In September 2023, Benchmark Wine Group warmly welcomed Master Sommelier Jay James as our President. Jay brings a wealth of knowledge to our team thanks to his nearly four decades in the fine and rare wine industry.
“We selected Jay based on his unique experience in service, distribution, production and retail in the top-end, wine rare wine space, said David Parker, Owner and Chairman of Benchmark Wine Group. “We were very impressed with his broad background and dedication to the customer experience, knowledge of Benchmark’s special place in the industry, and energy. We feel he’s the perfect fit for our company culture of outreach, service, inclusion, and access to the best products in the world for collectors, investors, top restaurants and other buyers.”
On accepting the role, Jay James said: “I have been a customer and a client of Benchmark Wine Group for many years now, so I am well versed on their legendary track record with first-tier collectible collectable wines. I’m very excited to join their high energy, service-oriented team. Benchmark provides access to the world’s most exceptional wines in a way no other company can” added Jay. “I’m looking forward to bringing my background to their operation and being a key part of their management.”
We hope you are as excited as we are as Jay takes the reigns from day to day operations through strategic development.
Rise to Wine
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 three years at 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 embraces and rewards study within multiple fields of knowledge.
The Master Sommelier
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.
A Bold Move
Jay entered a new chapter with a move to 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 senior-level posts with Larkmead Vineyard, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, and Springboard Wine Company, Jay was named President of Benchmark Wine Group in 2023. Benchmark Wine Group is a revolutionary company that focuses on fine and rare/back vintage wines as an on-line merchant and importer, as well as trade distribution within the California and Washington DC markets.
On the Horizon
Education has remained a priority throughout Jay’s career, from speaking at top wine and food events, writing for various national publications about wine and beverages, to teaching and examining for the Court of Master Sommeliers and other organizations. Jay is a co-founder 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, where he currently serves as Chairman Emeritus.