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Nashville Moment: Tom Black

Business leader turned winemaker and collector, Tom Black is this year’s Norman M. Lipman Award recipient.

Written By:  Megan O’Neill

Photographers:  Shannon Fontaine

Tom Black, Wine Maker

Tom Black, business-leader-turned-winemaker-and-collector, has transformed into one of the world’s most knowledgeable and sought-after wine experts—with a cellar that rivals the best. Black is this year’s Norman M. Lipman Award recipient and will be celebrated during the Nashville Wine Auction’s 38th Annual L’eté du Vin, which has been dubbed the Summer of Wine, that culminates in July’s charity wine auction and dinner, themed California Collectibles, to benefit cancer-related organizations and hospitals.

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First impressions: “In 1984, my boss asked me if I knew anything about wine and food, as I was going to be expected to entertain customers and prospects. I knew nothing,” Black says. He began reading and learning, starting a wine collection in 1986 that focused almost exclusively on California wines. Today, Black prefers a Bordeaux and has created one of the most extensive and recognized wine collections in the United States, with his cellar reaching 60,000 bottles at one point.

Winemaking: “I was donating wine before, but it wasn’t wine that I made,” so, in 2001, he began producing wine with Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, who Black says is “one of the greatest winemakers in the world—if not the greatest,” to be donated strictly to charities, including the Nashville Wine Auction.

Going once: “The Nashville Wine Auction gave me an outlet to share my passion with other people,” Black says. “The bottle of wine is a certain size; it wasn’t designed for one person to drink by his or herself. It was made that size so it could be shared. That’s what we do at the wine auction—we share.”

Bidding: L’eté du Vin is the country’s longest-running charity wine auction. “It is the most amazing event in Nashville. It just is,” Black says. “There will be 350 to 400 people bidding on trips to the wine region or bidding on exclusive wines that you can’t find anywhere else in Nashville.” In its 38 years, the Nashville Wine Auction (which also offers luxury items, gourmet tastings, and one-of-a-kind travel opportunities to bid on) has raised more than $21 million for cancer-related causes.

Honoree: The Norman M. Lipman Award, which recognizes those in the industry who have embraced its namesake’s humanitarian qualities, is an honor, Black says.

“A lot of my friends have received this award, so it makes me feel good to be in this group of other great men and women who have made wine their passion and have turned it into the benefit of our community.”

Vintage giving: “In the wine world, if anyone has an interest or a passion in it, collectors will share with you. We have a very active wine community in Nashville, and the generation that has passed was very generous with me when I was young. I really try to carry on that tradition.”

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