Controversy at Monterey County Vitners and Growers Association
December 27, 2012
In many ways, it's good to be Rhonda Motil.
The executive director of Monterey County Vitners and Growers Association, which was founded around 40 years ago to boost the repute and sales of Monterey grapes, harvests a big salary (well past $150,000 according to two sources), has the opportunity to deploy a P.R. coordinator and a contracted P.R. firm and receives the support that has allowed her to take off the time to have and help raise four kids during her tenure at MCVGA.
But those same reasons are also making it a little difficult to be Motil, as it's giving her critics ammunition to call for her to be more closely reviewed. They also helped inspire longtime association linchpin Scheid Vineyards to leave the organization, as I reported in this week's Edible column, "Bitter Grapes: Disagreement on how to rep county wines leads a founding member of the growers association to quit."
Unfortunately the critics, unlike Scott Scheid, wouldn't go on the record. Motil would—and kinda has to, too—which represents another good news-bad news aspect of the gig. She declined to indicate how much she is paid.
Here are some of her other thoughts:
• "We are a board directed organization. That group of  individuals are the leaders. Any executive director of any nonprofit organization, while they are integrally involved, are at the discretion and guidance of the board. It's the board that guide the industry and the group, with the executive director, and keep it moving forward, as we have effectively done over the last 40 years."
• "The association isn't for everyone. We hope to retain our members, and we have [for the most part], which is one of the reasons we've been so successful."
• "If [members] have an issue, the proper forum is to bring them to their peers at the association."
• "In terms of competitiveness with the industry, the rates we pay staff and key contractors, we have assessed those repeatedly. Each time they come back and reflect well on our salaries…Current staff has been there 10 years."
Motil also had her P.R. firm's chief, Linda Parker-Sanpei, relay some results from a strong 2012 campaign:
• The results of an independent study conducted in 2012 showed that a remarkable 33.8 percent of respondents recognized Monterey as a viticulture region, up from 5 percent in 2008. Our region is recognized internationally as Rhonda traveled to key Asian markets this fall to promote the region with the Wine Institute. We additionally witnessed an increase in varietal prices for harvest 2012.
• Five of the top five Monterey red varietals experienced increases in price per ton from 2010 to 2011. The leading varietal, Pinot Noir, had a $283 increase in price per ton.
• Four of the top five Monterey white varietals experienced increases in prices per ton from 2010 to 2011. The leading varietal, Chardonnay, had a $166 increase in price per ton.
• The number of tasting rooms in Monterey County has increased by 40 percent over the past 18 months.
• According to recent Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau research, wine has now become a 46.5 percent factor in influencing a tourist’s decision to visit Monterey.
• Some 170 out of every 1,000 Monterey visitors were aware of, and participated in, wine tasting in 2009. In 2011, this increased to 210 out of every 1,000 visitors, a gain of 23 percent.
• Many successful member events occurred this year, including the sold-out Winemakers Celebration held at Carmel’s Barnyard in August. The event was rated 9 out of 10 for member satisfaction, on-site wine sales were strengthened over the previous year, and the event profits neared $50,000.
• Over $150,000 in independent grant funds were used to maximize membership dollars for marketing tools, projects, and programs that support the industry.
• Unique visitors to the MontereyWines.org website increased by 220 percent over the past two years. The total number of visitors has increased 238 percent.
• The volume of new visits has consistently increased over the past two years at an average rate of 75 percent.