Famed Vintner Warren Winiarski inducted into California Hall Of Fame

The Office of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and First Lady Anne Gust Brown, in partnership with the California Museum, announced that Warren Winiarski will be inducted into the 11th class of the California Hall of Fame. Recognized for his global efforts to showcase and preserve the quality and history of California wine, Winiarski joins California Hall of Fame inductees who have made exemplary contributions to the spirit of California. California legends honored in 2017 include entertainer Lucille Ball; bioscientist Susan Desmond-Hellmann; artist and activist Mabel McKay; atmospheric chemist Mario J. Molina; quarterback Jim Plunkett; poet Gary Snyder; filmmaker Steven Spielberg; musician Michael Tilson Thomas and vintner Warren Winiarski.

The 11th class of inductees and family members of posthumous inductees will receive “Spirit of California” medals presented by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and First Lady Anne Gust Brown in an official state ceremony held on Tuesday, December 5 at 7 p.m. at the California Museum, located at 1020 O Street in Sacramento. In addition, the 11th class of inductees’ lives and accomplishments will be commemorated in a new exhibition open to the public Wednesday, December 6, 2017 through October 31, 2018 at the California Museum. Members of the public are invited to watch red carpet arrivals on Tuesday, December 5th at 6:00 p.m. at http://www.facebook.com/californiamuseum, followed by the induction ceremony at 7 p.m. at http://www.californiamuseum.org/webcast.

Winiarski’s legacy spans from making exceptional wine to reinforcing the culture of wine as an American tradition. He 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. “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.”

In 1964, Winiarski moved to the Napa Valley to follow his new-found appreciation for wine as a daily accompaniment to food. In 1966, he became Robert Mondavi’s first winemaker, and in 1970, he planted his first Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard in a former prune orchard. Six years later, Winiarski’s Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon won the Judgment of Paris, a blind tasting of California wines against venerated French classics. The Judgment of Paris is widely credited with putting Napa Valley and California on the global wine map and liberating winemakers around the world to aim for the stars. A bottle of Winiarski’s victorious 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon 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.

Winiarski’s impact to California wine goes far beyond winemaking. A longtime advocate for agricultural land preservation, he will celebrate his key contributions to conservation in 2018 with the 50th anniversary of the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve, the first of its kind in the United States. Following the passing of this key legislature in 1968, Winiarski went on to become the first in Napa Valley to place vineyard land under a conservation easement to ensure it would remain in agricultural use forever, and he has since donated to the Land Trust of Napa County more than 200 acres of vineyard and open space. These practices have been emulated by others throughout the Napa Valley and replicated across the country.

In 1996, Warren and Barbara Winiarski initiated the Smithsonian Institute 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. In 2017, Winiarski recognized five Mexican American California winemaking families and made possible the archiving of their stories and oral histories into the permanent collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Winiarski had mentored several of these Mexican Americans as young vineyard workers; he guided them from the rows in the vineyards to the barrels in the winery and ultimately celebrated one of them opening his own winery.

Winiarski is an avid supporter of archiving manuscripts, papers and multimedia that document the importance of California viticulture and enology. His philanthropy supported the UC Davis library in the first ever wine writers’ collection, ensuring the history of California wine and its evolution to premier, world class status is preserved at the “greatest wine library in the world.” Winiarski has helped to secure the papers of renowned international wine writers Hugh Johnson, Jancis Robinson and Robert Thompson.

Winiarski’s contributions since he arrived in Napa Valley 53 years ago transcend the California wine industry. He has surpassed his first titles as grape grower, winemaker, and vintner to become mentor, preservationist and icon in the world of wine. His commitment to Napa Valley has influenced other endeavors from land conservation to legacy support, while his example and mentorship have changed the lives of both native-born and immigrant Americans. He has left his mark not only on the State of California, but on the United States and the greater global community.

Source: Warren Winiarski

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