Jay James

Master Sommelier

An alumnus of Georgia Tech, Jay grew up in Atlanta, Georgia dreaming about playing guitar in a rock band (which he did), flying jets (which he did not), and got into the wine business by accident – just like almost everyone else. In 1989, following a three-year, highly educational stint with the Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta, Jay was first charged with creating a new wine program at the 400-seat Ray’s on the River in North Atlanta. Jay found himself completely at home in the study of wine, a field which does not embrace any one subject at the exclusion of others.

After pursuing further education in wine and earning the Master Sommelier Diploma in 1997, Jay joined the opening team of the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas as the Director of Wine in 1998, where he developed new systems for the management and delivery of wine inventory, selected and managed a team of 18 sommeliers, and provided wine education for more than 2,000 service staff within 26 separate venues at the resort. When he departed, Bellagio was recognized as the most successful single hotel wine program in the world. In 2005, Jay joined Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada, ultimately achieving the post of Vice President of Fine Wine.

Jay entered a new chapter with a move to the Napa Valley in 2013, taking on the role of Director of Sales for Chappellet Winery, where he led sales efforts in all channels and guided marketing endeavors. Following a year with Larkmead Vineyards as Vice President, General Manager, in April 2021 Jay joined the team at Joseph Phelps Vineyards as Vice President of Sales, where he is overseeing all sales efforts for the legendary estate. Additionally, Jay currently serves as Co-Chairman of SommFoundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that exists to further beverage education, elevate the sommelier profession, and provide relevant scholarships and educational opportunities.

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