Washington Winegrowers and Washington Wine
Industry Foundation Hire New Executive Directors

On January 1st, both the Washington Winegrowers Association and the Washington Wine Industry Foundation hired new Executive Directors.  Colleen Frei was hired as Executive Director of the Winegrowers Association and Sara Higgins  was named Executive Director of the Washington Wine Industry Foundation.


Colleen Frei

Before coming to the Washington Winegrowers Associatoin, Colleen Frei was a partner at the law firm of Jeffers, Danielson, Sonn & Aylward, P.S. in Wenatchee, WA. for 18 years, focusing on agriculture, water rights, business and succession planning, and has served on community boards and state and professional groups bringing extensive nonprofit leadership.

“Colleen’s background makes it possible for her to hit the ground running as our Association continues to meet member and broader industry needs. We’re excited for her experience navigating the issues that face the wine industry, and her passion and drive to adapt to our ever-changing environment,” said Shane Collins, Board Chair of Washington Winegrowers.

As Executive Director, Frei will be responsible for developing and stewarding relationships with growers, vintners, policymakers, educational institutions, and other industry partners. She will provide vision and leadership to Washington Winegrowers, including state and federal government relations and advocacy, as well as educational programming, strategic planning, and organization development.

“I am thrilled to join the Washington Winegrowers Association team to continue strengthening the wine industry,” said Frei.  “The Association is at the forefront of innovation and change, engaging all sides of the wine industry with Sustainable WA™ as the first statewide certified sustainability program, the Latino Agricultural Education Program, and the WineVit® convention and trade show as examples. I look forward to building on the legacy accomplished to date and am excited to be part of future success.”

Frei takes over from Vicky Scharlau, who had held the position since 1999. Scharlau will remain with Washington Winegrowers as of-counsel, facilitating select programs. “It has truly been an honor to serve Winegrowers. The needs of the wine industry are so unique, and advocating for the Washington wine industry has been exhilarating and the greatest challenge of my professional career,” said Scharlau. “Colleen’s impressive credentials and leadership skills are exactly what is needed in the next phase of Washington’s growth.

About Washington Winegrowers Association

Founded in 1983, the Washington Winegrowers Association supports members by addressing industry needs through collaboration and partnerships to enhance the Washington wine industry.


Sara Higgins

Sara Higgins, the new Executive Director of the Washington Wine Industry Foundation, brings more than 20 years of experience in nonprofit leadership with a focus on planning, program management, and community outreach.

“Sara’s energy and drive, combined with her nonprofit experience and familiarity with the wine industry are an excellent match for the Foundation,” said Bill Shibley, Board Chair, and Senior Agriculture Officer and Vice President at Wheatland Bank, Pasco, “I look forward to working with her to help meet industry needs.”

Higgins is a Washington native and no stranger to the Foundation. She has previously supported Foundation programs including the Party + Auction, the Foundation’s annual fund-raising event. As the Foundation’s Executive Director, Higgins will be responsible for implementing the Board’s strategic plan and developing and stewarding donor relations.

Since 2002, the Foundation has been awarded more than $3 million in grants supporting winemaking and winegrape growing and has awarded $480,000 in scholarships to more than 250 Washington viticulture and enology students.

“The Foundation plays a critical role leveraging its nonprofit status to meet industry needs in ways other organizations cannot,” Higgins explained. “It’s all possible thanks to generous, forward-thinking donors and partners. That’s inspiring. I’m excited to engage with those making this work happen, and grow the Foundation’s network.”

As only the second executive director in the organization’s history, Higgins follows Vicky Scharlau, who led the Foundation since its inception in 2000. Scharlau will continue in an of-counsel position, supporting federal and state grant management.

Scharlau observed, “Leading the creation and growth of the Washington Wine Industry Foundation has been a great source of pride for me. With today’s operating environment vastly different than it was 20 years ago, the Foundation and the industry are faced with new challenges that will benefit from fresh, new approaches. Sara is the right person to meet those challenges.”

About the Foundation

The Foundation is a dynamic network of wine industry professionals united by a common vision: to foster a thriving Washington wine industry. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Foundation facilitates, manages, and distributes funding to confront challenges and invest in solutions including scholarships, industry events, and sustainability such as pest control, clean plants, risk management, safety, and more. Through collaboration and partnerships, the Foundation honors the industry’s heritage while forging a path to a flourishing future for Washington.