Barbara Dvorak Winiarski Passes Away at 88 Years Old

Barbara Dvorak Winiarski
Barbara Dvorak Winiarski, 1933—2021

Barbara Dvorak Winiarski, co-founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, artist, preservationist, and philanthropist, died at 88 years old, peacefully, at her home in Napa Valley, California, on October 8, 2021.

Barbara was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, and spent childhood summers near the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. An artist at heart, Barbara first learned to paint from her father, who introduced her to oil paints and how to care for brushes at a young age. Her love for art grew throughout middle school and high school, where she learned how to work with different mediums and styles. Her inspirations were Michelangelo’s expressions of human life and portrait paintings by Vermeer and Rembrandt.

Barbara intended to major in art and art history after high school, but she chose to pursue a degree in liberal arts and philosophy from St. John’s College in Annapolis. She selected St. John’s, despite her parents’ desire that she be formally trained as a painter, because, in her words, she “wanted to learn about everything.” Barbara matriculated with the first group of women at the college, and it was there that she met her future husband, Warren Winiarski.

With dreams of a new life in wine, in 1964 the Winiarski family moved from Chicago, where Warren and Barbara were studying and teaching at the University of Chicago, to Napa Valley, California. In 1970, the Winiarskis purchased a prune orchard in what would become the Stags Leap District appellation, and Barbara and the children worked alongside Warren to establish a new winery there. They christened it Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. Their first commercial release from the new facility, the 1973 S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon, would place first amongst the red wines in the now-famous1976 Judgment of Paris tasting.

The Winiarskis’ early years in the Napa Valley were spent advocating for the then-radical notion of creating an Agricultural Preserve to protect the Valley from the suburban sprawl that was fast eliminating farmland in most other Northern California counties. Since then, the Winiarskis have endowed the Land Trust of Napa County with almost 200 acres of property, which will never be developed. In 2017, the couple received the Land Trust of Napa County’s Acre by Acre Award.

Barbara and Warren have also been supporters of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History for over 25 years. Their generosity helped to establish the museum’s American Food and Wine History Project in 1996, as well as the subsequent, “FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950–2000” exhibition, in 2012. In 2021, with the mission of sustaining food and wine history for generations to come, the Winiarski Family Foundation donated $4 million to establish a permanent Curator of Food and Wine History position at the National Museum of American History.

The couple provided a transformational $50 million dollar pledge to their alma mater, St. John’s College – the largest gift in the history of the institution – to ensure affordable tuition for future students. The 2019 gift from the Winiarski Family Foundation established a challenge grant which has already reached its goal of $50 million dollars in matching funds.

Most recently, in October 2021, a $5.1 million gift from the Winiarski Family Foundation to Providence Queen of the Valley Medical Center provided funds for The Winiarski Stroke and Diagnostics Center, a 208-bed acute care facility in Napa. They also donated to NEWS (Napa Emergency Women’s Services) and Samaritan Family Shelter, both causes strongly supported by Barbara.

Barbara’s passion for art called to her throughout her life, although a busy schedule as wife, mother and winery owner often left her little time to paint. After a hiatus, Barbara picked up her paint brushes again in 1980, focusing on portraits of her children and loved ones. Old photographs also served to depict six generations of family members. Barbara’s paintings have been described as “having compelling intimacy. They capture moments in people’s daily lives while drawing the viewer into a space of contemplation.” Her life’s work was published in the 2018 book, Passages, which includes exquisite photographs of her paintings.

Barbara’s lighter, but no less passionate pleasures were gardening, fishing, watching birds and classic British Mystery stories.

Beloved wife of Warren Winiarski. Dearest mother of Kasia (Jim), Stephen (Shahnaz) and Julia. Cherished grandma of Gabe, Noah, Matin, Arren, Kiann, and Maia.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift in Barbara’s name to any of these organizations:

Napa Emergency Women’s Services (NEWS)

Clinic Ole (Ole Health)

Napa Valley Food Bank

• Samaritan Family Shelter (CANV)

Chesapeake Bay Trust

Please save the dates between Thursday, Oct 21 p.m., and Saturday, Oct. 23, for services. Details to follow.

Latest Wine Headlines: October 10—15

Hey all, I want to call out something super important here. Wine Industry Advisor has just opened up submissions for its Most Inspiring People awards and this is the first time they’ve asked for nominations from the public. So if you know someone who’s made a significant, positive contribution to the US wine industry please nominate them here.

Did you do it? Awesome. Then you may continue on with your perusal of this week’s short list of wine-related news items. I’ve got a few pieces out myself, but some of my favorite articles this week are highlighting the diversity of our wine industry—so great to see these stories amplified in the media.

Enjoy Enjoy Enjoy!



Latest Wine Headlines: September 26—October 8

You guys, things have been so crazy busy lately. You may (or may not) have noticed I missed last week. I almost didn’t make this week either. But here I am with two-weeks worth of booze-news round up. Although, for some of you I’m sure a few of these are more ‘olds’ than news.

I want to, of course, call out a few projects I’ve been working on that finally got released. I’m particularly proud of this profile on dual winemaker-ICU nurse, Jane Khoury who splits her time caring for the critically ill and taking lead in her family’s wine production. As, hopefully, you all know, I’m continuing through my WSET Diploma course. I most recently completed my D3 Wines of the World exam (both theory and tasting portions) and am moving onto my D4 Sparkling Wines of the World section. It can be overwhelming, sometimes devastating. Here’s a little diddy I put together for the Napa Valley Wine Academy (where I study) about what success in wine really looks like. And here’s a brief interview I did for Wine Industry Advisor—it’s not fancy, but you can learn a bit more about me. You know, if interested.

A few other articles I want to call out: robots in the vineyard (the future is now!), a breakdown on the latest wine DtC shipping case (these can be so confusing), how and why Canada’s wine industry is struggling with sustainability (oh, Canada…), Virginia just got a new AVA (and there’s only like 5 wineries in it), and it’s officially ok to admit you like Zinfandel (within reason, I’ll add).

Oh yeah, and literally just for fun.

There’s loads more, including some interesting press releases. So scroll all the way through, whist sipping some wine of course. Read, learn, have fun. Cheers.


This Week’s Latest Wine Headlines: September 19—24

It’s been another week already. Hope yours went well. And I hope you enjoy this weeks booze-news round up. I’ll start with my oh-so-famous shameless self-promotion and point you this profile piece I wrote for Wine Enthusiast on Randall Grahm. Personal anecdote: way back when, Randall was the first winemaker I ever interviewed. I was such a newbie, asking basic winemaking questions as we tasted through 20+ of his wines. He’s a teacher at heart, and though my questions may be more complicated than they were back then, he’s still the kind, patient, and excited winemaker I know and love. He continues to be one of my favorite people in the industry to interview. So cheers to that.

Speaking of leadership in the industry, Kathleen Willcox has a great piece about wineries not just hiring more females for vineyard work, but creating a nurturing environment where these women can thrive and advance in their viticultural careers. Cheers to that. Oh and no big deal, but there may just be a cure to Pierce’s Disease

When it comes to the next new thing in wine you may want to take a look at Kansas. (I guess there’s no place like home…). But, it looks like canned wine is a brushed up old has-been. Or is it?

What else? So much more. Take some time, scroll, read, learn, enjoy, leave a comment if you so desire. Have a great weekend.



This Week’s Latest Wine Headlines: September 11—17

Good morning. I dare say we all made it to the weekend, so cheers to that. What’s on deck for this week’s wine-news round up?

I’ll start with my selfish plug for my latest article for Wine Enthusiast, diving into the definition of ‘Microclimate.’

If you’ve never considered the implications of covid on wine storage, here’s an interesting perspective on that. And, how would you all define ‘natural wine?’ (Yes, I just asked the controversial question.) Also enjoying this round up on sustainability measures around the world.

In the blogs, I have to call out my gal Amber again, who says what we’re all (at least I am) thinking about wax seals. And please, people before you go bashing bloggers for inserting their opinions (especially pros like Amber) take a look at this post as well.

As I study for my Diploma D4, sparkling exam, I’m looking forward to listening to Matthew’s podcast on Cava. And for those with the MW pipe dreams like me—take a look at this past year’s exam questions and then read the reaction of a current MW candidate.

Loads more, per usual. So sit back, relax, scroll, read, learn, enjoy. And shoot me a note every once in awhile. Cheers.


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