Wine industry icon Warren Winiarski, whose cabernet sauvignon shifted the world spotlight to California wines four decades ago, will be inducted into the 11th class of the California Hall of Fame at the California Museum and receive a “Spirit of California” medal presented by Governor Brown Jr.
Brown and the museum announced the selection of Winiarski and others late Tuesday, stating the inductees will be given their medals by Brown and first lady, Anne Gust Brown, at a Dec. 5 induction ceremony. The lives and accomplishments of the honorees will be noted in an exhibition which opens at the museum on Dec. 6 and runs through October, 2018, the announcement stated.
Winiarski is only the second California wine industry member to be honored with this “Spirit of California” medal; Robert Mondavi was inducted to the California Hall of Fame in 2006, its inaugural year. Winiarski’s nomination for this award came at the suggestion of State Senator Jim Nielsen, who worked with Winiarski on the state’s Conjunctive Labeling Law passed in 1989 to protect the Napa Valley name and its wine as one of the state’s most important agricultural resources.
“I am deeply honored to be inducted into the California Hall of Fame and accept this award on behalf of the entire California wine community,” said Winiarski in the announcement. “Especially following the terrible fires, which affected our Northern California region, it’s an honor for all of us. I have made it part of my life’s work to preserve Napa Valley, which I consider a National Treasure, with land conservation, world class wine and cataloging its historical significance. It is not enough to make fine wine, we can be stewards of this land that gives us the opportunity.”
Winiarski has witnessed Napa Valley’s growth spurts and evolution for the past 50 years. He is the owner of Acadia Vineyards, and founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.
In 1964, Winiarski moved to the Napa Valley and in 1966, he became Robert Mondavi’s first winemaker. In 1970, he planted his first Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon vineyard in a former prune orchard.
Six years later, a 1973 cabernet sauvignon he created captured honors at the “Judgment of Paris” tasting, which for the first time equaled California wines to those in France. It also shined the spotlight on the winemaking region.
A bottle of Winiarski’s victorious 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars cabernet saauvignon now resides in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, and Robert Kurin, the Smithsonian’s Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, included the bottle in his book The History of America in 101 Objects.
While today lavish wineries are spread throughout the Valley, the land in Napa is protected from too much commercial development
About 50 years ago, Winiarski contributed to the creation of the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve, the first of its kind in the United States, to prevent urban sprawl and the creation of subdivisions.
“We thought the best days for Napa Valley grapes were ahead of us. We saw unrealized potential and greatness,” said Winiarski, who sat on the preserve steering committee, told an audience in August, 2016 at the Business Journal’s Impact Napa conference.
Other inductees include:
Comedian Lucille Ball
Bioscientist Susan Desmond-Hellmann
Artist and activist Mabel McKay
Video of Warren Winiarski’s interview at the Impact Napa Conference.