Friday, February 12, 2010

Talking Valentines and Pinot with Anthony Terlato

Anthony Terlato, the Chairman of Lake Bluff based Terlato Wines International has earned a reputation for quality wines sourced from vineyards throughout the world. Some of the brands he markets include Domaine Chanson from France, Santa Margherita from Italy, Angelo Gaja's wines from Italy, the classic Champagne house Bollanger and the Rhone based Michel Chapoutier. He produces wine at his family owned wineries Rutherford Hill in Napa and Chimney Rock in Stags Leap and Sanford in Santa Barbara. He also bottles under his own family name Terlato Family Vineyards, with grapes grown in Sonoma, Santa Barbara and Napa Valley.

In his book, Taste: A Life in Wine, Mr. Terlato engagingly wrote about his fifty year career. Like the late Robert Mondavi, Mr. Terlato is one of a handful of American winemakers and executives who have promoted wine as a lifestyle; a desirable, almost necessary addition to the American diner's table.

With Valentine's Day approaching and the release of Terlato Family Vineyard's first Pinot Noir, Mr. Terlato graciously agreed to a phone interview to discuss romance, Pinot, his career, and of course, more PInot!

He first mentioned his preferences about Pinot Noir, and how he decided where to grow the grapes for this project. "I am a Francophile; I admire the California style of Pinot Noir, but prefer Burgundy. I represented some excellent Burgundy houses early in my career such as Louis Latour and Domaine Chanson. Several of my winemakers spent time in Burgundy houses, studying rootstocks and clones. We want to make the most French style possible and believe that the regions of Santa Barbara and the Russian River Valley are the most similar."

This follows a pattern that he has applied to his other Terlato Family wines; finding the best region to cultivate a specific grape whether it's Stag's Leap for his Cabernet, Rutherford Valley in Napa for his Chardonnay and Dry Creek Valley for his Syrah.

He described Pinot Noir as typically having a strawberry or raspberry aroma; using adjectives such as delicate, elegant and voluptuous; especially praising the wine of Domaine Trapet for its soft elegance. The best have a potential for aging that may not seem obvious at first because of their light color. "I still have some 1955's in my cellar that are softer now but more flavors become apparent over time."

Mr. Terlato didn't specific recommend a Pinot Noir for a Valentine's Day dinner, but did mention that it might be a more appropriate choice than some more "vigorous" wines. He didn't give specifics, but (listen up, guys!) I suspect a Cabernet or a higher alcohol Zinfandel might work better on another occasion.

After tasting his Russian River Valley Pinot, he recommended both some Old World producers (Domaine Dujac, Domaine Chanson in the Cote - d"Or) as well as the New World (Rochioli Vineyards from the Russian River Valley).


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