Washington Wine Ambassadors: Dissolved!

by Shona Milne on June 11, 2009

wwaI received an email from the Washington Wine Ambasadors that due to liability issues that the WWA program can not continue being a part of the Washington Wine Commission. I have been part of the program for a number of years and hate to see it go away.

June 11, 2009


Dear Ambassadors,


It is amazing how far the Washington Wine Ambassador (WWA) Program has come since it’s inception in 2003.  We began as the brain child of Barbara Shotwell, a retired stock broker turned wine volunteer.  She convinced the Board of Washington Wine Commissioners of the value of Washington wine enthusiasts who could help spread the word about the state’s wonderful wines.  As a result, the Ambassador Program was developed under the auspices of the Washington Wine Commission.


After six years, this program has grown from a very small group of people to one with over 1300 members, giving thousands of volunteer hours to the Washington wine industry.  Not only have these volunteers provided between 2000 and 3000 man-hours annually for Taste Washington alone; the program has been a great source for industry staffing positions; a labor pool for seasonal requirements; and as always, fabulous at teaching people about Washington wines both locally and abroad.  The Washington Wine Ambassador Program has been such a success that other states are mirroring this effort.


We have gotten a lot of notice for all our great work, however, with success comes exposure.  With our growth over the years, the Washington Wine Commission legal counsel has became concerned about liability issues for the program.  As a result, the Wine Commission informed the WWA Cork Board that it could no longer continue under the Washington Wine Commission.  The only option for the Ambassador Program to continue was for it to become it’s own non-profit entity, otherwise the program would have to be terminated. As WWA Cork Board is made up entirely of volunteers like you, to become a non-profit organization, the Ambassador Program would need a dedicated staff and a revenue stream to pay for the legal, insurance and operating expenses, etc.


Because of these issues and constraints, the WWA CORK BOARD HAS ELECTED TO DISSOLVE THE WASHINGTON WINE AMBASSADOR (WWA) PROGRAM AS IT CURRENTLY EXISTS, EFFECTIVE JUNE 30, 2009. This has not been an easy decision for the members of the Cork Board.  We know how much each of you care about this Program and how much you have given to all the groups that we have helped.  Your support, energy and enthusiasm are valued assets.  We encourage you to continue to volunteer for your favorite organizations and wineries as a continuing legacy to the Washington Wine Ambassador Program.


While words are not really adequate to say “thank you” for all you have done; we hope you can join us for the LAST annual Washington Wine Ambassador Appreciation Party at Chateau Ste. Michelle on Sunday, June 28th (to register and get more information, please log onto the Ambassador Exclusive Zone of the Ambassador website, http://wwambassadors.org/ ).



All the Best,

The Cork Board

Washington Wine Ambassadors

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary Worrell 06.13.09 at 12:29 am

I think this is really lame. If you want something bad enough, you make it happen. Why not buy more insurance? Why not contribute money so that the Wine Ambassadors could form a non-profit group? This group has done so much for the industry and the WWC is throwing it away with a minimal, if any, excuse.

Shona Milne 06.13.09 at 3:21 pm

I completely understand how you feel. I joined Washington Wine Ambasadors in May of 2005. I have made so many great friends and had a great time at many of the events. I wish we could find a way to save it. Any suggestions out there??? I love supporting the Washington wine industry. I know that the Ambassadors made a big difference.

Debra 06.17.09 at 10:01 am

Hey Gary! Remember me from Wine 101 class? Anyway, Shona, I want to lead the charge to form that new Washington Wine Ambassadors nonprofit. But I need help to discover who has been leading it to date and with whom I should talk to determine whether anyone is already trying to do this. I believe whole-heartedly in the Ambassador program and am dedicated to promoting Washington Wines!
– Debra Keene Bergeron

Shona Milne 06.19.09 at 8:14 am

I”m glad to hear that someone is interested in continuing WWA. Kathy Timmons was always in charge of the volunteers. She might be able to give you some info. I don’t know of anyone else who might step up to keep it going.

WineCHATr.com 07.13.09 at 12:45 pm

Shona- While I don’t have an answer to the dissolution of the current Wine Ambassador program, or the formation of a new group, I would like to offer up the WineCHATr.com community as a resource for wineries and event organizers to procure volunteers. In response to the end of the WWA, of which I’ve been a part for over 5-years, WineCHATr.com will be building a Message Board as part of our online wine community. From this Board wineries will be able to post requests for volunteers and have visitors respond directly with their RSVP.

The community message board is currently in development and should be available soon. I’ll definitely keep everyone posted as we get closer.

— Marcus Pape
Connect Over Wine

Shona Milne 07.13.09 at 3:43 pm

I think that is a good idea. I have heard that WWA may come back but I don’t have any details. I think it’s an important part of our local wine industry to just go away. You have my support. Keep me in the loop of what you are doing. Maybe I can do a story?

WineCHATr.com 08.07.09 at 12:54 pm

We’ve launched a BETA version of the WineCHATr.com discussion board (aka “CHATr Board”), which includes a basic volunteer request option — http://www.winechatr.com/chatrboard/ . Note, this is just the initial look. We will soon be relaunching WineCHATr.com (in the next couple of weeks) with a new focus and streamlined interface design & feature set. Stay tuned!

The volunteer feature has been added as a category within the CHATr Board. Business members on the site will have the ability to post a volunteer request through the Board. Anyone visiting the site can then choose to “volunteer” by clicking a button within the message and provide their contact info. This info is sent directly to the business that posted the volunteer request. Once the volunteer positions are full that business can then remove the “volunteer” button.

As we continue to develop this feature we would love to find a way to more closely tie into the existing WA Wine Ambassadors. Maybe we could include a checkbox option as part of the volunteers contact info that asks if they are an Ambassador? Any feedback would be great. Cheers!

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