Warren Winiarski

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Warren Winiarski
Born1928 (age 92–93)
Chicago, Illinois
OccupationWinemaker and Grape Grower
Known forAward 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.[1] 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.[2][3]


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.[4]

He studied the western classics curriculum at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland, graduating in 1952;[4] Winiarski then began his graduate work at the University of Chicago in political theory with Leo Strauss.[5] While at St. John's College, Winiarski met his wife, Barbara and they were married in 1958.[6]

During his studies at the University of Chicago, Winiarski spent a year in Italy (1954–55) studying the political thinker Niccolò Machiavelli.[4] It was during that year he became convinced that he wanted to become a winemaker.[7] 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, History of Political Philosophy (1963),[5] 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,[4] where Winiarski accepted a job as an apprentice winemaker working with Lee Stewart at Souverain Cellars,[8] before moving on to be the first winemaker at Robert Mondavi Winery in 1966, while Michael Mondavi was away at National Guard Service.[9] In 1968, Winiarski left Robert Mondavi Winery to make wine in Colorado at Ivancie Cellars.[10] 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.[11]

In 1970, Winiarski and several investors bought a 44-acre prune orchard in the Napa Valley and replanted it to a vineyard.[4] 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.[4] 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.[12]

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."[13] 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.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18]

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.[19][20]

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.[21] In 2018, he was honored with the "Friends of the Colorado Wine Industry" award by the Colorado Association of Viticulture and Enology.[22]

Winiarski currently owns and operates Arcadia Vineyards, in the Coombsville AVA of Napa Valley which produces Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.[20]


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,[16] Land Trust of Napa County,[23] the Napa County Open Space District,[24] the Jack L. Davies Napa Valley Agricultural Preservation Fund,[23] If Given A Chance[25] and The Pathway Home,[26] 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.[27][6]

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.[28]

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.[29]

Land preservation[]

Winiarski is among the original promoters of the Napa Ag Preserve passed in 1968,[30] Measure J in 1990 and its extension Measure P in 2008, Measure I in 2006, Measure Z 2017 and Measure C in 2018.[30] 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.[23]


  • 2019 James Smithson Bicentennial Medal, awarded by the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of American History [2][3]
  • 2018 American Legend Wine Star, awarded by Wine Enthusiast[31]
  • 2018 Friends of the Colorado Wine Industry award, Colorado Association of Viticulture and Enology[22]
  • 2017 Inducted into the California Hall of Fame as member of the 11th Class by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.[32]
  • 2017 Acre by Acre award, received along with his wife, Barbara, Land Trust of Napa County[33]
  • 2017 Person of the Year, Czas Wina Magazine, Kraków, Poland[34]
  • 2016 United States Congressional Resolution 734, commemorating the 1976 Judgment of Paris Tasting's 40th Anniversary, Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.[35]
  • 2013 Thomas Jefferson Award, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts[36]
  • 2012 Smithsonian Magazine includes the Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon as one of the "101 Objects that Made America"[12][37]
  • 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award, University of Chicago[38]
  • 2009 Inducted into the Vintner Hall of Fame, Culinary Institute of America, St. Helena, California[39]
  • 2008 Wine Lifetime Achievement Award, California State Fair[40]
  • 2006 United States Congressional Resolution 399, commemorating the 1976 Judgment of Paris Tasting's 30th Anniversary, Capitol Hill, Washington D.C.
  • 2004 Warren Winiarski "Vintner of the Year" award received from COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts[41]
  • 1992 Award of Merit, St. John's College[42]
  • 1988 Harry Waugh Trophy for Stag's Leap Wine Cellars 1977 CASK 23 Cabernet Sauvignon, International Wine and Spirit Competition London, England[citation needed]
  • 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.[43]

Professional Boards and Associations[]

  • 2004–Present If Given a Chance Foundation Board of Directors, Napa, California[44]
  • 2001-2015 Statue of Liberty Ellis Island Foundation Board Director and Chairman of the Heritage Award Committee[45]
  • 1994–Present St. John's College, Tutor, Summer Classics program[46]
  • 1986–Present Knights of the Vine, Supreme Knight. Founding member[47]
  • 1989–2009 St. John's College Board of Directors Emeritus Member, Warren Winiarski, Class of 1952[48]

See also[]


  1. ^ "The Judgment Of Paris: The Blind Taste Test That Decanted The Wine World". NPR.org. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  2. ^ a b McIntyre, Dave. "A pioneering California winemaker gets his due from the Smithsonian" – via www.washingtonpost.com.
  3. ^ a b "Napa vintner Warren Winiarski wins Smithsonian's prestigious James Smithson Bicentennial Medal". SFChronicle.com. November 20, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "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.
  5. ^ a b "The University of Chicago Magazine". magazine.uchicago.edu. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  6. ^ a b Candid. "St. John's College Receives $50 Million Toward New Tuition Model". Philanthropy News Digest (PND). Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  7. ^ Dunne, Mike. "Warren Winiarski reflects on half a century of making wine in California". The Sacramento Bee. ISSN 0890-5738. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  8. ^ "Does Formal Wine Training Matter?". Wine Enthusiast Magazine. 2019-02-11. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  9. ^ McIntyre, Dave (23 July 2016). "Fifty years ago, Robert Mondavi transformed Napa Valley — and American wine". Washingtonpost.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  10. ^ Unknown. "The first flying winemaker..." Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  11. ^ "Warren Winiarski: Colorado wine industry is "all grown up"". Denverpost.com. 2 June 2014. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  12. ^ a b "1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
  13. ^ "Defining Napa: Shaping an Appellation - Richard Mendelson - Articles - GuildSomm". Guildsome.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  14. ^ "ScienceDirect". www.sciencedirect.com. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  15. ^ "Winiarski's legacy: Attention to detail". Napavalletregister.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  16. ^ a b c "The legend among us: Warren Winiarski: Napa Valley vintner to be honored with 'Wine Star'". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  17. ^ "1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  18. ^ "Wines That Put Napa On The Map Honored By Smithsonian". 2014-04-10. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  19. ^ "Iconic Napa Winery Stag's Leap Sold for $185 Million | News | News & Features | Wine Spectator". WineSpectator.com. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  20. ^ a b Bonné, Jon; Editor, Chronicle Wine (2008-03-28). "After the leap: His celebrated winery sold, Warren Winiarski ponders his legacy - and his next move". SFGate. Retrieved 2019-04-09.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  21. ^ "Colorado Wine Board Hosts Governor's Cup Competition with Warren Winiarski Among the Judges". PRWeb. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  22. ^ a b "Warren Winiarski Named Friend of Colorado Wine Industry". Businesswire.com. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  23. ^ a b c "Land Trust honors Warren and Barbara Winiarski with 2017 Acre by Acre Award". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  24. ^ "Napa Valley Vintners Matches $25,000 Warren Winiarski Challenge Grant for Open Space District". Wine Industry Advisor. 2017-05-04. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  25. ^ "If Given A Chance 2016 Awards Dinner". If Given A Chance | Home. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  26. ^ Sestito, Maria. "Graduate of Napa Valley's Pathway Home featured in film about military PTSD". Napa Valley Register. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  27. ^ rnott@sfnewmexican.com, Robert Nott |. "St. John's College plans major tuition decrease". Santa Fe New Mexican. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  28. ^ "World-Renowned Vintner Gives $3.3 Million to UC Davis Library". UC Davis. 2018-07-26. Retrieved 2018-12-20.
  29. ^ "Napa legend donating $150k to form CMU wine institute". Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Retrieved 2020-10-26.
  30. ^ a b "Napa Valley's Warren Winiarski Stands Up for Open Space". Wine Industry Advisor (Press release). 2017-02-21. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  31. ^ "Warren Winiarski Awarded American Wine Legend Wine Star Award by Wine Enthusiast - Wine Industry Advisor". Wine Industry Advisor. 2018-09-18. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
  32. ^ "Warren Winiarski, Judgement of Paris legend, makes hall of fame". Decanter.com. 15 November 2017. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  33. ^ "2017 Acre by Acre Award". Napalandtrust.org. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  34. ^ "Warren Winiarski Is Named Czas Wina's 2017 Person of the Year - Wine Industry Advisor". Wineindustryadvisor.com. 31 October 2017. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  35. ^ Thompson, Mike (2016-05-17). "H.Res.734 - 114th Congress (2015-2016): Recognizing and honoring the historical significance of the 40th anniversary of the Judgment of Paris, and the impact of the California victory at the 1976 Paris Tasting on the world of wine and the United States wine industry as a whole". www.congress.gov. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  36. ^ "The Jefferson Award - PAFA - Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts". Pafa.org. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  37. ^ "101 Objects that Made America: America in the World". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
  38. ^ "Alumni Award winners span varied careers and achievements, from economics to medicine to winemaking". News.uchicago.edu. 14 May 2010. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  39. ^ "The Culinary Institute of America Announces the 2009 Vintners Hall of Fame Inductees". www.businesswire.com. 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  40. ^ "Wine Lifetime Achievement Award". California State Fair. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  41. ^ Penn, Cyril (2004-09-30). "Grape broker says glut could end by 2006". SFGate. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  42. ^ "Award of Merit Recipients—Alumni Association | St. John's College". www.sjc.edu. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  43. ^ "The Judgment Of Paris: The Blind Taste Test That Decanted The Wine World". NPR.org. Retrieved 2018-11-20.
  44. ^ "if-given-a-chance | BOARD & HONORARY BOARD MEMBERS". If Given A Chance | Home. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  45. ^ "The Warren Winiarski Interview - Grapecollective.com". grapecollective.com. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  46. ^ "Summer Classics Seminar Schedule, Santa Fe | St. John's College". www.sjc.edu. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  47. ^ "Supreme Knights & Ladies". www.kov.org. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
  48. ^ "St. John's Board of Visitors & Governors | St. John's College". www.sjc.edu. Retrieved 2019-04-09.

Further reading[]

  • 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
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