Benefit Auctioneer Tom DiNardo is First US Auctioneer to Become a Credentialed Sommelier – November 16, 2007 — After successfully graduating from the International Sommelier Guild’s grueling eighteen month long Sommelier Diploma Program, renowned charity auctioneer Tom DiNardo is the first auctioneer in the United States to become a fully credentialed sommelier. A sommelier is a person with extensive knowledge about oenology and wine and food pairings. “Completing ISG’s comprehensive wine education program was far more intense than my meeting the basic requirements in completing my Bachelor of Arts degree” recalls DiNardo.

Benefit Auctioneer Tom DiNardo is the first auctioneer in the nation to become a sommelier diplomate.Tom DiNardo grew up in a Sicilian-Irish household in which wine was a part of every dinner. Prior to the founding of DiNardo & Lord Auctioneers in 1993 Tom DiNardo had worked within the wine industry in both California and Washington. “It’s only natural that my lifelong passion for wine has carried forward into my auction career. Pursuing my sommelier education has been the ultimate education accomplishment in my auctioneer career path so far,” said DiNardo.

Unafraid of challenges, Mr. DiNardo has firmly built his nationally recognized fundraising auction firm upon a track record of his achieving many firsts within the benefit auction industry. “I am one of the very few professional auctioneers to date who has pioneered the ultra exclusive niche of charity wine auctions within the United States.” Charity wine auctions such as the Naples Winter Wine Festival, Auction Napa Valley and California Winemasters are amongst the top fund-raising auctions events in the nation today. “I was the first charity auctioneer in the country to join the Association of Fundraising Professionals in rallying fellow benefit auctioneers to charge their non-profit clients only a flat fee versus charging them a percentage commission,” recounts DiNardo. Charity auctioneer Rowlan Hill of Phoenix, Arizona said, “The results of Tom DiNardo’s forward thinking, such as joining AFP and other innovative actions he has chosen, have created many trends that are today being followed by many other successful charity auctioneers.”

How did your career as a wine auctioneer begin? Tom DiNardo left a sales career in the wine industry to begin a new career in the auction industry in 1993. Mr. DiNardo said he realized early on that the fundraising auction niche was highly competitive. Tom recalls, “I had to find a niche within the auction industry that set me apart from my competition immediately, and charity wine auctions was the answer.” Early on in his career Tom DiNardo remembers that there were far more ambivalent people than clients interested in asking him questions about his auction firm’s services. “Ultimately I landed my first charity wine auction gig, but I knew that the road was going to be a steep uphill climb without my earning and possessing more wine credentials” says DiNardo. A huge fan of continuing education, Tom DiNardo received his training and designation as a certified appraiser, specializing in wine appraisal, and today he is a master wine appraiser registered with the US Appraisal Foundation. Tom DiNardo further persevered in building his wine auctioneer credentials by becoming a freelance wine writer for esteemed wine magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, Decanter, Santé and Wine Adventure magazines as well as becoming a full time contributor to and Tom DiNardo ascended another career peak becoming a contract auctioneer with ERI’s retail wine auction gallery in Chicago.

Your credentials as a benefit auctioneer and charity wine auctioneer are impressive! Why did you decide to pursue a sommelier education and diploma? “I wanted to achieve something that no other charity auctioneer had ever done. I wanted to become the best qualified charity wine auctioneer in the country,” said DiNardo. Mr. DiNardo examined the successful careers of many of world’s top wine auctioneers such as Michael Broadbent, Fritz Hatten, Ann Colgin and Humphrey Butler in making the choices that would ultimately benefit his personal career. According to Tom DiNardo, “There are many sommelier training programs available throughout the world, but only three sommelier organizations that offer wine credentials that are recognized worldwide. After I discussed the various wine education programs that are currently available with various wine industry colleagues and fellow sommelier David Le Claire, I had narrowed down my program choices to the International Sommelier Guild, the Court of Master Sommeliers, or the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. The International Sommelier Guild’s sommelier diploma program is an intense eighteen month long commitment to excellence in learning as much as humanly possible about wine and oenology. I chose ISG’s program and I became a sommelier diplomate,” states DiNardo.

What made the sommelier training so intense? “Juggling my career and the demands of my company, class studying and homework, and managing a personal life made it difficult, but my commitment carried me through. My first two International Sommelier Guild classes, Fundamentals I and Fundamentals II, were held in Vancouver, British Columbia which also added a bit of an international challenge,” says DiNardo. Mark Davidson, the former ISG Vice President and current guild instructor, said “The Sommelier Diploma Program class lasts for several months, one day a week, and each class is eight hours long. Tom faced an incredible challenge completing his sommelier diploma, as he commuted once a week from Bellingham, Washington to Los Angeles, California in order to graduate from the class.”

Are all sommeliers credentialed? Tom DiNardo emphatically states, “In my humble opinion: yes! Unfortunately, today there are far too many people laying claim to sommelier credentials that they have not justifiably earned. I have met some people who have taken only one wine course out of a series, or worse someone who possesses no wine training at all, and then these people arrogantly misrepresent themselves as sommeliers. The wine industry refers to these people as “wannabes” or “cork dorks”! Now even in the charity auction industry, there are a few individuals who lay claim to sommelier credentials they simply have not earned. The old adage would appear to apply: the proof is in the pudding, or in an actual sommelier diploma. Don’t get me wrong; as I truly wish more people would take wine classes. There are many wine courses offered that are geared to fit a range of experience levels from beginner to advanced connoisseur or oenophile.” Will your sommelier training and education continue? “The wine industry throughout the world is literally changing almost on a daily basis. As a sommelier, it is important to keep up with those changes and advances. Being a sommelier is a passionate journey and a personal lifelong experience,” says DiNardo.

What are your future career goals, Tom? “DiNardo & Lord Auctioneers is a fundraising auction firm first and foremost. Charity wine auctions are not all that we do, but are a unique area of specialization and a niche that I personally believe that my company caters to best! Of course, I am looking to grow my fundraising auction firm, and I would like to become more involved in some larger charity wine auctions, but I have plenty of time. Currently, I have many other irons in the fire, as I am receiving more frequent requests for wine appraisals, freelance wine writing assignments, wine educator opportunities, and the occasional wine consulting job. In the meantime I will be enjoying a well deserved break.”