Jay Behmke, President
Jay Behmke was named President of Yao Family Wines effective May 1, 2020. He has served as Chief Financial Officer and General Counsel since inception, responsible for business planning and strategy, finance, banking, administration, legal and employment matters. He is one of the founding members of the company and serves on the board of directors. It has been a singular pleasure to work with Yao Ming.
Mr. Behmke started his legal career in Seattle, Washington, where he worked for Perkins Coie in the corporate securities group. In this position, he worked on numerous venture capital financings and private placements in the high-technology field, representing both investors and companies, as well as several public offerings, including Costco Wholesale.
In 1986-87, Mr. Behmke received a Fulbright grant to teach law at the Institut de Droit des Affaires, Université d’Aix-Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, France. During that year in France, he had the good fortune to get introduced to the French wine industry by a number of French friends. which lead to a life-long interest in wine and vineyards. He is fluent in French.
In 1988, Mr. Behmke moved to Sonoma County and began his career in the California wine industry. From 1988 to 1992, he served as general counsel and chief financial officer for Belvedere Winery in Healdsburg, California, as part of a turn-around team for a 300,000 case winery with 450 producing vineyard acres. In 1992, he started his own law practice representing wineries, vineyard owners, nurseries, distributors, restaurants/bars, retail stores and industry trade groups in all regions of California. These experiences have given him a perspective on the wine business in all its complexity and charm.
As a member of the United States Delegation to the Office International de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV) from 1989 to 2000, he had an opportunity to tour the wine regions of France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany, South Africa, Russia, Georgia, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile. Every country has its own history and tradition with wine, and the contrasts and similarities to the California experience has been enlightening. Another client with international projects sent him to Australia, the United Kingdom and Peru. With Yao Family Wines, he has had the opportunity to see the wine industry in China and Hong Kong as well.
He is a graduate of Princeton University, and the Yale Law School, and holds a masters in philosophy from the Yale School of Graduate Studies. He is married to Kathleen Clancy, an adventure of some 44 years, and has three grown children, who have careers in law, medicine and technology. And he is slowly drinking through a large collection of magnificent wine.