Tom Ward - Your ATL Vineyard Express Concierge
ATL Vineyard Express is an idea that was brought to life after 25 years in the wine industry, and visiting wineries, by Tom, after a trip to Napa with his friends. It was like a light bulb went off after he had planned the trip, and afterwards hearing that “in the 25 years that I’ve been coming to Napa, this is the best trip I’ve ever had.” That type of feedback started the ball rolling and gave birth to ATL Vineyard Express.
Tom was first bit by the wine bug when he was working at Crown in South Florida. While he was there he was exposed to fine wines while at work. He took an immediate interest in wine, and visited Napa several times through his 20’s and 30’s. He shot a pilot for a wine and food show at Peju in his mid-30’s, and began networking in the wine industry, as well as pouring at tastings for a friend of his that owned a wine shop here in Atlanta. At that point, he started honing his pallet and wine knowledge.
It wasn’t until he started working at Total Wine and More that he had an “ah-ha” moment while he was helping a customer select the perfect wine for his Christmas meal. The customer looked at Tom and said, “So your career is in wine.” That was the deciding moment, and, at that point, Tom decided to learn as much as he could about wine, believing that if he prepared himself and expended his knowledge and professional network, his opportunity for something bigger would occur. He was certified as a Bordeaux expert during this time and passed his certification with a 98% score. Then a friend of his that was a representative for a German winery was leaving his position and recommended Tom to take his place in that role. While Tom was not a huge Riesling fan, he would not let this opportunity pass him up, and was open to what awaited him.
He went to Germany and picked grapes in legendary vineyards in historic Mosel River Valley. He was the National Sales Manager for the Pauly family. They’ve been operating a family winery for several hundred years. They make several labels: Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler; Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler; Peter Nicolay, and many more. While spending time in the Mosel, he fell in love with Riesling and it’s many different styles. It was an eye-opening education, and experience, as he traveled to Germany several times, as well as all over the U.S., selling what was arguably the hardest wine to sell.
After three years on the road, and beginning to plant roots at home, Tom needed a change. Continuing with his wine education, Tom received his level 2 WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) certification, with distinction, the highest merit one could achieve. He thought about what his next step was going to be for a long time, when the idea for ATL Vineyard Express was born.
Tom’s life, knowledge, and passion for wine is something that he is excited to share with every guest that he comes in contact with and looks forward to joining them on their wine education and experiences.