Vintners group loses executive director

The new year will bring a new executive director for the San Luis Obispo Vintners Association.

Becky Gray has resigned effective Jan. 30 to become executive director of a nonprofit start-up in the North County called MUST.

“She lives in the North County,” said Mike Sinor, president of the wine group that covers from South Cuesta Grade to the Santa Barbara County border. “It’s an opportunity in her life,” he added about Gray’s new job. “There’s a real excitement when you get to be there from the beginning.”

Attempts to reach Gray were unsuccessful.

“I have been able to work with passionate people while promoting impeccable wines in a region I am so fond of,” Gray said in her press release. “I will miss this organization but look forward to continuing my passion of working with people and the MUST organization.”

In a September job posting on Philanthropy News Digest’s web site, MUST described itself as “a newly formed collaborative of business and community leaders.” Its focus will include “education, health care, women’s and children’s concerns, homelessness and other effects of poverty.”

The San Luis Obispo-based vintners group has 67 members, a number that has tripled in the past six years.

When Gray was named executive director in February 2006, her prime task was the creation of Taste, a downtown collaborative tasting room and retail shop.

With its closure in late 2009, the organization refocused on wider branding of the San Luis Obispo and South County area as a wine region and driving customers to member tasting rooms.

It hosts two regional wine celebrations each year.

“It’s breathtaking for us who have been here for 20 years,” said Sinor. “We’re still undiscovered.”

As they undertake a national search for Gray’s replacement, the president of the six-member board said they seek someone energetic and dedicated with experience running a nonprofit.

The new director will roll out projects that Gray has spearheaded in recent years, Sinor added. These include collaborations with Pismo Beach and Avila Beach, as well as grant writing and revamping the association’s website. The group may also launch new events.

“We’re focusing on the SLO lifestyle,” Sinor said. “We’ve done a lot of surveys with our membership. It’s about bringing recognition to the area.”