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]


Winiarski's experience in Italy convinced him that he should be a winemaker. Winiarski landed a job at Souverain Winery in 1964 before Robert Mondavi asked him to be his winemaker in 1966. In 1968, Winiarksi 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.[2][3] In 1970, he bought a carefully selected 50-acre (200,000 m2) ranch in the Napa Valley, which he turned into a vineyard. He planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot along with the existing Petite Sirah vines and began making wine as Stag's Leap Wine Cellars .

Six years later, a bottle of Winiarski's very first vintage 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.” The wine bottle was selected from among more than 137 million artifacts, works of art, and specimens in the collection for its historic importance in creating awareness and recognition of the quality of wine being made in California. Other items chosen from among the collections for this historic list included Neil Armstrong's space suit, Abraham Lincoln's top hat, Charles Lindberg's Spirit of St. Louis, and Lewis and Clark's compass.

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.

Today, Winiarski is actively involved in preserving agricultural and open land in Napa Valley for future generations, something he has felt strongly about since the 1960s. Winiarski and colleagues fought to have the historic 1968 Agricultural Preserve Act passed in Napa County.

Winiarski was inducted into the California Vintners Hall of Fame at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in 2009, and continues to explore his passion for greatness in grapes and wine at his Arcadia Vineyard in Napa Valley.

See also[edit]


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.