WWA Says Goodbye (Who’s gonna ride your wild horses?)
June 12, 2009 by Doug Haugen
In 2003, the Washington Wine Ambassadors program came onto the scene, and now, six years later, it’s curtains for the WWA.
Founded by Barbara Shotwell, the WWA was developed under the umbrella of the Washington Wine Commission after she convinced the Board of Directors that volunteer winos could be the key to getting the word out about Washington Wine. The sort of grassroots campaign envied by politicians everywhere.
Over the past few years, the WWA has become a big ragtag bunch of winos logging over 1,300 members, clocking thousands of volunteer hours for events like Taste Washington, providing a source for staffing positions, and acting as missionaries extolling the virtues of Washington State vino at home and abroad.
However, all this success has brought them attention not only from the public, but from the Washington Wine Commission’s legal counsel, who sees the WWA as more of a legal liability than it can accept (“You’re an accident waiting to happen, you’re a piece of glass left there on the beach…”). So, the WWC informed the WWA that they would no longer be sponsoring the program. I don’t know what the legal issues are, but they must be huge to get an organization to turn down all that free labor and word-of-mouth marketing. (“Baby, can we still be friends? Hey, hey, sha-la-la…”)
In order for the WWA to continue, they’d have to reform themselves as an independent non-profit organization. As a strictly volunteer organization, they do not have the dedicated staff and revenue stream to pay for legal services, insurance and operating expenses that would be required of a 501(c)3. So, the “Cork Board” (the WWA’s board of directors), has decided to dissolve the entire program as it currently exists, effective on June 30.
The Washington Wine Ambassadors are throwing their last WWA Appreciation Party at Chateau Ste. Michelle on June 28.
We want to commend the volunteers of the WWA for their enthusiastic support of the industry over the years. Hopefully all that energy and zeal will not disappear into the ethers once the WWA isn’t around to keep things grounded.
(Hey, hey, sha-la-la…)