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Monday 10 June 2024

Napa Valley wine legend dies at 95

Warren Winiarski, one of the key figures in developing the Napa Valley wine industry, has died at the age 95.

Winiarski founded industry leader Stag's Leap Wine Cellars but was also a key figure in the wine business community in the region, Wine Spectator reported.

Winiarski, who also owned Arcadia Cellars, was born in 1928 in Chicago, and was an academic track before he spent time studying in Italy and was inspired to enter the wine industry.

He was the first head winemaker for Robert Mondavi's eponymous winery in 1966 when Michael Mondavi was doing military service. 

Winiarski purchased a fruit orchard and ranch in the Napa Valley in 1970 and began planting cabernet sauvignon and merlot. He made wine from those plantings, along with some existing petite sirah (durif), and released the first Stag's Leap Wine Cellars label wine in 1972.

Stag's Leap was quickly recognised among the upper echelons of California wines, winning the historic Judgment of Paris blind tasting in 1976 with his 1973 Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon. That tasting saw top wines from France and California compared against each other. 

In 2012, a bottle of that wine was received into the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. permanent museum collection. 

In 2007, after 37 years in charge, Winiarski went into partnership with Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Marchesi Antinori, but remained involved.

Winiarski oversaw the Winiarski Family Foundation, which supports educational and charitable causes.

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