux, Confrerie des Tastevin and The Renaissance Club. He was Honorary Chair for the 2003 Detroit Wine Auction as well as the 2007 Tres Bonne Année auction in Pennsylvania.
Terlato is very active in the business community, with memberships in The Economic Club of Chicago and The Commercial Club of Chicago. In 2012, he was honored as Businessman of the Year by the Italian American Chamber of Commerce. In September 2013, he was honored as Industry Executive of the Year at the Market Watch Leaders Awards Dinner. In 2015 Cronache di Gusto, Italy's foremost wine publication, named him one of the "Top 100 Most Important People" in wine globally.
Outside of the wine industry, Terlato is committed to education and community. Terlato was a member of the Steering Committee for the Lake Forest Country Day School Capital Campaign from 2002-2007 with his wife, Debbie, who co-chaired the Capital Campaign and was a trustee from 1996-2002. Bill and Debbie were members of the Parents Committee at Duke University from 2004-2011, and co-chairs of the committee from 2008-2011. They also served on the Parents Committee at University of Miami, where Bill is also on the Board of Advisors to the School of Communication