Ex-development official to take reins at Wine Alliance

Duane Wollmuth, former head of SEWEDA and once an owner of Three Rivers Winery, will now head the local wine group.

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WALLA WALLA -- A former winery owner turned economic development professional has been tapped to lead the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance.

Duane Wollmuth has been named the new executive director of the winery and vineyard membership organization that serves as a resource and promotional vehicle for the wine industry.

Wollmuth, a former owner of Three Rivers Winery, resigned his post as executive director of the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association last week in preparation for the job change.

In his new role, he will take on strategic plans, marketing initiatives and administration of the alliance, 13 1/2 E. Main St. He will also serve as liaison with other partners and associations on promotions, advocacy, research and education, according to the announcement.

Wollmuth could not be reached for comment this morning. He succeeds Elizabeth Martin-Calder, who resigned the post last July after more than four years on the job.

Board President Devin Stinger, owner of Adamant Cellars, has served as interim director during the search for a full-time replacement. In the official announcement, Stinger said Wollmuth "brings a diverse perspective from within the wine industry and from his previous professional experience."

"We are excited to have Duane as our strategic leader and administrator for the 80-plus member wineries and vineyards. His leadership will help to enhance consensus and collaboration amongst the Walla Walla Valley's winegrowers and vintners," Stinger continued in the announcement.

Wollmuth was managing partner of Three Rivers Winery, which later sold to California-based Foley Wine Group.

In 2009 he became executive director of the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association. Under two separate boards of directors, he developed and led annual and long-term regional economic development and transportation planning for a four-county region, coordinated strategic planning and spearheaded daily operations for the organization focused on business recruitment and retention.

In a statement issued Monday, Wollmuth said he looks forward to promoting the growth of the Walla Walla Valley and Washington wine industry.

"...My goal will be to leverage partnerships, showcase the economic importance and the innovative and unique spirit of the Walla Walla wine region," he said.

A committee of wine alliance members and community leaders, with help from Benchmark Consulting, led the search for the new executive director.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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