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Mixing It Up

Bill Terlato adds artisanal spirits to his family company's luxury portfolio.

Bill Terlato

To understand the bold entry of Terlato Wines into the artisanal spirits market, it may be helpful to consider first the tequila: namely, Riazul, made entirely from blue agave. “We didn’t want to just have spirits,” says Bill Terlato, president and CEO of the company. “We wanted handcrafted, family-owned, high-quality spirits. We take a wine approach: For years, other people have offered us tequilas, but we turned them down. The family that we are working with owns their land, so they control their own agave. When we have a vineyard where we grow our own grapes, we produce better wine than if we buy grapes from someone else.”

The new portfolio—grappa, rum, gin, cognac, vodka, tequila and a tiramisu liqueur, as well as singlemalt, single-cask scotches from Adelphi (that’s the 21-year-old Bunnahabhain, above, $220)—may come as a bit of a surprise, but the company’s approach is as it has always been. Today, out of its verdant headquarters in a Tudor-style mansion in Lake Bluff, Terlato Wines enjoys the leading U.S. market share for wines above the $20 price point—almost all of them from smaller producers. “We don’t work with public companies,” Terlato says. “They have a different timeline. We have four generations in the business now—so I am thinking about success as built for decades.”

Terlato’s Hots
“You have to be passionate about what you do—but you also have to be committed.”

Terlato's Nots
“You know, life is too short to eat mediocre food and drink mediocre wine.”