James developed a passion for fine wine while working at the Austin Wine Merchant (a Burgundy specialist) where the owner and generous clientele introduced him to the greatest wines in the world: Roumier, Claude Dugat, Dujac, Niellon and Raveneau were among the vinous epiphanies. It was, however, his European travels with wine importers Kermit Lynch and Robert Kacher that would provide the fateful connection to the Willamette Valley and a harvest job turned full time position at Beaux Freres. First assistant winemaker and then Director of Operations, James enjoyed nearly five years of work in the cellar and vineyard. In 2001, James was appointed Vineyard Manager and Co-Winemaker at Elk Cove where he worked on the development of Mount Richmond Vineyard and transitioned some of the winery's older vineyard sites to organic farming. The opportunity to work with Tony and Michelle Soter at Beacon Hill would prove irresistible and in 2002, James signed on as Associate Winemaker for Soter Vineyards. Along with the development of the Mineral Springs Ranch there were also ambitions to explore vineyards beyond the Estate. These ambitions inspired the creation of the North Valley brand and partnership.