The SOMM Journal

August / September 2016

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Page 93 of 148

{ }  93 THOUGH BILL TERLATO LOVES MANY TYPES OF WINE, to say that Pinot Grigio holds a special place in his heart would be an understatement. As head of Terlato Wines, the global luxury wine company started by his family in the second half of the last century, Terlato sells a lot of wine, and as such, has a handle on what sells and why. And, as head of Terlato Wine Group, his family's wine holding company with production interests from Napa to Italy and beyond, he's also got the ability to look at the industry from both sides, spot trends and know what needs to be done to make a wine successful. Some of this Terlato learned from his father, Tony, who in the 1960s was responsible for putting Pinot Grigio on the map, eventually earning him the nickname "Father of Pinot Grigio." However, much of it Terlato has learned along the way, with a keen eye and open ears. So, when he did an assessment of the Pinot Grigio category a few years ago and saw what had become of it, Terlato quickly decided that if he was going to right the ship, he would need to make a benchmark Pinot Grigio of his own, in Italy. "Our father created the market for Pinot Grigio," says Terlato, "but over the years saw the category we championed become commercial and many wines were neutral and even bland—nothing like what Pinot Grigio can be . We felt we needed to change that." He also knew he would need to be at the top of his game. No small task in today's world of wine marketing, where a wine's pedigree is often overlooked and the perception among consumers of what makes a wine good is so often tied to its retail price. Yet, Terlato knew that if he approached it the right way, his effort would be a success. Step one would be securing the right fruit. "Pinot Grigio, while grown all over Italy, is happiest and most expressive when grown in the north, where moderating growing conditions help bring out the best in the fruit," says Terlato. To that end, he went to one of the best production regions for the varietal—Friuli Colli Orientali, in Italy's northeast—and started inquiring. There Terlato was introduced to viticulturists Simonit & Sirch, world-renowned pruners whose groundbreaking vineyard work is changing the way vineyards are being cared for. "Rather than just cut back last year's growth, we prune by working in tune with a vine's lymphatic system to help minimize stress and maximize longevity," says Simonit, who, along with Sirch, a third-generation producer, was born and raised in Friuli. "And when working with sick vines, we assess the issue and try to repair it through surgical techniques before replanting—a last resort," adds Sirch. "These guys are changing the game for everyone," says Terlato. "We all want to make wine from older vines and hate to replant and play the waiting game for mature fruit. By working to lengthen a vine's productive lifespan, we won't have to." Terlato's new Pinot Grigio (SRP $20), made at Sirch's family winery from 20- to 30-year- old vines grown on estate-controlled hillside vineyards managed using Simonit & Sirch meth - ods—with Bill's vision of creating a new standard for the varietal in mind—is the culmination of this effort. Rich, concentrated and full of citrus and minerality, it is a Pinot Grigio to savor, not quaff—and may just help secure this oft- misunderstood varietal's future as a world-class wine. Along with a much smaller- production sister wine, Friulano (SRP $24), made to the same exacting standards, Terlato Pinot Grigio from the highly regarded Friuli Colli Orientali DOC is avail - able nationwide. The team of Simonit & Sirch performs "modern vine surgery" in their viticulture practice. The Terlato Pinot Grigio is from the Friuli Colli Orientali DOC, a classic appellation for this varietal.

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