Warren Winiarski

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Warren Winiarski
Warren Winiarski
Born 1928
Chicago, Illinois
Nationality Polish American
Occupation Winemaker
Known for Award Winning Winemaker

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 Italy. He taught at Chicago for six years while working on his Ph.D. and contributed a chapter on Niccolo Machiavelli for the book History of Political Philosophy, Rand McNally 1963.

Warren Winiarski

In 2009, Winiarski was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America's Vintner's Hall of Fame.[1]


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.[2]

He studied philosophy and literature at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, graduating in 1952; Winiarski began his graduate work at the University of Chicago in political theory with Leo Strauss.[3]

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 philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli. It was during that year he became convinced that he wanted to become a winemaker. He also lectured in the liberal arts at the University of Chicago while working on his Ph.D. In 1964, Warren and Barbara Winiarski moved to Napa Valley, California.[4]


Winiarski's experience of wine in Italy convinced him that he should be a winemaker. He accepted a job as an apprentice winemaker at Souverain Winery in 1964 before moving on to be the first winemaker at Robert Mondavi Winery in 1966 while Michael Mondavi was away at National Guard Service.[5] In 1968, Winiarski left Robert Mondavi Winery 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.[6][7]

In 1970, Winiarski and several investors bought a 44-acre prune orchard in the Napa Valley and replanted it to 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.[8]

Three years later, in 1976, a bottle of Winiarski's first vintage, a 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.[9][10][11] 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.”[12][13]

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.[14]


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 from Napa County Board of Supervisors' the 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 placed the vineyard land that produced the grapes for the 1973 Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon that won the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, under a conservation easement. He was the first to set aside vineyard under such a land trust easement in Napa County, ensuring that the land would remain in agricultural use forever.[15]

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.[16]

Winiarski was an early advocate for viticulture in the State of Colorado, making wine there at Denver's Ivancie Cellars in the 1960s. In honor of his contributions 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. [17]

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.[18][19] 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.[20]

Winiarski and his colleagues were instrumental in successfully fighting to have the historic Agricultural Preserve Act passed in Napa County in 1968,[21] and he continues to be actively involved in preserving agricultural and open land in Napa Valley for future generations. Today, Winiarski oversees the Winiarski Family Foundation[22] in addition to teaching courses at the St. John's Summer Classics program in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Winiarski was inducted into the California Vintners Hall of Fame at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in 2009.[23]

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. ^ https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/fifty-years-ago-robert-mondavi-transformed-napa-valley--and-american-wine/2016/07/23/615d4a06-4de3-11e6-aa14-e0c1087f7583_story.html
  6. ^ http://www.coloradowinepress.com/2014/05/the-first-flying-winemaker.html
  7. ^ http://www.denverpost.com/food/ci_25883924/arrival-our-wines
  8. ^ http://www.sfgate.com/wine/article/THE-WINIARSKI-WAY-In-1976-Warren-Winiarski-s-2800232.php
  9. ^ http://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/drink/sc-paris-tasting-anniversary-wine-food-0506-20160504-column.html
  10. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daUmHLeBrl0
  11. ^ https://www.flickr.com/photos/nationalmuseumofamericanhistory/sets/72157668576065595
  12. ^ 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/
  13. ^ http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/that-revolutionary-May-day-1976-when-california-wines-bested-france-finest-180958971/?no-ist
  14. ^ http://www.sfgate.com/wine/article/After-the-leap-His-celebrated-winery-sold-3289903.php
  15. ^ http://www.sfgate.com/wine/article/THE-WINIARSKI-WAY-In-1976-Warren-Winiarski-s-2800232.php
  16. ^ http://napavalleyregister.com/lifestyles/food-and-cooking/wine/stags-leap-ava-celebrates-th-anniversary/article_fb5c8ebc-8a24-11e3-bd1d-0019bb2963f4.html
  17. ^ http://www.westernslopenow.com/news/local-news/the-countrys-wine-guru-visits-the-grand-valley
  18. ^ http://www.wineindustryinsight.com/yourturn.php?id=1325
  19. ^ http://www.libertyellisfoundation.org/peopling-of-america-center
  20. ^ http://www.wineindustryinsight.com/yourturn.php?id=1325
  21. ^ http://www.ciaprochef.com/winestudies/events/vhf_inductees.html#winiarski
  22. ^ http://www.wineindustryinsight.com/yourturn.php?id=1325
  23. ^ 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
  • Mendelson, Richard. Appellation Napa Valley: Building and Protecting an American Treasure. Cameron + Company, 2016