Jay James, MS
An alumnus of Georgia Tech, Jay grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1989, following a three-year, highly educational stint with the Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta, Jay was teaching guitar lessons and working as a part-time employee of the 400-seat Ray’s on the River in North Atlanta. It was here that Jay was first charged with creating a new wine program. Jay found himself completely at home in the study of wine.
Jay passed the Master Sommelier exam in 1997, becoming only the 32nd American to successfully complete it. In 1998 Jay joined the opening team of the Bellagio Resort in Las Vegas as the Director of Wine, where he developed new systems for the management and delivery of 120,000 bottles of wine inventory cellared in 20 separate locations. Jay selected and managed a team of 15 sommeliers and provided wine education for more than 2,000 service staff serving in 26 restaurants. Bellagio was generating in excess of $30 million in annual wine revenues when he departed and was recognized at the time 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. 2013 saw Jay move to the Napa Valley joining Chappellet Vineyards as Director of Trade Sales. He leads Chappellet’s sales efforts in all trade channels as well as guiding marketing endeavors.
Jay is often a featured speaker at top wine and food events. He has appeared in a long list of national publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, The Wine Spectator, Restaurant Wine and other wine and beverage specific magazines. He has competed as a United States finalist in both the Grand Prix du Sopexa Sommelier Competition and the Concours Mondial du Sommeliers. Jay is a member and past officer of the Court of Master Sommeliers. He currently serves as Chairman of SommFoundation (The Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation).