July 3 would have marked Tom Caufield’s 53 birthday. Happy Birthday, Tom! Even though he is no longer with us, we will continue to celebrate the man whom we all had the honor of knowing.
On April 12, 2018, our great friend and coworker Tom Caufield passed away, surrounded by his family, after a long battle with lymphoma. Many of you knew Tom from the wine aisles at New Pioneer Coralville, and even more knew him through his witty and wacky-in-the-best-of-ways wine descriptions on our shelves in all three stores over the years (not to mention the wonderful wines he picked out to fill your glasses). He was the eponymous Tom of “Tom's Top Ten Wines,” our coverboy for the Bacchus-themed Wine Freak Out tastings for many years (yes, he modeled in a toga for photos of our very own Bacchus), and he hand-selected wines in vineyards all over the world. He was all about Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a Francophile through and through, and a writer, too. He truly blazed his own smart, spirited trail, with a one-of-a-kind presence and mind, and there was no one quite like him.
Tom made many a friend in the wine aisle of New Pi, as well as deep friendships with his co-workers. One of his longtime coworkers, Miss Nik, asked to share some of her memories with us.
Happy birthday and cheers to my longtime friend, Tom.
Beginning over 20 years ago, we spoke almost daily. You were the cool New Pi Wine guy, and I was the new girl at the Bakehouse. I was so excited and proud that you called me your good friend and thought I had a “head for wine.” You thought I had a good palate and liked my writing, and that meant the world to me coming from you. I was so honored to be working closely with you—the Wine Guy. I wanted to learn all I could from you and with you; that will never stop.
We shared many travels and adventures seeking out new and exciting wines for our customers. We learned and grew together as colleagues, always seeking out more knowledge about the living history that is wine and discovering fun and quirky details about the people who made it, and the places it spoke of. It is the original “craft beverage,” as our good friend and winegrower Fred Peterson said the other day as he raised a glass of his ’94 Dry Creek Zin (the first of his wines you brought back from your first California trip in ’96) to toast to your memory. You championed wines grown and raised by farmers, whose skill, love,
and respect for the earth and its fruits are reflected in the bottles on our shelves. You were (and still are) a vital link in the farm to table connection. . . .
I know you didn’t like birthdays, but on July 3rd, I’ll definitely be toasting to your memory, probably with a bottle from your cellar, maybe read one of your old books, or listen to one of your CDs, still learning with and from you.
So happy birthday, Tom. I love you and miss you, my good old friend.
On July 3, please raise your favorite glass of wine — quite likely a favorite that Tom directed you to — and toast to Tom, the great memories he shared with us, and all that fantastic wine he brought into our lives!
Happy Birthday, Tom!!
If you have any fond memories to share about Tom, please add in the comments below.