Warren Winiarski in 2015
|Occupation||Winemaker and Grape Grower|
|Known for||Award Winning Winemaker and Preservationist|
Warren Winiarski (born 1928) is a grape grower, winemaker, land preservationist and philanthropist. Founder and former proprietor of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Winiarski is a Napa Valley winemaking icon with a deep legacy commencing when his 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon won the Judgement of Paris in 1976, helping put Napa Valley on the global wine map.
Winiarski is a passionate advocate for Napa Valley, for wine appreciation and for wine history. He helped create the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve in 1968, the first of its kind in the nation and is active in Napa Valley land use conservation. At the University of California, Davis, he is establishing the world’s largest collection of wine writers’ papers. Winiarski was instrumental in launching the American Food & Wine History Project at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, where his 1973 wine was named one of the “101 Objects that Made America.” He is dedicated to preserving wine as part of the American heritage and its cultural importance.
In 2017, Winiarski was inducted into the 11th class of the California Hall of Fame by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. He is recognized for his global efforts to showcase and preserve the quality and history of California wine.
Winiarski lives with his wife Barbara in the Napa Valley. He owns and operates Arcadia Vineyards in the Coombsville AVA of Napa Valley, which produces Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Today, Winiarski oversees the Winiarski Family Foundation, which dominantly supports educational and charitable causes, in addition to teaching courses at the St. John's College Summer Classics program in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Warren Winiarski was born to Stephen and Lottie Winiarski in 1928 in a large Polish section of Chicago, Illinois. His parents owned a livery business in Chicago and his father made honey wine, fruit-flavored, and dandelion wine at home that the family drank on special occasions.
He studied the western classics curriculum at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, graduating in 1952; Winiarski then began his graduate work at the University of Chicago in political theory with Leo Strauss.
While at St. John's College, Winiarski met his wife, Barbara and they were married in 1958.
During his studies at the University of Chicago, Winiarski spent a year in Italy (1954–55) studying the political thinker Niccolo Machiavelli. It was during that year he became convinced that he wanted to become a winemaker. He also lectured in the Basic Program of liberal arts at the University of Chicago while working on his Ph.D. After contributing the chapter on Machiavelli in the Rand McNally textbook, History of Political Philosophy (1963), he shortened his academic studies to an MA degree from the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought. In 1964, Warren and Barbara Winiarski moved to Napa Valley, California.
In 1964, Winiarski accepted a job as an apprentice winemaker working with Lee Stewart at Souverain Cellars before moving on to be the first winemaker at Robert Mondavi Winery in 1966, while Michael Mondavi was away at National Guard Service. In 1968, Winiarski left Robert Mondavi Winery to make wine in Colorado at Ivancie Cellars. He selected California grapes that were to be shipped to Denver where they were made into wine. Though Winiarski still lived in California, this project would kickstart the Colorado wine industry.
In 1970, Winiarski and several investors bought a 44-acre prune orchard in the Napa Valley and replanted it to a vineyard. He removed the prune, cherry, and walnuts trees on the property and planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In 1973 Winiarski built a winery near the vineyard and founded Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, and the next year, 1974, he introduced a reserve line, Cask 23.
Winiarski’s 1976 Judgment of Paris victory reverberated around the world. Perhaps the most important outcome was not the highest score, but the example he set for growers and winemakers around the globe—that great wines could be made in many places around the world. It is here that his reach extended out of Napa Valley—across the U.S. and internationally. Since the Judgment of Paris he has continued to elevate wine as part of the American heritage.
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars’ 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon was received into the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. permanent museum collection. The bottle is included in the ‘American Food & Wine History Project’ which showcases food and wine as a lens for understanding American history.
Smithsonian Magazine selected the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon bottle from among more than 137 million artifacts, works of art, and specimens in the museum’s collections for its historic importance in creating awareness and recognition of the quality of wine being made in America stating, “The U.S. cracks France’s wine supremacy.”
The bottle was also included in the book, The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects, by Richard Kurin, the Smithsonian Institution’s Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture. Other items chosen from among the collections for this historic list included Neil Armstrong’s space suit, Abraham Lincoln’s top hat, Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, and Lewis & Clark’s compass.”
In 1989, Warren chaired the Napa Valley Vintners committee that spearheaded and obtained passage of the California state law, State Senate Bill No. 771 (the Conjunctive Labeling Law), which required any wine bottled after January 1, 1990, and labeled with an American Viticultural Area (AVA) located entirely within Napa Valley must also include Napa Valley on the label “in conjunction with the other AVA designation of the wine.”  This law helped build brand equity for the individual AVAs as well as the Napa Valley, ensuring the region always had two winners and no losers. The law strengthened Napa Valley’s position as a recognized world-class wine region.
Winiarski had a great influence on prominent winemakers in Napa Valley. In 2003, thirty winemaking alumni and the current winemaking team paid homage to Winiarski through the Hands of Time installation at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Each placed their hands into limestone aggregate to create a plaque. These plaques were mounted as a monument at the winery to remind those in the future of the opportunity to learn and go on. Those in attendance that day included John Kongsgaard, Bob Sessions, John Williams, Dick Ward, Rolando Herrera, Cathy Corison, Françoise Peschon, Paul Hobbs and Michael Silacci. Many of these winemakers had spent their formative years at Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars with Winiarski.
On Aug. 1, 2007, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars reached an agreement to be acquired for $185 million by UST Inc. and Marchese Piero Antinori.
Winarski has continued his contributions to the Colorado wine industry. In honor of his influence and mentorship to the state's viticultural heritage, he was invited to participate as a Judge at the Colorado Governor's Cup Wine Competition from 2014-2016. In 2018, he was honored with the “Friends of the Colorado Wine Industry’ award by the Colorado Association of Viticulture and Enology.
Winiarski currently owns and operates Arcadia Vineyards, in the Coombsville AVA of Napa Valley which produces Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
The Winiarski Family Foundation, has made generous donations to many conservation and preservation efforts, including those of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, the University of California, Davis, the Land Trust of Napa County, the Napa County Open Space District, the Jack L. Davies Napa Valley Agricultural Preservation Fund, If Given A Chance and The Pathway Home, among other organizations.
1996 Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History’s American Food & Wine History Project The Food and Wine History Project uses food and wine as a lens for understanding American history and traces the long and diverse history of food and wine in the United States. The first event of this project was a symposium called Red, White & American, Wine in American History and Culture. Warren and Barbara Winiarski initiated and provided generous support for an oral history and documentation project on winemaking in the 20th century. Over the years, the Winiarskis have donated significant funding to the Smithsonian for conservation of wine and food history research, collecting wine and food objects. The Winiarski’s have also contributed to programs, public events, as well the Annual Winemakers’ Dinners that support those efforts. For the future Warren has proposed endowing a permanent position at the Smithsonian to enhance and grow the American Food & Wine History Project, continuing to raise public awareness about our American food and wine culture.
Spangled Banner Conservation Over the years the Winiarskis have donated significant funding to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History for projects stretching outside food and wine. One particular contribution supported conservation of the Star Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key's poem that became our National Anthem.
2012 Inaugural Winemakers Dinner at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History Made possible through a generous donation by the Winiarski Family Foundation, the Winemakers’ Dinner supports research, collecting, exhibitions and programs of the American Food & Wine History Project at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
2017 Smithsonian Winemakers’ Dinner: Rooted in Family: Wine and Stories from Mexican-American Winemakers Made possible through a generous donation by the Winiarski Family Foundation, the program featured Latinos from the California wine industry who shared stories of working, creating communities, and building businesses in the Napa Valley. As a mentor to a number of Napa Valley Mexican-American winemaking families, Winiarski is proud to know the Latino winemakers’ oral histories are now part of the museum’s permanent collection.
University of California, Davis Wine Writer Collections: Hugh Johnson, Jancis Robinson, and Robert Thompson papers provide foundation for world’s greatest wine writers’ collection Winiarski has established an endowment to support the University of California, Davis Peter J. Shields Library to develop and build the most comprehensive collection of wine writers’ papers in the world. The goal is to preserve wine writers’ works, and to curate and provide access to their papers for research. The endowment will support the appointment of a Wine Writer Collection Fellow Chair, who will provide general oversight of the wine writers program, and have scholarly and technical responsibility for collection, appraisal, and assessment.
If Given A Chance If Given A Chance’s mission is to discover courageous youth who have overcome tremendous challenges but have demonstrated a committed determination to stay on the right path through higher education. If Given A Chance provides four-year college or trade school financial assistance, as well as mentoring in life skills.Since its inception in 1994, If Given A Chance has sponsored over 300 students. Winiarski has been on the Board of Directors since 2004.
Napa Valley Land Preservation
Winiarski’s commitment to protecting the beautiful land of California’s famed Napa Valley has sustained him since 1968. His contributions to land conservation and sustainability have helped to ensure the Napa Valley is a National Treasure to endure for generations to come.
Agricultural Preservation Act 1968 In 1968, a few Napa Valley vintners and others in the community had the forethought to preserve grape growing agricultural land and prevent future overdevelopment by enacting the nation’s first Agriculture Preserve. This land use ordinance established agricultural land as the Highest and Best Use for the land in the fertile valley and foothill areas of Napa County. Initially the ordinance protected 23,000 acres of agricultural land; today, more than 38,000 acres are contained within the Preserve, and no land has ever been removed. The Napa Agriculture Preserve is celebrating the measure’s 50th anniversary in 2018.
Measure J Winiarski was a lead supporter for Measure J, which removed from the Napa County Board of Supervisors the authority to approve development of agricultural lands and made such changes subject to a popular vote. Thanks to Measure J’s passage, all county agricultural land zonings remain in place unless changed by the citizens of Napa County.
Granted Vineyard Conservation Easement Winiarski was the first to place vineyard land under conservation easement, ensuring the land would remain in agricultural use forever. Since 1990, Winiarski has donated nearly 200 acres to the Land Trust of Napa County, including the Paris Tasting vineyard and his current property, Arcadia Vineyards, in Coombsville AVA.
Measure I A new parks and open space district, Napa Open Space District, was implemented with Winiarski’s’s advocacy and financial support to improve access to some 120,000 acres of public lands, from the Newell Preserve near American Canyon to remote regions north of Lake Berryessa.
Since its formation, the Open Space District has protected nearly 5,000 acres of pristine watershed lands, opened Moore Creek Park, saved two State Parks from closing and put them onto a sustainable financial footing, constructed the only public outdoor education camp in Napa County for students and other groups, and built, repaired, and opened more than 35 miles of trails.
Measure P In 2008, Measure P passed, extending and enhancing 1990’s Measure J. Thanks to Winiarski’s advocacy and financial support, widespread and vital protections were granted to Napa County’s agricultural land through 2058.
Measure Z If passed, Measure Z would have raised an estimated $8 million annually for 14 years to be overseen by the Napa County Regional Park and Napa Open Space District to support parks and open space restoration and preservation. Measure Z required ⅔ votes to pass, but narrowly lost, with 64.7% of votes supporting its proposed funding for parks and open space restoration and preservation.
Winiarski donated generously towards Measure Z’s passage and was one of its most active advocates.
Napa Open Space Challenge February 2017, marked the 10th anniversary of the Napa Open Space District. To honor the occasion Winiarski donated a $25,000 challenge grant to the district to expand outdoor education, volunteer involvement and public outreach, and broaden community support for open space preservation. Winiarski’s goal is to pass future Measure Z-type legislation. In May 2017, the Napa Valley Vintners Association matched Warren’s $25,000 gift.
- 2018 Friends of the Colorado Wine Industry award, Colorado Association of Viticulture and Enology
- 2017 Inducted into the California Hall of Fame as member of the 11th Class by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.
- 2017 Acre by Acre award, received along with his wife, Barbara, Land Trust of Napa County
- 2017 Napa Valley Vintners Representative to the Judgment of Paris Tasting’s 40th Anniversary Reenactment in Tokyo, Japan
- 2017 Person of the Year, Czas Wina Magazine, Kraków, Poland
- 2016 United States Congressional Resolution 734, commemorating the 1976 Judgment of Paris Tasting’s 40th Anniversary, Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.
- 2013 Thomas Jefferson Award, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
- 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award, University of Chicago
- 2010 Honorary Fellow Award, St. John’s College
- 2009 Inducted into the Vintner Hall of Fame, Culinary Institute of America, St. Helena, California
- 2008 Wine Lifetime Achievement Award, California State Fair
- 2006 United States Congressional Resolution 399, commemorating the 1976 Judgment of Paris Tasting’s 30th Anniversary, Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.
- 2006 Silver Spoon Award for Sterling Performance, Food Arts
- 2005 Award of Excellence for Outstanding Achievements in Winemaking, Boca Bacchanal
- 2004 Warren Winiarski honored at the Second Annual Legends of Wine Celebration, Chicago, Illinois
- 2004 Vintner of the Year award, COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts
- 2003 Distinguished Service Award, Gamma Sigma Delta, the International Honor Society for Agriculture, University California, Davis Chapter
- 2003 Professional Excellence Award, New York Institute of Technology and Quarterly Review of Wines
- 2003 Polish-American Heritage Achievement Award, Polish American Congress
- 2002 Terroirist of the Year, Vineyard & Winery Management International Symposium on Terroir
- 2002 Lifetime Achievement Award, Biltmore Great South Florida Wine Festival
- 2001 Grand Award for Lifetime Contributions to Wine Education, Society of Wine Educators
- 2001 L’Ete du Vin Guest of Honor, Nashville Wine Auction
- 2000 Lifetime Achievement Award for Food and Wine Excellence, Singapore Wine & Food Experience
- 1997 “Diner des Trente,” Paris: Honored as one of the 30 greatest winemakers in the world by Jean-Claude Rouzaud of Louis Roederer Champagne
- 1996 Lifetime Achievement Award and Honorary Lifetime Membership for Contributions to the Understanding and Enjoyment of Wine in America, American Wine Society
- 1995 Lifetime Achievement Award, Midwest International Wine Expo
- 1992 Award of Merit, St. John’s College
- 1988 Harry Waugh Trophy for Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1977 CASK 23 Cabernet Sauvignon, International Wine and Spirit Competition London, England
- 1976 First Place, Judgment of Paris, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon: a blind tasting of California Cabernets and French first-growth Bordeaux by French wine experts, bringing worldwide recognition to California, Napa Valley and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars
Professional Boards and Associations
2004–Present If Given a Chance Foundation Board of Directors, Napa, California If Given A Chance’s mission is to discover courageous youth who have overcome tremendous challenges but have demonstrated a committed determination to stay on the right path through higher education. If Given A Chance provides four-year college or trade school financial assistance, as well as mentoring in life skills.
2001-2015 Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation Board Director and Chairman of the Heritage Award Committee Winiarski served on the Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation for 14 years and in 2015, he was one of three retired board members to be honored with the title Board Member Emeritus. In June 2015, Warren Winiarski was invited to contribute his story to the Statue of Liberty Ellis Island National Park 'Peopling of America' Center, which captures the stories of immigrants and their descendants who arrived in America at Ellis Island.
1994–Present St. John’s College, Tutor, Summer Classics program St. John’s distinctive liberal arts curriculum and educational practices have long given it a highly respected place among American colleges and universities. Its strong commitment to collaborative inquiry and to the study of original texts makes St. John’s College a particularly vibrant community of learning. Through close engagement with the works of some of the world’s greatest writers and thinkers—from Homer, Plato, Euclid,Nietzsche, and Einstein, — students at St. John’s College grapple with fundamental questions that confront us as humans.
1986–Present Knights of the Vine, Supreme Knight Founding member. The Brotherhood of the Knights of the Vine includes professionals in all phases of the wine industry and individuals who appreciate wine and wish to learn more about this wonderful beverage. The Brotherhood offers unique wine programs that are both educational and social for its members, professionals, or just lovers of wine.
1984–Present International Wine & Food Society, Lifetime Member The International Wine and Food Society is an independent gastronomic society with more than 6,000 members across 30 countries.
1983–Present International Wine & Spirit Competition London (President, Member of the VP Advisory Board, Sponsor, and Judge) The Competition is proud to set the international benchmark for quality, remaining unique in the crowded world of drinks competitions with dedicated tasting premises, a permanent onsite cellar and over 400 global experts judging products for 7 months of the year.
1989–2009 St. John’s College Board of Directors Emeritus Member, Warren Winiarski, Class of 1952.
1986–1989 Chairman of the Napa Valley Vintners Association Committee for Sub-Appellations Succeeded in enacting California State Legislation (State Senate Bill No. 771) to modify the Agricultural Viticulture Areas system in California which made conjunctive labeling required in Napa for its included sub-appellations, a goal achieved in 1989.
1982–2007 Napa Valley Vintners Association, Board Member The Napa Valley Vintners nonprofit trade association has been cultivating excellence since 1944 by inspiring its more than 525 members to consistently produce wines of the highest quality, to provide environmental leadership, and to care for the extraordinary place they call home.
- "THE WINIARSKI WAY / In 1976, Warren Winiarski's Cabernet bested Bordeaux, and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars became famous. At age 76, he's still in control". Sfgate.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Winiarski, Warren". Poles.org. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- McIntyre, Dave (23 July 2016). "Fifty years ago, Robert Mondavi transformed Napa Valley — and American wine". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "The first flying winemaker..." Coloradowinepress.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Warren Winiarski: Colorado wine industry is "all grown up"". Denverpost.com. 2 June 2014. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "The Smithsonian Magazine includes wine in its "101 Objects that Made America."". Tastingroom.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- Edwards, Owen. "That Revolutionary May Day in 1976 When California Wines Bested France's Finest". Smithsonianmag.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Defining Napa: Shaping an Appellation - Richard Mendelson - Articles - GuildSomm". Guildsome.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- FRANSON, PAUL. "Stags Leap AVA celebrates 25th anniversary". Napavalletregister.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Winiarski's legacy: Attention to detail". Napavalletregister.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "After the leap: His celebrated winery sold, Warren Winiarski ponders his legacy - and his next move". Sfgate.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "The country's Wine Guru Visits the Grand Valley". Westernslopenow.com. 19 July 2016. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Warren Winiarski Named Friend of Colorado Wine Industry". Businesswire.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "THE WINIARSKI WAY / In 1976, Warren Winiarski's Cabernet bested Bordeaux, and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars became famous. At age 76, he's still in control". Sfgate.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Smithsonian's Star-Spangled Banner to Undergo Three-Year Conservation". National Museum of American History. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "National Museum of American History Hosts Inaugural Food History Gala". National Museum of American History. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Rooted in family: Mexican American winemakers". Insider.si.edu. 12 May 2017. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Viticulture and Enology". Lbrary.ucdavis.edu. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Robinson gives her papers to UC Davis wine library". Napavalletregister.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "If Given A Chance - Home". If Given A Chance - Home. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- Winiarski, Warren. "Thank you for supporting the If Given A Chance Foundation Of Napa". Napavalletregister.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Warren Winiarski Tells his Story at Ellis Island". Wineindustryinsight.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- http://www.ciaprochef.com/winestudies/events/vhf_inductees.html#winiarski Archived 2014-10-06 at the Wayback Machine.
- JILLIAN JONE. "Measure P passes with ease". Napavalletregister.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Life After Measure Z - Napa Outdoors". Napaoutdoors.com. 6 December 2016. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- Eberling, Barry. "Measure Z Napa open space tax campaign raises $191,000". Napavalletregister.com=. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Napa Valley Vintners making matching $25,000 grant to Open Space District". Napavalletregister.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- Vintners, Napa Valley. "Napa Valley Vintners Matches $25,000 Warren Winiarski Challenge Grant for Open Space District". Mapavintners.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Warren Winiarski, Judgement of Paris legend, makes hall of fame". Decanter.com. 15 November 2017. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "2017 Acre by Acre Award". Napalandtrust.org. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Legendary Napa Valley Vintner Warren Winiarski to Speak at Paris Tasting Reenactment in Tokyo - Wine Industry Advisor". Wineindustryadvisor.com. 10 May 2017. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Warren Winiarski Is Named Czas Wina's 2017 Person of the Year - Wine Industry Advisor". Wineindustryadvisor.com. 31 October 2017. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "The Jefferson Award - PAFA - Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts". Pafa.org. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- "Alumni Award winners span varied careers and achievements, from economics to medicine to winemaking". News.uchicago.edu. 14 May 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
- Taber, George M. Judgment of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine. NY: Scribner, 2005.
- Winiarski, Warren. Zut alors! The French like California wine.Wines & Vines, April 1991, 72(4), 28.
- Lukacs, Paul. American Vintage - The Rise of American Wine. W.W. Norton, 2005
- Lukacs, Paul. The Great Wines of America. W.W. Norton, 2005
- Lapsley, James. Bottled Poetry. University of California Press, 1997
- Conaway, James. Napa - The Story of an American Eden. Avon Books, reprint ed. 1992
- Chiarello, Michael. Napa Stories - Profiles, Reflections & Recipes from the Napa Valley. Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2001
- Mondavi, Robert. Harvest of Joy: How the Good Life Became Great Business Harcourt Inc., 1999
- Allhoff, Fritz (editor); Draper, Paul (Foreword). Wine and Philosophy: A Symposium on Thinking and Drinking. Wiley-Blackwell, 2007
- Mendelson, Richard. Appellation Napa Valley: Building and Protecting an American Treasure. Cameron + Company, 2016