Josephine Terlato


“Don’t sweat the small stuff.”

After proving her skill set and work ethic at Southern Wine & Spirits, Josephine Terlato became the fourth generation family member to work at Terlato Wines International when she was appointed to Illinois regional manager for its Premier Division in May. According to her father, CEO Bill Terlato, “Jo has made a positive impact in the wine industry in a short period of time. She learned a lot and was very well trained. She grew up around the wine business but established her reputation in the wine industry at Southern over the past three-and-a-half years.” While chatting with Ms. Terlato, her sharpness, warmth and overall likeability shined through. She’s as sweet as ‘the good life’ she’s earned.

What do you like most about the wine biz? Between the wine makers and restaurateurs we work with, great people and great food and wine.

Perks and quirks of working with family? Perks: I’m very close with my family, and it’s just really special to be able to work with my family doing something we all love and have a passion for. Quirks: I don’t know that there are very many. When your family is involved in your work, you’re basically working all of the time; it never stops.

What are the three most important things that people should know about wine? 1. Be experimental; try as many wines as you can. 2. Trust your own palate; there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to wine, it’s just what you prefer and like. 3. If it says Terlato on the front or back label, you know it will be a great wine.

Favorite Chicago charity. Boys and Girls Club of Chicago.

Married? Yes, to my job. And I’m engaged to Alexi Giannoulias (prominent Chicago businessman and former Illinois Treasurer).

Favorite wine of yours to… Drink: Chimney Rock Elevage Blanc Gift: Terlato Family Vineyards Pinot Noir Save: Gaja Barbaresco.

Biggest celebrity chef crush? Oh my gosh, I don’t know if I have one. Any chef who can make a really good, authentic pasta dish.

Favorite Chicago restaurant that… Is a hidden gem: Kanela Breakfast Club  Is for special occasions: Everest You frequent most often: GT Fish & Oyster.

Favorite Reality TV show? I’m a huge reality TV fan; it’s my guilty pleasure. I love Top Chef.

Favorite cookbook? Recipes from my grandpa, grandma and mom. We have over 1,000 family recipes. Whenever I need to cook anything, I go to my family for a recipe — not a cookbook.

Favorite travel destination? I love Europe, especially the Greek Islands. Crete is my favorite.

Favorite grocery store? Mariano’s.
Me too. I live right across the street from one. Have you tried their donuts? They’re amazing. I wish I didn’t know that.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse? In my personal life, my fiancée would say I overuse the word ‘literally.’ And in my work life I always say, “Just get it done.”

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would try to be more patient.

What superpower would you like to have? Teleportation – at the speed of light.

Greatest love of your life? Food, cooking, family and friends – all things that you can enjoy with great wine.

Greatest regret? Life’s too short to have regrets, I don’t have any.

If you weren’t in the wine business, what would you do? I’d be either a teacher or lawyer.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Generally speaking, carving out my own path through my strong work ethic and not taking anything for granted. I could have gone directly to work with my family. I worked at Southern Wine & Spirits the three-and a-half-years as a sales rep and then a manager on-premise the last year-and-a-half.

Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew five years ago? Don’t sweat the small stuff.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you? My grandfather said this to me: “Work hard and be yourself, because you only have one chance to make a good first impression.”

Sarah Levy

About Sarah Levy Imberman

Sarah Levy delighted millions as the owner and proprietor of Sarah's Pastries & Candies, one of Chicago's most popular confectionaries since its opening in 2004. A graduate of Northwestern University and the French Pastry School, Ms. Levy is the author of Sweetness: Delicious Baked Treats for Every Occasion and the winner of the Food Network Challenge. She’s been featured in USA TodayBetter Homes and Gardens and the Chicago Tribune, among many others. Ms. Levy's now doing business as S. Levy Foods, and is a leader in the airport food concession business.