Napa Winemaking Icon Warren Winiarski Dies at 96

Winemaker Warren Winiarski, founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and operator of Arcadia Vineyards, has died at the age of 96.

In 1970, Winiarski bought a 50-acre fruit orchard and ranch in Napa Valley and commenced planting Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. He commenced creating wine from individuals plantings, together with some current Petite Sirah vines, debuting his Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars label in 1972.

Winiarski&#x2019s vineyard was amongst a prominent class of wineries that debuted that year, a team of virtually two dozen that involved Burgess Cellars, Caymus, Chateau Montelena, Clos du Val, Diamond Creek, Silver Oak, Spottswoode and Stags&#x2019 Leap Vineyard (found just a mile from Winiarski&#x2019s equally named procedure), amongst other individuals. The large vast majority of the team centered on Cabernet Sauvignon and went on to outline California and Napa Valley wine for a technology.

In 1976, Winarski entered his 1973 Stag&#x2019s Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Estate Cabernet Sauvignon bottling in a tasting arranged by British wine retailer and author Steven Spurrier that pitted California wines towards their varietal counterparts from France in a blind tasting. The panel of French judges gave leading honors to the Stag&#x2019s Leap wine in the Cabernet tasting towards leading Bordeaux (Chateau Montelena received the Chardonnay tasting towards Burgundies). A short writeup of the Paris Tasting of 1976 (aka The Judgement of Paris) appeared in Time journal, serving to to carry global recognition to California wine. In 2012, Winiarski donated a bottle of the 1973 Stag&#x2019s Leap Cabernet to the Smithsonian Countrywide Museum of American Background&#x2019s everlasting assortment.

Stag’s Leap grew to become ideal recognised for its Cabernets&#x2014most notably its Cask 23 Cabernet mix, together with its Fay and S.L.V. bottlings&#x2014nevertheless it generated a selection of wines, together with Chardonnay, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.

Warren Winiarski was pursuing an tutorial profession ahead of time put in learning in Italy prompted him to go into winemaking as a substitute. (Bob McClenahan)

Winiarski&#x2019s lithe determine, shock of swept-again hair and erudite character made a quietly dashing and tutorial existence. He was generous with his time and understanding, and created numerous close friends and mentor interactions with outstanding winemakers in the valley.

&#x201CHe was a father determine, close friend and mentor to me all in a person,&#x201D reported Michael Silacci, winemaker for Opus One, who labored with Winiarski at Stag&#x2019s Leap Wine Cellars from 1995 via 2001. &#x201COur basis was his unwavering determination to perfection and his deep treatment for oak trees, streams, grapevines, wine and the setting. As a mentor, his inquiries, insights, views and feeling of humor had been unparalleled. I discovered to totally vet and show an plan, theory or exercise to myself ahead of sharing it with him. I realized that Warren would problem my suggestions and search for holes. Warren was a reference and established a typical for excellence in Napa Valley.&#x201D

Though piloting his vineyard, Winiarski was also a chief for Napa Valley&#x2019s wine marketplace as a complete. He was amongst the 1st proponents of the Napa Agricultural Preserve in 1968 and also served to outline the labeling requirements for wines that have the Napa Valley AVA designation.

 Barbara and Warren Winiarski with winemaker Tom Gamble at the 2008 Napa Wine Auction.

Warren and Barbara Winiarski, revealed in this article at the 2008 Napa Valley Auction with vinter Tom Gamble, had been energetic and influential in Napa Valley existence. (Kent Hanson)

Winiarski oversaw 35 vintages at his vineyard ahead of he sold his operation in 2007 to a partnership of Washington&#x2019s Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Tuscany&#x2019s Piero Antinori for $185 million. (It&#x2019s now owned fully by Antinori.) At the time, the rate appeared astronomical, jolting the valley. From the estate holdings, Winiarski held Arcadia Winery, in the beginning bought in 1996 and found in the Coombsville AVA. He ongoing to create his possess Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot bottlings.

Winiarski’s Early Existence

Winiarski was born in 1928 in a greatly Polish community of Chicago, Illinois. His mom and dad owned a livery company, and his father built non-grape wines for household usage. In his youth, Winiarski was in the beginning on an tutorial monitor, learning western classics at St. John’s Higher education in Annapolis, Maryland, from which he graduated in 1952. Though there, he achieved his spouse, Barbara they had been married in 1958. He went on to go after write-up-graduate research at the College of Chicago, shelling out a calendar year in Italy.

All through his time in Europe, he resolved he preferred to be a winemaker. He lower his research shorter and returned to the U.S., at some point relocating to California with Barbara in 1964. He secured his 1st work as assistant winemaker to Lee Stewart at Souverain Cellars. He then grew to become the first head winemaker at Robert Mondavi Winery in 1966. He still left Mondavi in 1968 and briefly built wine in Colorado, making use of California grapes, ahead of returning to California in 1970.

Winiarski was an energetic philanthropist. His spouse and children basis donated $50 million to his alma mater, St. John&#x2019s Higher education, as perfectly as 200 acres to the Land Trust of Napa Valley. In 2021, Warren and Barbara built a $4 million bequest to the Smithsonian Institution to aid the museum&#x2019s American Food History Project. A extended-time supporter of environmental initiatives, he experienced also not too long ago donated $450,000 to fund exploration to update the Amerine-Winkler Index, an marketplace typical that defines which kinds can carry out perfectly in which areas, to mirror the transforming local climate.

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