Warren Winiarski

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Warren Winiarski
Born 1928
Chicago, Illinois
Nationality Polish American
Occupation Winemaker
Known for Award Winning Winemaker
Two bottles of Winiarski's Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon

Warren Winiarski (born 1928) is a California winemaker. Winiarski was born in a large Polish section of Chicago, Illinois. After graduating from high school, he entered the University of Chicago, then left for a school of agriculture and mining in Colorado, and finally graduated from St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1952. Winiarski then returned to the University of Chicago to begin graduate work in political theory with Leo Strauss, as well as spending a year of study in Naples. He taught at Chicago for six years while working on his Ph.D. Winiarski was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America's Vintner's Hall of Fame in 2009.[1]


Warren Winiarski was born to Stephen and Lotti Winiarski in 1928 in a large Polish section of Chicago, Illinois. His parents owned a livery business in Chicago and his father made dandelion wine that the family drank on special occasions.[2]

After graduating from high school, he entered the University of Chicago, then left for a school of agriculture and mining in Colorado. He studied philosophy and literature and graduated from St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland in 1952. While at St. John's Winiarski met his wife Barbara and they wed in 1958. Winiarski then returned to the University of Chicago to begin graduate work in political theory with Leo Strauss.[3]

Winiarski spent a year in Naples, Italy studying philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli before returning to Chicago. He taught at the University of Chicago for six years while working on his Ph.D. In 1964, Warren and Barbara Winiarski moved to Napa Valley, California.[4]


Winiarski's experience in Italy convinced him that he should be a winemaker. Winiarski accepted a job at Souverain Winery in 1964 before moving to Robert MondaviWinery in 1966. In 1968, Winiarski left Robert Mondavi to make wine in Colorado at Ivancie Cellars. He helped select 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.[5][6]

In 1970, Winiarski and several investors bought a 44-acre parcel in the Napa Valley from Nathan Fay,[7] which he turned into a vineyard. He removed the prune, cherry, and walnuts trees on the property and planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot along with the existing Petite Sirah vines and began making wine as Stag's Leap Wine Cellars .

In 1973 Winiarski built a winery near the vineyard and in 1974 Winiarski launched the Hawk Crest brand to generate revenue. At the same time, Winiarski introduced a reserve line, Cask 23.[8]

Six years later, a bottle of Winiarski's first vintage, 1973 Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, was selected for competition in the historic Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, where it won first place among the ten French and California red wines. Winiarski discovered that the wine competition results provoked anger and animosity among some in France. "Afterwards I received several letters from members of the French wine industry saying that the queer results of the 1976 tasting were a fluke. In essence, their letters argued that 'everyone knows' French wines are better than California wines 'in principle' and always will be."

A bottle of the award-winning 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon wine is on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. In its November 2013 issue, Smithsonian magazine included this bottle as one of the “101 Objects that Made America.”[9]

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.[10]


Outside of winemaking, Warren Winiarski has played a key role in the creation of the Napa Valley Agriculture Preserve, the first of its kind in America, and in preserving open space and the quality of life in the Napa Valley. In 1990 the Winiarski's were lead fund-raisers for Measure J, which took away to Napa County Board of Supervisors' authority to approve development of agricultural lands and made such changes subject to a popular vote. Measure J passed and remains on the books.

Winiarski also placed vineyard land under a conservation easement, and was the first to do so, ensuring that the land would remain in agricultural use forever.[11]

He was actively involved in the creation of the Stags Leap American Viticultural Area, and chaired the committee for the Napa Valley Vintners to develop and regulate the use of conjunctive labeling for the sub-appellations of the Napa Valley.[12]

In June 2015 Warren Winiarski contributed his story to the exhibition which captures the stories of immigrants and their descendants who arrived in America as part of the Statue of Liberty Ellis Island National Park Peopling of America Center.[13][14] 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.[15]

Today, Winiarski is actively involved in preserving agricultural and open land in Napa Valley for future generations. Winiarski and colleagues fought to have the historic 1968 Agricultural Preserve Act passed in Napa County.[16] He oversees the Winiarski Family Foundation and leads courses in the St. John's College Summer Classics Program.[17]

Winiarski was inducted into the California Vintners Hall of Fame at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in 2009.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2008/12/vintners-hall-o.html
  2. ^ http://www.sfgate.com/wine/article/THE-WINIARSKI-WAY-In-1976-Warren-Winiarski-s-2800232.php
  3. ^ http://www.poles.org/db/w_names/Winiarski_W/Winiarski_W.html
  4. ^ http://www.sfgate.com/wine/article/THE-WINIARSKI-WAY-In-1976-Warren-Winiarski-s-2800232.php
  5. ^ http://www.coloradowinepress.com/2014/05/the-first-flying-winemaker.html
  6. ^ http://www.denverpost.com/food/ci_25883924/arrival-our-wines
  7. ^ http://www.boulderweekly.com/article-15152-in-wine-accidental-s.html
  8. ^ http://www.sfgate.com/wine/article/THE-WINIARSKI-WAY-In-1976-Warren-Winiarski-s-2800232.php
  9. ^ http://tastingroom.blogs.pressdemocrat.com/2013/10/30/the-smithsonian-magazine-includes-wine-in-its-%E2%80%9C101-objects-that-made-america-%E2%80%9D/
  10. ^ http://www.sfgate.com/wine/article/After-the-leap-His-celebrated-winery-sold-3289903.php
  11. ^ http://www.sfgate.com/wine/article/THE-WINIARSKI-WAY-In-1976-Warren-Winiarski-s-2800232.php
  12. ^ http://napavalleyregister.com/lifestyles/food-and-cooking/wine/stags-leap-ava-celebrates-th-anniversary/article_fb5c8ebc-8a24-11e3-bd1d-0019bb2963f4.html
  13. ^ http://www.wineindustryinsight.com/yourturn.php?id=1325
  14. ^ http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/peopling-of-america-center
  15. ^ http://www.wineindustryinsight.com/yourturn.php?id=1325
  16. ^ http://www.ciaprochef.com/winestudies/events/vhf_inductees.html#winiarski
  17. ^ http://www.wineindustryinsight.com/yourturn.php?id=1325
  18. ^ http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/dailydish/2008/12/vintners-hall-o.html

Further reading[edit]

  • 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