Skip to main content

How Jay Boberg Went From Managing Bands to Managing Barrels

You may not know the name Jay Boberg, but you certainly know his work. He’s the co-founder of IRS Records, a label that ran from 1979 to 1996 and unveiled some of the very best bands of that era to public ears. Think R.E.M., Fine Young Cannibals, Black Sabbath, Stewart Copeland, Bangles, and The Go-Go’s, just to name a few. He was 21 years old when IRS was established, by the way.

Boberg went on to become president of MCA/Universal Records for about a decade. Again, he worked closely with some of the finest musical talent out there, from Mary J. Blige to The Roots to Sublime. (You know, all of those one-hit wonders.) Throughout, he collected wine on the side. In the late ’80s, Boberg owned a small Cab vineyard in the Napa Valley and started to get lost in the legendary northern California wine scene.

Jay Boberg feature
Andrea Johnson

Music still follows Boberg around. He’s listening constantly, to everything from classical on a lazy Sunday to the Dead Kennedy’s on a raucous Friday evening. But his main role now is at Nicolas-Jay in the Willamette Valley, a label he co-founded with longtime friend and Burgundian vintner Jean-Nicolas Méo. The two work alongside associate winemaker Tracy Kendall, a trio responsible for some stunning Oregon Pinot Noir.

“There are a startling array of similarities between the worlds of wine and music, and also with the creative process of making wine and making music.”

The label is hard at work on a new production space that should be ready to go by the 2020 harvest. It’s set to be outfitted with additional vineyard plantings, a new tasting room, and an outdoor kitchen. In the meantime, Boberg continues to bring his musical mindset to the winery cellar. “There are a startling array of similarities between the worlds of wine and music, and also with the creative process of making wine and making music,” Boberg says.

“In the wine business, gatekeepers decide yes or no to list the wine on a wine list or carry a wine in their shop,” he adds. “In music, gatekeepers are music directors at radio stations or record store owners or playlist creators.”

Anybody in the wine business can relate to such sentiment. The three-tier system requires most producers to get the go-ahead not only from distributors, but ultimately retailers, restaurants, and bottle shop owners. Making music and wine is one thing, but you’ve also got to sell the stuff.

Nicolas-Jay wine bottles

Boberg also cites the importance of the middleman in either industry — the tastemakers who seemingly authorize quality. “Press writers were often key validators of ‘important’ music,” he continues. “In wine, the press plays what might be argued an even more important role in creating consumer knowledge and interest in a brand.”

Further Reading

While the decisions that go into cutting a record or producing a wine are decidedly different, they’re similar in their complexity. Boberg says all the little things add up to offer a major impact on the final product. For wine, that includes soil, microclimate, farming technique, and fermentation and aging style. For music, that might include songwriting style, instrumentation, and production approach. 

Boberg is not the only soul bringing a background in the record biz to wine. Charles Smith is a self-taught winemaker who managed big-name acts like The Raveonettes. His present-day eponymous wine label is among the largest in Washington state, touting cool, Rorschach-like labels and solid value wines from the northwest.

Musicians, too, can’t seem to pull themselves from the lure that is winemaking. Jay Somers of J. Christopher Wines in Oregon is a longtime guitarist who’s played in a number of bands over the years. Les Claypool of Primus fame also runs a California label.

Music and wine may not be singing the exact same song but they’re at least in the same key.

Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
Wondering how to get rid of bloating? The best foods to beat belly bloat
From apples to rhubarb, here are a few of our favorite tasty bloating remedies
Man with bloated tummy.

No one likes to feel bloated. Not only may you feel a little self-conscious if you have a prominent, protruding, bloated belly, but bloating is also physically uncomfortable and can make you feel sluggish. Unfortunately, quite a few foods can cause bloating, and there are additional factors that can make you bloated, so feeling bloated after eating, drinking, or even exercising is rather common.

The good news is that there are certain foods that can reduce bloating to help you relieve the discomfort. Foods that help with bloating do not make you lose fat, but they can reduce inflammation in the gut and reduce fluid retention to help you get rid of any gas or water causing a belly pooch.

Read more
Is erythritol harmful? What a dietitian says recent data means for your keto diet
Erythritol is common in many keto foods — what does that mean for your health?

While sugar substitutes have been around for more than a century, they didn't really become mainstream here in the U.S. until around the mid-70s. According to Carolyn De La Pena, professor of American Studies at UC Davis and author of Empty Pleasures: The Story of Artificial Sweeteners from Saccharin to Splenda, between 1975 and 1984, Americans increased their consumption of artificial sweeteners by 150%. This timeline makes sense when you take into account that the late seventies coincided with the start of our crazed diet culture and the revolving door of fad diets.
One such diet that doesn't seem to be going anywhere, however, is the keto diet. Still hugely popular among Americans trying to shed a few pounds, keto focuses heavily on limited or no carbohydrates. Because sugar contains carbohydrates, followers of keto have turned to artificial sweeteners to satisfy those late-night cravings — sweeteners that, more often than not, contain erythritol. Erythritol, in particular, has become hugely popular because it's much better for baking than other sugar substitutes, has less of an artificial flavor, and will keep the eater in ketosis, which is key for losing weight on the keto diet.
A new study has made waves recently because its findings indicate there's a link between erythritol and higher rates of heart attack and stroke (though the study did note that only an association was found — not causation. So should you be worried?
We asked Dan LeMoine, board-certified holistic nutritionist, the award-winning author of Fear No Food and the clinical director at Phoenix-based Re:vitalize Nutrition, what he had to say about erythritol, including its benefits and potential health risks. "Artificial sweeteners are still sweeteners. While many are non-nutritive or zero-calorie, we tend to view them similarly as we do regular sweeteners or sugars — moderation is key. While many have amazing implications on weight loss — being low to no-calorie options and having little impact on blood sugar, some have their downside," he said.

Is there a cause for concern with sugar substitution?
While some of that sugar substitution has been good for waistlines and health issues that come from obesity, it seems to be causing more and more concern when it comes to other potential health issues. "For example," said LeMoine, "some research indicates the popular sweeteners stevia may have negative effects on the gut microbiome. And the recent study showing a correlation between the sugar alcohol, erythritol, and heart attack and stroke."

Read more
This empanadas recipe is actually the perfect ‘second meal’ for leftover pot roast
Make a big pot roast, then make these awesome empanadas

We love a good pot roast. The thing about a pot roast, though, is that there always seem to be a ton of leftovers. No matter the amount you made or how many guests you had around the table, there's extra. Perhaps that's one of the comforting things about pot roast - there's always more to share. But if we're honest, on the second or third day of leftovers, most of us are ready for something different. That's where this handy recipe comes in, and it's for another delicious food: empanadas.

All you need to transform your pot roast leftovers into something new and enticing is a little pie dough. By filling that pie dough with your leftovers, you're creating flakey, steamy, golden-brown little meat pies that will make just about everyone happy. Not only are they delicious, but they're perfect for any occasion. Serve them with rice and a salad for a beautifully savory dinner. Pile them on a platter with a creamy dipping sauce for the next football game, or bring them on a fall picnic with a bottle of your favorite Burgundy. Whatever the occasion, though, be sure to make enough because these are oddly addicting.

Read more