Pledging its ongoing commitment to developing research solutions for U.S. grapes and related grape products for global consumers, the National Grape & Wine Initiative (NGWI) announced its new leadership team for 2012.

By unanimous vote of NGWI members at its annual meeting last week, Vicky Scharlau of the Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers was elected chair of the initiative, a nationwide coalition representing all segments of the grape industry including: raisin, juice, fresh grape and wine, according to NGWI officials.

“Vicky possesses the vision and industry reputation required to take NGWI to the next level,” said Jean-Mari Peltier, president of the national organization. “We are fortunate to have such a seamless transition in leadership.”

NGWI announced the following other newly elected officers: Rick Stark of the California Raisin Marketing Board as Vice Chair, Richard Smith of California’s Paraiso Vineyards as Secretary-Treasurer and John Martini of New York’s Anthony Road Winery as Past Chair.

NGWI’s mission is to drive research to maximize the productivity, sustainability and competitiveness of the U.S. grape industries, Peltier said. NGWI’s membership includes grape growers, processors, wineries and representatives of academic institutions and cooperative extension organizations committed to improving our industry. NGWI’s vision is to enable the United States grape and wine industry to be the world leader in consumer value, sustainability and quality.

NGWI also elected the following to terms ending in 2014:

- Jim Ballard, James Arthur Vineyards, Neb.

- Al Wiederkehr, Wiederkehr, Wiederkehr Wine Cellars, Ark.

- Bob Gallo, E&J Gallo, Calif.

- Dan Martinez, Martinez Orchards, Calif.

- Vicky Scharlau, Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers

- Rick Stark, California Raisin Marketing Board

- Jerry Lohr, J Lohr Vineyards and Wines, Calif.

- Nick Dokoozlian, E&J Gallo, Calif.

- Ed Hellman, Texas A&M University, Texas

- Richard Smith, Paraiso Vineyards, Calif.

- Keith Striegler, Flint Ridge Winegrowing Services, Ark.

- Tom Danowski, Oregon Wine Board, Ore.

- Peter Hofherr, St. James Winery, Mo.

NGWI sets research priorities with the focus in five key theme areas. The five key priorities include; Understanding & Improving Quality, Consumer Insights & Nutrition, Sustainability, Production Efficiency, and Extension & Outreach. Theme committees comprised of industry members knowledgeable in each topic area focus on research needs and spearhead activities to ensure projects are funded, objectives are achieved and information and findings are disseminated to the entire industry.