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Thursday, Mar. 22, 2012

Red Mountain group appoints Unwin as executive director


BENTON CITY, Wash. -- The Red Mountain AVA Alliance board of directors recently appointed Heather Unwin as executive director.

The group represents 23 vineyard owners, winemakers and stakeholders who live, work or purchase wine grapes from Red Mountain. Unwin takes over from Thea Upchurch, who held the position for two years on an interim basis.

Unwin, who has served as executive vice president for marketing at Terra Blanca Winery and Estate Vineyard since 2007, enters the job with ideas for the short term, the long haul and in between, she said via email.

"Definitely reaching out to our members, elected officials and business community as we work toward sustainable growth planning and infrastructure improvements," Unwin said. "If Red Mountain grows sustainably and with exceptional quality, that has a positive impact on this entire region. Long term, I'd like to build bridges to stakeholders both on the Mountain and off. There are phenomenal opportunities to promote the brand of Red Mountain, increase tourism and find mutually beneficial partnerships."

Her appointment was announced by Ed Shaw, President of the Red Mountain AVA Alliance and owner of Portrait Cellars.

"After a period of relative quiet, Red Mountain is seeing dynamic growth, increased acreage being planted and significant infrastructure improvements. As a small AVA growing premium wine grapes, our Board is dedicated to ensuring that growth on Red Mountain enhances our quality and reputation," Shaw said in a news release. "Thea Upchurch did a wonderful job over the last two years of giving the Alliance an administrative structure and spearheading events for trade, media and consumers. Unwin now brings to this role a level of energy and innovation that will guarantee a continued commitment to outreach, improved infrastructure, and promotion of the work and quality that define Red Mountain."

Unwin has assisted the alliance since it was founded in 2008 and became a board member in 2010, involved in marketing efforts including branding, website, social media and events. She served as a marketing communications consultant for seven years and held positions in online media and marketing with Time Warner and CompuServe. She is a graduate of the University of Manchester, England.

"My husband was offered some exciting opportunities at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories here in Richland about six years ago," she said. "I had heard of this area from friends in Columbus, Ohio, who worked for Battelle there, and they loved their trips out here. When I researched online, I found out about the wine industry and thought that this could be a really fun area to move to."

She also is serious about the technical and educational aspects of the wine industry, holding the WSET Intermediate Certificate with Distinction.

"There's a tremendous amount of satisfaction to being involved with a nascent, internationally renown world class wine region," Unwin said. "I had a chance to be at the first Wine Tourism Conference in Napa last November, and they discussed Priorat and Langue d'oc as emerging regions for exceptional wines and exceptional experiences.

"I've seen the excitement with which new wine regions are embraced, and we're going to see that same excitement as awareness of the superior wines and unparalleled raw beauty of Red Mountain grows," she continued. "And, of course, there's the chance to listen and learn from some of the most amazing vineyard owners and winemakers you'd want to meet. How can that not change your life?"

The Red Mountain AVA Alliance was founded by vineyard owners, winemakers, wineries, residents an local industry leaders in 2008 as an organization with a stated mission to "commit our resources to protect and express the terroir of Red Mountain through eco-friendly agriculture, authentic wines and extraordinary experiences in an AVA that is unlike any other in the world."