Calistoga, Calif. March 23, 2020 – Larkmead Vineyards is pleased to announce today that Jay James, Master Sommelier, will step in as Vice President, General Manager. This appointment is effective immediately. James will join an established leadership team including proprietors Kate Solari Baker and Cam Baker, Winemaker Dan Petroski, Vineyard Manager Nabor Camarena, Viticulturist Kelly Maher, and Vice President, Administration and Finance Judy Wink.
As Vice President and General Manager, James will apply his extensive background in hospitality, wholesale management and wine education to the entire operation at Larkmead Vineyards. Most recently, James served as the Director of Sales at Chappellet Winery, where he focused on wholesale growth and distribution since 2013. At Larkmead, James will focus on nurturing existing direct to consumer and wholesale relationships while also expanding the circle of influence for Larkmead, particularly among key trade.
“Jay will play an integral role in every aspect of the operation at Larkmead Vineyards, from wholesale management to trade and consumer marketing to staff development,” said proprietor Cam Baker. “Jay’s experience in sales and distribution will be invaluable for the recognition of Larkmead Vineyards as one of the greatest wine estates in the Napa Valley, and the world.”
The move signals a new era for Larkmead Vineyard as the iconic property enters its 125th anniversary in the Napa Valley, a milestone rivaled by few wineries in the United States. “I am distinctly honored to join the Larkmead team and be a part of this next chapter,” comments James. “The history is captivating; it is a great privilege to be connected, and a new part of it, and have the opportunity to share the rich stories from this legendary estate.”
James started his career in hospitality at the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta. From there, his career developed to include the management of several on-premise wine programs. He worked as Wine Director for the Peasant Restaurant Group in their flagship restaurant, the City Grill Atlanta, as Sommelier and Assistant General Manager at Nikolai’s Roof at the Atlanta Hilton, and Key Account Sales Representative for Atlanta Wholesale Wine. In 1997, James passed the Master Sommelier exam, becoming only the 32nd American to successfully complete it. In 2005, he entered the wholesale world and joined Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada, ultimately achieving the post of Vice President of Fine Wine. 2013 saw James move to the Napa Valley to join Chappellet Vineyards as Director of Sales. He led Chappellet’s sales efforts in all trade channels as well as guiding marketing endeavors. “We look forward to the level of experience and expertise Jay will bring to this position and are optimistic that the incredible story at Larkmead will reach new audiences through his network,” continues Baker.
In addition to his work experience, James is often a featured speaker at top wine and food events and has appeared in a long list of national publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Forbes, Wine Spectator, and more. He has competed as a United States finalist in both the Grand Prix du Sopexa Sommelier Competition and the Concours Mondial du Sommeliers. James is also a member and past officer of the Court of Master Sommeliers and remains actively involved with the organization’s education and examination efforts. He currently serves as Chairman of SommFoundation (The Guild of Sommeliers Education Foundation), a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation that exists to further beverage education, elevate the sommelier profession among the industry and provide relevant scholarships and educational opportunities.
About Larkmead – https://www.larkmead.com/
The historic Larkmead estate is one of the oldest family-owned establishments in Napa Valley. Originally founded in 1895, Larkmead is now under the stewardship of proprietors Cam Baker and Kate Solari Baker. Kate’s parents, Larry and Polly Solari, purchased Larkmead in 1948. Kate spent her childhood in the valley, exploring a bygone Napa dominated by prune and walnut orchards, hayfields, cattle ranches, and acres of empty fields. Her parents were aware of Larkmead’s storied past, andsought to honor its legacy, a philosophy they passed down to Kate and her husband. The Bakers have been the dynamic force behind Larkmead’s transformation from a historic vineyard into a world-renowned wine estate. During the first 10 years of their ownership, they directed a complete replanting of the property, tailoring the selection of varieties, clones, and rootstock to suit the special characteristics of each individual block. In 2005, they built the first phase of a state-of-the-art winery on the property so that each vineyard block could have its own dedicated vinification tank. Designed by architect Howard Backen, an old family friend, the farmhouse and production facility are both classic and comfortable, providing a place for peaceful reflection away from a busy and demanding world. These days, Cam and Kate’s children and grandchildren are often found at the estate, continuing the family tradition at Larkmead into its fourth generation.