My Tribute to Tony

My Tribute to Tony

Tony Terlato was a pioneer in the wine industry who built a successful business from the ground up and forever changed how you and I drink and enjoy wine today.

Tony was also my boss, who, when I was at my lowest of lows, gave me the job opportunity of a lifetime to work directly for him.

Tony's Office at Tangley Oaks

I'll never forget the first time we met at my interview. He was wearing the most amazing burgundy Gucci suit and smelled of fine cigar, luxurious leather, and mahogany wood. His desk was covered with unopened wine bottles and photos of his beautiful family. I felt like I had walked into a scene of The Sopranos or The Godfather. There was even Italian opera music playing softly in the background. I couldn't help but chuckle a little when I first heard it - everything about him was just perfect.

I remember it was five minutes into my interview and he had just glanced at my resume for a few seconds, put it aside, paused, and leaned back softly into his chair. He looked at me, smiled, then asked, "So tell me, what got you so interested in wine?"

Prior to my interview with Tony, I had read up on his extraordinary wine career as a retailer, distributor, importer, and winery owner. A Google search told about his unofficial, official title of being "the FATHER of Pinot Grigio" because he was the first to introduce the Pinot Grigio varietal to the American market. The man had lightyears on me when it came to wine - so I decided to go with my gut and answer his question from my heart. I knew there was a risk that he and I didn't share the same philosophy. But I knew that if I had an opportunity to add value to Terlato Wines, then it would have to be from the very passion and drive that helped me get an interview with him. It had to be from a real and passionate place. I was through doing things for the sake of just making a paycheck.

I answered him with the story of how I discovered my joy in educating people about wine. The purpose of why I made this very blog. Simplifying the overly complex nature of wine to empower others to go outside their comfort zones and appreciate wine as it is and should be.
I remember he listened intently and made no response or reaction until I was completely finished. I remember nervously ending my story, and after a long pause (that felt like hours) he smiled again and said, "Wow, you totally get it."

For two hours we combed through the internet analyzing wine competitors and other wine resources we both admired. I left the interview with an assignment as if I was already working for him. I remember calling my Dad afterward frustrated because I was so confused... was I just hired?

Looking back I realize that he was just being who he was. He wasn't playing any hiring or mind games, he was just being his purposeful and intentional self. Maybe he didn't say the words "you're hired" because that part didn't matter to him. He and I both shared the same passion and intentions in appreciating wine. That was just a checkmark off his list and in his mind, it was just time to get to work.

There is a direct quote taken by Marvin Shanken, editor and publisher of Wine Spectator, that resonates with me on a very personal level -

"Tony Terlato did so much for the wine world. He knew every aspect of the business, and everything he touched he made better."

I know firsthand how true that statement is because of the deep impact he had on my life and career. I'll forever be grateful for Tony Terlato.

To celebrate Tony's life and the tremendous impact he made on the wine industry - I created the below photo album.

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