|Born||1928 (age 92–93)|
|Occupation||Winemaker and Grape Grower|
|Known for||Award Winning Winemaker and Preservationist|
Warren Winiarski (born 1928) is a Napa Valley winemaker and the founder and former proprietor of Stag's Leap Wine Cellars.
Winiarski owns and operates Arcadia Vineyards in the Coombsville AVA of Napa Valley, which produces Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In 1976, Winiarski won the Judgment of Paris blind tasting for his 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. He oversees the Winiarski Family Foundation, which supports educational and charitable causes, in addition to teaching courses at the St. John's College Summer Classics program in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 2017, Winiarski was inducted into the 11th class of the California Hall of Fame by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. for his global efforts to showcase and preserve the quality and history of California wine. The Smithsonian Institution, through its National Museum of American History, awarded Winiarski the James Smithson Bicentennial Medal on November 21, 2019.
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 which 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 Education at the University of Chicago while working on his Ph.D. After contributing the chapter on Machiavelli in the Rand McNally textbook, Hisory 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, where 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 kick start 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. In 1976, Winiarski won the Judgement of Paris blind tasting for his 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. The achievement brought worldwide recognition to California, Napa Valley, and Stag's Leap Wine Cellars.
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.
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, Françoise Peschon, Paul Hobbs and Michael Silacci. Many of these winemakers had spent their formative years at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars with Winiarski.
In 1996, Winiarski and his wife, Barbara, initiated The Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History's American Food & Wine History Project. The project uses food and wine history as a lens for understanding American history by tracing the long and diverse history of wine in the United States.
Winiarski created and taught a seminar at the Red, White and American symposium at the Smithsonian Institution on the 20th Anniversary of the Judgment of Paris. The symposium, much like the Paris tasting 20 years earlier, was a milestone in the history of American wine because it marked the Federal Government's recognition of wine as part of American culture.
In 2012, 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".
The bottle was 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 for the book from the 137 million artifacts of the museum include Neil Armstrong's space suit, Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, and Lewis & 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.
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 to 2018. 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 donations to many conservation and preservation efforts, including those of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, wine and food history research, collecting of wine and food objects, the Smithsonian's Winemaker Dinners, 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
In 2018, the Winiarski Family Foundation made a $50 million matching grant to St. John's College in Annapolis and Santa Fe to help bridge the gap between what it costs the college to educate a student and what the student pays in tuition. The grant allowed the two Colleges to lower tuition costs by $17,000.
In June 2018, Winiarski donated $3.3 million to build the world's most comprehensive collection of wine writers work within the library at the University of California, Davis.
In October 2020, the Winiarski Family Foundation, awarded a $150,000 grant to Western Colorado Community College's Viticulture and Enology Program at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado. The grant established the “Warren Winiarski, Gerald Ivancie Institute of Viticulture and Enology” and provides funding for scholarships, programs and research projects to assist Colorado's winemakers and grape growers as well as offer opportunities for a new generation in the Colorado wine industry.
Winiarski is among the original promoters of the Napa Ag Preserve passed in 1968, Measure J in 1990 and its extension Measure P in 2008, Measure I in 2006, Measure Z 2017 and Measure C in 2018. 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.