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Full text of "Creating classic wines in the Napa Valley : oral history transcript / 1994"

University of California Berkeley 






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Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 



Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral History Series 



Warren Winiarski 
CREATING CLASSIC WINES IN THE NAPA VALLEY 



Interviews Conducted by 

Ruth Teiser 
in 1991 and 1993 



Copyright 1994 by The Regents of the University of California 




Warren and Barbara Winiarski evaluating Stag's Leap wines at 
their home on the Silverado Trail, about 1974. 



Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing leading 
participants in or well-placed witnesses to major events in the development of 
Northern California, the West, and the Nation. Oral history is a modern research 
technique involving an interviewee and an informed interviewer in spontaneous 
conversation. The taped record is transcribed, lightly edited for continuity and 
clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee. The resulting manuscript is typed in 
final form, indexed, bound with photographs and illustrative materials, and 
placed in The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, and 
other research collections for scholarly use. Because it is primary material, 
oral history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete 
narrative of events. It is a spoken account, offered by the interviewee in 
response to questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved, 
and irreplaceable. 



All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement 
between The Regents of the University of California and Warren 
Winiarski dated May 12, 1994. The manuscript is thereby made 
available for research purposes. All literary rights in the 
manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to The 
Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley. No part 
of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written 
permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library of the University 
of California, Berkeley. 

Requests for permission to quote for publication should be 
addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Library, 
University of California, Berkeley 94720, and should include 
identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated 
use of the passages, and identification of the user. The legal 
agreement with Warren Winiarski requires that he be notified of the 
request and allowed thirty days in which to respond. 

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows: 



Warren Winiarski, "Creating Classic Wines 
in the Napa Valley," an oral history 
conducted in 1991, 1993 by Ruth Teiser, 
Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft 
Library, University of California, 
Berkeley, 1994. 



Copy no . 



Cataloging information 

WINIARSKI, Warren (b. 1928) Winery owner 

Creating Classic Wines in the Napa Valley. 1994, viii, 93 pp. 

Academic background, St. John's College, University of Chicago, and Italy; 
choosing a career in winemaking, Martin Ray winery; Souverain winery, 1964- 
1966, and Lee Stewart; mid-1960s technology, cold fermentation for white 
wines; Robert Mondavi winery startup, 1966-1968; making wine in Denver, 
1968-1970; Howell Mountain vineyard; Stag's Leap Wine Cellars: vineyard 
development, winemaking criteria; discussion of Napa County Agricultural 
Preserve . 

Interviewed in 1991 and 1993 by Ruth Teiser for the Wine Spectator 
California Winemen Oral History Series. The Regional Oral History Office, 
The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. 



TABLE OF CONTENTS --Warren Winiarski 

PREFACE i 

INTERVIEW HISTORY- -by Ruth Teiser vi 

BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION viii 



I EARLY YEARS AND EDUCATION (1928-1961) 1 

The Idea of a Sense of Community 4 

Academic Years . 5 

II WORKING IN THE WINE INDUSTRY 8 

Beginning of Interest in Winemaking as a Profession 8 

Explorations 10 

Experience at Martin Ray's Winery 14 

Working at Souverain, 1964-1966 20 

Winemaking Technology of the Mid-1960s 24 

Starting Up the Robert Mondavi Winery, 1966-1968 28 

The Denver Winemaking Enterprise, 1968-1970 31 

Consulting and Studying, 1968-1970 35 

Starting a Vineyard on Howell Mountain, Spring 1965 39 

III STAG'S LEAP WINE CELLARS 45 

Introduction to the Property, 1969 45 

Replanting the Vineyards, 1970-1972 49 

Developing a Wine Estate 53 

Building and Equipping the Winery, 1973 56 

The Paris Tasting, 1976 66 

Classic Criteria 68 

"Wines of Moderation and Restraint" 71 

Growth and Special Programs 72 

The Vineyards 74 

Consistent Goals 76 

Changes in Grape Growing Considerations 77 

IV NAPA COUNTY AGRICULTURAL PRESERVE 1968 83 

V VITICULTURAL AREA DESIGNATIONS 87 

VI OUTLOOK 89 



TAPE GUIDE 91 

INDEX 92 



PREFACE 



The California wine industry oral history series, a project of the 
Regional Oral History Office, was initiated by Ruth Teiser in 1969 
through the action and with the financing of the Wine Advisory Board, a 
state marketing order organization which ceased operation in 1975. In 
1983 it was reinstituted as The Wine Spectator California Winemen Oral 
History Series with donations from The Wine Spectator Scholarship 
Foundation. The selection of those to be interviewed has been made by a 
committee consisting of the director of The Bancroft Library, University 
of California, Berkeley; John A. De Luca, president of the Wine 
Institute, the statewide winery organization; Maynard A. Amerine, 
Emeritus Professor of Viticulture and Enology, University of California, 
Davis; the current chairman of the board of directors of the Wine 
Institute; Ruth Teiser, series project director; and Marvin R. Shanken, 
trustee of The Wine Spectator Scholarship Foundation. 

Until her death in June 1994, Ruth Teiser was project originator, 
initiator, director, and conductor of the greater part of the oral 
histories. Her book, Winemaking in California, co-authored with 
Catherine Harroun and published in 1982, was the product of more than 
forty years of research, interviewing, and photographing. (Those wine 
history files are now in The Bancroft Library for researcher use.) Ruth 
Teiser 's expertise and knowledge of the wine industry contributed 
significantly to the documenting of its history in this series. 

The purpose of the series is to record and preserve information on 
California grape growing and winemaking that has existed only in the 
memories of wine men. In some cases their recollections go back to the 
early years of this century, before Prohibition. These recollections are 
of particular value because the Prohibition period saw the disruption of 
not only the industry itself but also the orderly recording and 
preservation of records of its activities. Little has been written about 
the industry from late in the last century until Repeal. There is a real 
paucity of information on the Prohibition years (1920-1933), although 
some commercial winemaking did continue under supervision of the 
Prohibition Department. The material in this series on that period, as 
well as the discussion of the remarkable development of the wine industry 
in subsequent years will be of aid to historians. Of particular value is 
the fact that frequently several individuals have discussed the same 
subjects and events or expressed opinions on the same ideas, each from 
his or her own point of view. 

Research underlying the interviews has been conducted principally in 
the University libraries at Berkeley and Davis, the California State 



11 



Library, and In the library of the Wine Institute, which has made its 
collection of materials readily available for the purpose. 

The Regional Oral History Office was established to tape record 
autobiographical interviews with persons who have contributed 
significantly to recent California history. The office is headed by 
Willa K. Baum and is under the administrative supervision of The Bancroft 
Library. 

Carole Hicke 
Project Director 

The Wine Spectator California Winemen 
Oral History Series 

July 1994 

Regional Oral History Office 

The Bancroft Library 

University of California, Berkeley 



iii 



CALIFORNIA WINE INDUSTRY INTERVIEWS 
Interviews Completed November 1994 

Leon D. Adams, Revitalizing the California Wine Industry. 1974 

Leon D. Adams, California Wine Industry Affairs: Recollections and Opinions. 
1990 

Maynard A. Amerine , The University of California and the State's Wine 
Industry. 1971 

Maynard A. Amerine, Wine Bibliographies and Taste Perception Studies. 
1988 

Philo Biane, Wine Making in Southern California and Recollections of Fruit 
Industries. Inc. . 1972 

Charles A. Carpy, Viticulture and Enology at Freemark Abbey. 1994 
John B. Cella, The Cella Family in the California Wine Industry. 1986 

Charles Crawford, Recollections of a Career with the Gallo Winery and the 
Development of the California Wine Industry. 1942-1989. 1990 

Burke H. Critchfield, Carl F. Wente , and Andrew G. Frericks, The California 
Wine Industry During the Depression. 1972 

William V. Cruess, A Half Century of Food and Wine Technology. 1967 

Jack and Jamie Peterman Davies, Rebuilding Schramsberg: The Creation of a 
California Champagne House. 1990 

Paul Draper, History and Philosophy of Winemaking at Ridge Vineyards: 1970S- 
1990S. 1994 

William A. Dieppe, Almaden is My Life. 1985 

Making California Port Wine: Ficklin Vineyards from 1948 to 1992. interviews 
with David, Jean, Peter, and Steven Ficklin, 1992 

Alfred Fromm, Marketing California Wine and Brandy. 1984 

Louis Gomberg, Analytical Perspectives on the California Wine Industry. 1935- 
1990. 1990 

Miljenko Grgich, A Croatian- American Winemaker in the Napa Valley. 1992 
Joseph E. Heitz, Creating a Winery in the Napa Valley. 1986 

Maynard A. Joslyn, A Technologist Views the California Wine Industry. 
1974 

Amandus N. Kasimatis, A Career in California Viticulture. 1988 



iv 



Morris Katz, Paul Masson Winery Operations and Management. 1944-1988. 1990 

Legh F. Knowles, Jr., Beaulieu Vineyards from Family to Corporate Ownership. 
1990 

Horace 0. Lanza and Harry Baccigaluppi , California Grape Products and Other 
Wine Enterprises. 1971 

Zelma R. Long, The Past is the Beginning of the Future: Simi Winery in its 
Second Century. 1992 

Richard Maher, California Winery Management and Marketing. 1992 

Louis M. Martini and Louis P. Martini, Wine Making in the Napa Valley. 
1973 

Louis P. Martini, A Family Winery and the California Wine Industry. 1984 

Eleanor McCrea, Stony Hill Vineyards: The Creation of a Napa Valley Estate 
Winery. 1990 

Otto E. Meyer, California Premium Wines and Brandy. 1973 

Norbert C. Mirassou and Edmund A. Mirassou, The Evolution of a Santa Clara 
Valley Winery. 1986 

Peter Mondavi, Advances in Technology and Production at Charles Krue Winery. 
1946-1988. 1990 

Robert Mondavi, Creativity in the Wine Industry. 1985 

Michael Moone , Management and Marketing at Beringer Vineyards and Wine World. 
Inc. . 1990 

Myron S. Nightingale, Making Wine in California. 1944-1987. 1988 
Harold P. Olrao, Plant Genetics and New Grape Varieties. 1976 

Cornelius Ough, Researches of an Enologist. University of California. Davis. 
1950-1990. 1990 

John A. Parducci, Six Decades of Making Wine in Mendocino County. California. 
1992 

Antonio Perelli-Minetti , A Life in Wine Making. 1975 

Louis A. Petri, The Petri Family in the Wine Industry. 1971 

Jefferson E. Peyser, The Law and the California Wine Industry. 1974 

Lucius Powers, The Fresno Area and the California Wine Industry. 1974 

Victor Repetto and Sydney J. Block, Perspectives on California Wines. 1976 



Edmund A. Rossi, Italian Swiss Colony and the Wine Industry. 1971 

Edmund A. Rossi, Jr., Italian Swiss Colonv. 1949-1989: Recollections of a 
Third-Generation California Winemaker. 1990 

Arpaxat Setrakian, A. Setrakian. a Leader of the San Joaauin Valley Grape 
Industry. 1977 

Elie Skofis, California Wine and Brandy Maker. 1988 

Rodney S. Strong, Rodney Strong Vineyards: Creative Winemaking and Winery 
Management in Sonoma County. 1994 

Andre Tchelistcheff , Grapes. Wine, and Ecology. 1983 

Brother Timothy, The Christian Brothers as Wine Makers. 1974 

Louis (Bob) Trinchero, California Zinfandels. a Success Story. 1992 

Charles F. Wagner and Charles J. Wagner, Caymus Vineyards: A Father- Son Team 
Producing Distinctive Wines. 1994 

The Wente Family and the California Wine Industry, interviews with Jean, 
Carolyn, Philip, and Eric Wente, 1992 

Ernest A. Wente, Wine Making in the Livermore Valley. 1971 
Warren Winiarski, Creating Classic Wines in the Napa Valley. 1994 
Albert J. Winkler, Viticultural Research at UC Davis (1921-1971). 1973 

John H. Wright, Domaine Chandon: The First French-owned California Sparkling 
Wine Cellar, includes an interview with Edmond Maudiere, 1992 



vi 



INTERVIEW HISTORY- -by Ruth Teiser 

Warren Winiarski won international fame at the 1976 Paris Tasting 
for his Stag's Leap wine. This was only four years after he started his 
winery. His adherence to high quality standards for his wines has 
continued to this day. 

Warren Winiarski was born on October 22, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois, 
and spent his early years there. His Polish-American family was part of 
a cohesive and somewhat isolated community of people of similar heritage. 
He attended the public schools without achieving the kind of academic 
excellence that would have been anticipated in a boy who went on for a 
time to an academic career. As he explained, however, he was a difficult 
student because he did not easily accept what he was taught but "had to 
reduce things for my own illumination." 

The same kind of turn of mind affected this interview. Always 
courteous and affable, he steered the interview in his own direction, 
although he generally followed the outline of suggested subjects sent to 
him in advance. He, however, terminated the interview rather abruptly, 
leaving the interviewer with some inquiries not made. 

Thus this interview is remarkably characteristic of the narrator. 
Evident are his intelligence, his interest in philosophy and abstract 
ideas, and his broad concept of world wine. And his determination. 

As he recounts, his interest in wine and an independent agrarian 
life for himself and his wife led him from an academic career into the 
wine industry. At first he worked for others, and finally in the early 
1970s he created Stag's Leap vineyard and winery. His training in 
viticulture and enology was largely on- the -job and through independent 
study, and thus he developed the high ideals that have characterized his 
winemaking and brought it success and acclaim. 

The first interview sessions were held on July 24 and 25, 1991, at 
the winery and in a sitting room of his attractive home north of Napa and 
above the Silverado Trail. The final session, delayed until March 24, 
1993, because of scheduling problems, was held in his office in the 
Stag's Leap hillside winery. The tapings were several times interrupted 
for winery matters. 



vii 



Mr. Winiarski reviewed the transcripts twice at his request, the 
second time reviewing his own editorial changes. He then made additional 
small changes and revisions, but no substantive alterations. 



Ruth Teiser 
Interviewer/Editor 



April 1994 

Regional Oral History Office 

The Bancroft Library 

University of California, Berkeley 



viii 



Regional Oral History Office University of California 

Room 486 The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 94720 

BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION 

(Please write clearly. Use black ink.) 

K * ' \ ' 
Your full nam W<X>C ^ CW W \ V\\ 0^ > V< 1 

Date of birth October 22, 1928 ^ Birthplace Chicago. IL 

Father's full name Stephen Winiarski : 

Occupation Businessman Birthplace Chicago, IL 

Mother's full name Lottie Winiarski ^ 

Occupation Honer.aker Birthplace chica g' IL 



Your spouse Barbara 



Your children Kasia ' Stephen, and Julia 



Where did you grow up? Chicago, IL 



Present community Napa, CA 



Chicago Public Schools, St. John's College, University of Chicago 
Education 

University of Florence, Italy, Croce Institute, Naples, Italy 
Occupation (s) Winemaker 

Areas of expertise w i ne growing and making 



Other interest, or Ctiviti. Political Theory. Education, and Horticulture 



Organization, in which you .r. tctive Board of Directors St ' J hn ' S C llege> 
Burpee Seed Company, Napa Valley Vintners Association, and DARE (Napa). 



I EARLY YEARS AND EDUCATION (1928-1964) 



[Interview 1: July 24, 



Teiser: We generally begin at the beginning- -when and where you were 
born. 

Winiarski: Nineteen twenty-eight, October 22, in Chicago. It was at the 

beginning of the Depression; it was a good harbinger for future 
things. Sometime around then, in the fall of 1928, wasn't 
there that stock market unpleasantness? I don't know how that 
reflects on the current situation, but that's the year I was 
born. 

Teiser: I guess people who were born during the Depression have some 

little remnants, perhaps more psychological than not. Was your 
family hit by the Depression? 

Winiarski: Not that I recall. I don't think there's anything that I can 
put in a recollection. 

You know, my name, Winiarski, means "son of a winemaker." 
The "-ski" part is genitive, so it refers to origin, like 
Peterson is the son of Peter; so Winiarski is the son of 
someone who makes wine, and my father was a winemaker; he made 
dandelion wine and fruit wine as a hobby. 

Teiser: What was his occupation? 

Winiarski: He ran a livery business for weddings, funerals, and that sort 
of thing, a business that his father started long before that. 
The family was in this county about a hundred years or more. 

Teiser: Were you involved in his winemaking? 



lf rhis symbol (##) indicates that a tape or segment of tape has begun. 
For a guide to the tapes, see page following transcript. 



Winiarski 



Teiser: 
Winiarski 



I remember putting my ear to the barrels and hearing the sounds 
of the fermentation. He used that wine on social occasions, 
since he did this sort of community service. This was a small 
community within a large city. Everyone spoke Polish, and some 
folks only spoke Polish. When he conducted these social events 
and ceremonials, he would use some of his wine. That was 
something very special, and I do remember that. I remember in 
the cool cellar of our home where I was raised that there were 
these barrels from time to time. I don't have any recollection 
of the process, but I do remember listening to the 
fermentation, and I do remember tasting the wine that he made 
on some of these occasions. It was always very palatable and 
pleasant. 



So he made fruit wines, 



He made honey wine also- -mead. 
flavored wines, and mead. 

I've never tasted mead. 



I tried to make that early, too. I tried to go through the 
footsteps that he had, and it's not very interesting. You can 
leave a little sugar in it so it's mild and pleasant. I have 
no recollection of that wine that he made. 



Teiser: It was made under quite primitive conditions originally, wasn't 
it? 



Winiarski: Yes. You have to dilute the honey down before you begin the 

fermentation. Otherwise it just doesn't ferment. You have to 
get to a degree of brix (about 22) that is suitable for 
fermentation, and that's the way one starts. 

Teiser: What was your early schooling before college? 

Winiarski: It was actually in this same neighborhood. I attended public 
school, but I also attended private school, which was to learn 
Polish. That was in this little community that was so 
insulated that we hardly knew what else was going on. I'm sure 
some people did, but it was quite possible in this community- - 
you knew everyone, or you knew someone who knew someone else. 
There was a closeness, a sense of cohesiveness , and a sense of 
real community, where there was a butcher, a baker, a 
candlestick-maker. They were all on different corners or in 
different parts, and you walked here and there around this 
community to get what you needed. 

Part of it was a public school within that community, 
Casimir Pulaski School, the name obviously chosen for its 
relevance to that community; it was a public school, but it had 



the name of a Polish hero who was also a part of our 
revolutionary war. He made contributions to the revolutionary 
effort by his strategies and fortifications, as well as by 
being a leader in the various battle campaigns. 

Teiser: When you went to college, then, you got out among other people 
more than you had when you were young? 

Winiarski: Well, that happened when I went to high school. Then you go 
into a larger community. That was a public high school, 
actually a technical school, in Chicago. 

Teiser: Your later academic career was more academic, not technical, 
wasn't it? 



Winiarski: It was humanities mainly. 

Teiser: Were you a good student? You must have been. 

Winiarski: I think so, but difficult. I think I always had to see it my 
way; I had to reduce things for my own illumination into terms 
that I could understand. That was tough in the early days in 
the public school. I remember being in trouble a lot in school 
and sort of failing once and not advancing in the class for 
reasons of science and other things where I couldn't quite 
accomplish the transformation of the material for my own 
purposes. They didn't think too highly of that endeavor, and I 
stayed behind a year or a half year; it was 7A or 7B. That was 
a shattering experience; that I can recall. 

But still, I had to do that; I had to change things around 
until I understood it in the way I could deal with it. 

Teiser: Does that apply to the way you make wine? 

Winiarski: It might. That's a very good point, actually. I think I had 
to do that. 

Teiser: How did you happen to decide to go on to do graduate work and 
get an M.A. after college? 

Winiarski: After high school I attended the University of Chicago for a 
while, and then I attended a school of agriculture and mining 
at Fort Collins, Colorado. I thought I might be interested in 
forestry. That lasted only a short time, I think- -maybe a 
couple of semesters- -because I found that it really wasn't what 
I thought it was. I found myself more interested in 
understanding things and more interested in the humanities than 
in the technical proficiencies. 



The Idea of a Sense of Con 



Winiarski: I don't think we should abandon that early inspiration of the 
wine. I think maybe there's something more there in those 
early days. My grandfather, as I've heard, originally 
delivered coal in the winter and ice in the summer for 
businesses, households, and that sort of thing. Gradually that 
changed itself from delivery to livery; they simply provided 
horse and buggy and whatever other kind of carriages were 
appropriate, mainly in this neighborhood. Later that was 
expanded, but in the beginning I think the sense of 
neighborhood, the sense of community was very important; and 
now that I think of it, that may have contributed to the 
unwillingness to become simply technically proficient at a 
skill, for example, like forestry. Or I didn't want to be just 
technically competent, but I wanted some larger sense of 
community. [This was due,] I think, to having had an 
experience of that in this small community where everyone had a 
job, where there was such a cohesive community, and where 
people felt about each other in certain ways and felt about the 
outside in other ways --that's part of it unfortunately, but 
that's a sense of community, and that means a closed community. 
The intimacy and the coherence of that kind of life I think 
made a pretty big impression on me. 

My father contributed to that. Gradually that business 
became narrowed down to concentrating on weddings, 
confirmations, and funerals, and I think after a while even 
more concentrated on funerals and that aspect of it. But that 
was a very important part of that community, a crucial 
contribution to the community. We lived across from the Polish 
National Catholic Cathedral, so we were right in the center of 
things . 

Teiser: Did you find any sense of community in the colleges and the 
universities you went to? 

Winiarski: I think that's why I was drawn to the liberal arts, because 

that's an idea which is not particularly articulated in modern 
times. It belongs to an earlier time when people thought about 
social and political communities in different ways- -about their 
limitations and about what guided the limitations. That's not 
a modern idea. I mean, the idea of growth and the idea of 
endless expansion is part of modern outlook, and not part of 
the outlook that I had a taste of when I attended some college 
courses at the University of Chicago. 



There another outlook opened up, and then I went away from 
that. That's when I went to Colorado, but it was very quickly 
clear to me that it wasn't going to work. Someone gave me a 
book about St. John's College in Annapolis, and that seemed to 
satisfy all those- -they weren't interested specifically in 
technical proficiency. They wanted you to understand those 
things, but the most important thing was the understanding 
itself --not to be competent in a technical way, but to 
understand, and that's just what I was looking for. That might 
have gone back to this old thing about having to redo things 
that your teachers tell you in a way that you can grasp and 
having come to it in some terms, making it your own. 

You are very good, because you are drawing all this out. 
These are connections I had not made before, but they are 
obviously very important. 



Academic Years 



Teiser: Did you get your B.A. from the University of Chicago? 

Winiarski: No, I got my B.A. at St. John's College. At that time the 

[Robert M. ] Hutchins program, which you are familiar with, I'm 
sure, was only in a remnant form at the University of Chicago. 

Teiser: You mean it was past its prime? 

Winiarski: I think many people would say it was past its prime. Hutchins 
had already left, and what was there was already somewhat 
diluted from his original intention. Where it did exist in its 
original form, and perhaps even more than Hutchins himself 
envisaged, was at St. John's College in Annapolis. There it 
was not only practiced as a curriculum consideration, but it 
was also practiced as a small community. There were four 
hundred students at that time or maybe even less --three hundred 
students. It had a very definite size; that college wanted to 
be small to provide a community of learning where people were 
able to communicate about the same kinds of things and engaged 
with each other in elucidating the subject matter of those 
books . 

Teiser: You then went on to get your M.A.? 

Winiarski: Yes. I left St. John's and went back to the University of 

Chicago for studies in political science. I think I was there 
two years. Again, this was trying to articulate this other 




Warren Winiarskl at St. John's College, 1953, 



idea of the political history, which goes back to the need to 
study those original texts which spoke of that earlier 
tradition of thought- -about small communities, about cohesive 
communities, and about principles of political life which are 
different from those which are current. That was very 
interesting to me. 

Teiser: Did you become a teaching assistant then? 

Winiarski: No, I went to Italy then and studied at Croce Institute in 

Naples and at the University of Florence, again studying some 
of the things that I had begun at the University of Chicago- - 
Machiavelli in particular, Francesco Guicciardini , and the 
theorists of the Italian tradition. That was about fifteen 
months or so at the University of Florence, and I worked with 
the Machiavelli manuscripts at the Laurentian Library. 

I wanted to get to Germany. In Erfurt there was one of 
the most important manuscripts of II Principe, but I didn't get 
any response from the Communist authorities. 

Teiser: Were you intending at that time to get a Ph.D. and go into 
teaching? 

Winiarski: I think so. As far as I understood my own purposes, that was 

it. 

Teiser: Then when you came back you became a-- 

Winiarski: I became a lecturer in the Basic Program at the University 

College. This was sort of a program of non-graduate studies- - 
people who had taken or not taken a degree. It was a four- 
year, all-required program in part for people who had already 
some academic training or who had an interest but no specific 
academic training. It led to a certificate. This was one of 
the last parts of the Hutchins program, and it existed then at 
the University College. Not the College of the University; 
there's a big difference. University College is sort of 
extension, and that's where the program existed in its fullest 
form. 

Teiser: How long did you do that? 

Winiarski: I think I did that for about six years while taking further 

graduate courses and working toward a Ph.D. In the meantime I 
got the M.A. , and at a certain point I guess this idea of 
cohesive community and life that Barbara and I and our family 
then could live and practice together became the most important 



consideration. It eventually became more important than 
finishing the Ph.D. work. 

Teiser: That's hard to break off after you've put that much effort into 
it, isn't it? 

Winiarski: It was. And there were satisfactions in teaching that would be 
difficult if not impossible to duplicate. It was tough to make 
that decision. 



II WORKING IN THE WINE INDUSTRY 



Beginning of Interest in Winemaking as a Profession 



Winiarski: 



Teiser : 



Winiarski 



Going back a little bit, sort of filling in the spaces, when I 
was at St. John's I met Philip Wagner. You know, Phil still 
thinks about these things. Maynard [Amerine] and Phil both had 
a large hand in getting me started. It was Philip to whom I 
wrote to ask about the opportunities, and he in turn wrote to 
Maynard. Maynard said, "It's practically impossible to get 
started these days the way you want to do it, with no formal 
training." Phil sent that letter to me a long time after we 
had achieved a certain amount of success in this endeavor. 



What made you interested in wine as an occupation? 
thinking of it as an occupation? 



Or were you 



I was, and I got encouragement from both Phil and Maynard in 
this. Although he didn't underestimate the difficulties, he 
did think it would be possible. Phil encouraged me more into 
regional wines, which is a very strong interest of his. He 
encouraged me to become interested in regional wines and the 
development of the hybrids and use of hybrids to establish 
wines of regional significance. That was very attractive for a 
long time ; I was thinking about this . 

I was playing with these ideas while I was at St. John's. 
Later, while attending the University of Chicago, I even made 
wines from grapes that one of Philip's growers produced in 
Westminster County, Maryland, one year. While on a visit to 
Barbara's parents' home in Baltimore, I drove up there and 
bought a big crock at one of those antique stores along the 
road. This is sort of amusing. I got this antique crock, and 
I got the grapes. I crushed the grapes in Baltimore and took 
them back to Chicago to finish the fermentation. This was a 
graduate school exercise. Have you ever seen these old antique 
crocks? 



Teiser: I think I have. Are they like what they make pickles in? 

Winiarski: Right, exactly, and they were used to make wine, too. But it 
is a different microbiology. I didn't realize that those tiny 
hairline cracks concealed a world of life that was soon to make 
a very important impression on the wine that I made, 
[laughter] When you get one of these antique crocks, you can't 
tell what it was used for before. This one probably belonged 
to someone who made cabbage or pickles in the back country of 
Maryland. 

Teiser: How did you wine turn out? 

Winiarski: It turned out all right for a while. Afterwards that stronger, 
hidden force in all those little cracks reasserted itself, and 
that wine turned to something that was not very pleasant. That 
was my first winemaking venture. 

Teiser: At least you got all through the process. 

Winiarski: I got through the process, yes, and it was pretty good- -for a 
wh i 1 e . 



Teiser: Did you continue, then, making wine? 
Winiarski: That simmered. 

I have to tell you something else that happened. This is 
another flashback (see how well you are doing your job?). In 
1954 or 1955, after two years at the university in political 
science, I went to Italy, as I said, and began to use wine on a 
regular basis with meals. That was really fine; I liked that 
whole idea. In our family wine was a special occasion event 
and not daily, but in Italy I found wine used on a daily basis. 
It was a little bit with lunch in the wonderful Italian 
sunshine. I mean, it really made a difference in how you 
perceived food and how your afternoon was fulfilled. 

Teiser: Did you take any criteria from the United States about what 
wine should taste like? 

Winiarski: No. By that time my father had stopped making the wine, and we 
used it only occasionally, so I didn't fasten in on the whole 
topic and presentation of wine. It's been my experience that 
everyone who is engaged with wine in a more than casual way has 
some experience in which wine reveals itself for the first 
time, no matter how many times you've had it before and under 
what circumstances. There is one single moment when the 
richness and the significance of it come to be. 



10 



Winiarski: 

Teiser: 
Winiarski: 

Teiser: 
Winiarski 



I went to Italy and used wine and so on, and I came back 
and spent a number of years again at the University of Chicago. 
It wasn't until a friend visited Barbara and me and brought a 
wine from the East Coast. It was in the class of one of Philip 
Wagner's hybrid wines, and at that luncheon wine took on its 
special significance for me. It was epiphanal! It illuminated 
itself in a way it had never appeared before. From that time 
onward I started to read about it, I became interested in it 
and talked to people about it. I would viSit stores and chat 
with people who were selling the wine who were familiar with 
the origins of this or that wine and the status of them, the 
characters, the virtues of them. It became a preoccupation. 

This was toward the end of those six or so years at the 
University of Chicago when the whole idea of finding a kind of 
life that we could share as a family, participate in as a 
family, began to emerge. 

#// 

The two ideas began to converge; something we could do 
together, and the interest in wine and the fascination with all 
its aspects began to come together. 

Did your wife feel the same interest? 

Yes. Not from the same origins. Partly it was because I was 
interested in it. These threads were not coming together 
identically for her as they were for me. 

Did either of you have any idea of agrarian life? 

I think we wanted to be out of the city if possible. We 
perceived it would be difficult to accomplish what we wanted to 
do in an urban context. It wasn't going to be simply a 
business, in other words. It had to be a special kind of 
activity where we could share with each other the things we 
were doing. I think that was clear. 



Explorations 



Winiarski: I even went to New Mexico to see what kind of [opportunities 
were there]. We didn't have the resources to go out and buy 
something and live from that, so whatever it was going to be, 
it would have to be something that we would have to work 
through and hopefully eventually develop the resources to be 



11 



able to sustain ourselves. In retrospect, it was sort of 
imprudent to a pretty large degree, because if things had not 
been happening in California to make that sustainable, it would 
not only have been "agrarian, " as you said, but it would have 
been at a very low level of economic return. I don't think we 
were thinking of that too much, and that's a sign of the 
imp rudenc e also. 

Teiser: What sorts of things did you look at in New Mexico? 

Winiarski: It was to see grape growing, and I also got grapes there. I 

fermented grapes coming back to Chicago. I did look at apples 
there, for example, along the Rio Grande River in that green 
belt that goes through the state. There were a couple of 
places where they grew outstanding fruit. I knew one thing, 
Ruth. I knew there was no chance of sustaining ourselves at a 
mediocre level; whatever we had- -if we had apples, it had to be 
prime fruit. 

There's a little addition to this. (I told this story to 
Jim [James] Conaway in the book Napa 1 .) It was on this trip 
that I took by myself and lived in the back of a station wagon 
and had little shades; you know, I made it into a little 
covered wagon sort of thing so that I could move very quickly 
and be free to stop wherever I needed to- -maximum flexibility 
to discover the things that I wanted to. 

Outside of the irrigated areas, the country is arid, and 
one day I stopped along the side of the road at a deserted 
adobe house that had been abandoned. There were picket fences 
around that had once enclosed something, and there was some old 
corn lying there from the last time it had been harvested. 
Maybe they had lived there only a short time and moved on, and 
maybe they would come back, but to all intents and purposes it 
was abandoned. It had an air of desolation, and the wind was 
blowing and tumbleweeds were rolling across my field of vision. 
The wind was doing this funny kind of whistling that it does. 
It's a kind of lonely, desolate sound arid, deserted, and 
foresaken. 

Something in me then said, "You're considering this? 
You're thinking about this? Your ancestors would curse you for 
having left what you left to come back to something like this, 
and your descendants will curse you for having opportunities 
and then bringing them to this." Within myself, I was being 



Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1990. 



12 



the playwright for the generations, 
the thought of that enterprise. 



That play sort of ended 



Teiser: Then did you make a similar exploratory trip to California? 

Winiarski: Right. That was later. I think that was about the time I had 
already decided. After the experience when our friend brought 
us the wine, and after the experience in New Mexico and 
thinking about what my parents did to help me be educated, what 
they sacrificed, the field narrowed down very tightly. I read 
Philip Wagner's book with renewed interest. In the course of 
the reading I was doing in these wine books, I read about 
Martin Ray in John Storm's book 1 , I think it was --one of the 
very early books about California wine. 

I had read Schoonmaker ' s book. 2 That was another strong 
influence. Philip Wagner's was a strong influence, and 
Schoonmaker was a strong influence, probably Philip the more so 
because he wrote about it so humanistically, about the 
inwardness of winemaking and grape growing, and this was more 
appealing. Schoonmaker ' s was more a sort of businesslike, 
commercial approach. It was valuable, but it didn't have the 
ability to stir and inspire the way Phil's did. 

Teiser: Storm was someone Martin Ray knew? 

Winiarski: Yes. The book was about California wine. It had been given to 
me by one of my colleagues at the university. He talked about 
a number of the small wineries, and there were only a few then 
- -Mayacamas- -the people who were able, by their diligence, by 
their perseverance, and by their application, to find a way on 
a small scale, not as an industrial enterprise and a commercial 
effort, but as a way of life rather than as a way of business. 
When you read the description of Martin Ray, you didn't think 
this man was pursuing a business; he was pursuing a way of life 
first and foremost, and it managed to be a business. That was 
very appealing, this idea of combining this, because it sort of 
brought together all those aspects we were thinking about. 

Teiser: I know that Martin Ray was very inspiring to people. 



: John Storm, An Invitation to Wine. New York: Simon & Schuster, 
1955. 

2 Frank Schoonmaker and Tom Marvel, American Wines. New York: Duel, 
Sloan and Pearce , 1941. 



13 



Winiarski: He was. He had the ability to infuse qualities of uncommon 

interest, almost of magic. He had the ability to instill such 
a high degree of enthusiasm for what he was doing and to regard 
the things that he was doing with such enthusiasm that he was a 
very compelling figure, a very compelling spirit. 

Teiser: How did you get him to accept you? 

Winiarski: Well, he didn't quite. That didn't quite work. 

Where are we now in our narrative? I more or less made a 
decision to try California, having read these books again and 
having reaff irmation that this was the right thing to do. The 
question was where and with whom and how this was all to be 
brought about . 



Teiser: So you were pondering where to go? 

Winiarski: The method. The objective, I think, was pretty clear by now, 
but the means were not clear. In reading this book- -by the 
way, Chaffee Hall [of Hallcrest Vineyard] was one of these few 
[small wineries], if I'm not confusing it. There were a few; 
there was Lee [J. Leland] Stewart, the McCraes at Stony Hill, 
Martin Ray, Mayacamas , Chaffee Hall. But what had probably the 
greatest impact and attractiveness were the grand style wines 
by this man [Martin Ray] who seemed such a powerful presence to 
all who met him, to be larger than life itself up on this 
isolated mountain. 

That may be an extreme formulation, but that seemed- -if 
one knew how that could be accomplished, that would be helpful 
to a great and high degree to see how we might accomplish the 
same thing. I think I wrote to Martin, and I got this letter 
back from Peter Martin Ray, his son 1 , from the University of 
Michigan. I wrote to him inspired by what I read about him and 
about what he was doing there. 

By this time I knew something about California wines. I 
had not tasted any of Martin's wines, but there was a sense in 
me that the Californians were not on the whole doing enough 
with the fruit that they had to realize its full potential for 
excellence. It was sort of crazy to think that, but that's the 
way I perceived it. It was crazy to think that I could have 
anything to do with that, but I knew or had a very strong sense 



x His stepson. Martin Ray married Eleanor, Peter Martin Ray's mother. 



14 



that there must be people out there who were at the brink if 
not beyond the brink of achieving this excellence. Because the 
standard wines that came back to Chicago that I was able to get 
were not of this kind. They were good, but there was nothing 
of such surpassing excellence. 



Experience at Martin Ray's Winery 



Winiarski: From what I read of Martin in this book, I believed that he was 
trying to achieve this- -from what people said about those 
wines. It was just sort of putting two and two together, 
making certain inferences from what they said. He had the 
quality level, he had achieved the level of excellence, that 
this way of life, if one could duplicate it, would be self- 
sustaining economically. That's what I had to find out about. 

Teiser: Was he really self-sustaining economically in the end? 

Winiarski: I don't know. I guessed he was; I supposed he was. But having 
learned some other things, maybe his stockbroker earnings were 
supporting that to a large degree, and his real estate 
endeavors with other people and the partners that he got in. 
All of these things could have been working for it. It 
appeared to be; however it was managed, it appeared to be 
achievable, and that was very important for us. Imprudent as I 
was, I did think about it being not just for one year or so but 
a change for the rest of our lives. Therefore somehow it had 
to provide the basis for doing this the rest of our lives and 
for raising our children and educating our children. 

Teiser: What did his son say in his letter? 

Winiarski: I think it was sort of a fan letter that I wrote to Martin, 
admiring him, expressing praise for the achievement, and all 
this sort of thing, and wondering whether there wasn't some way 
that I couldn't work with him and learn; whether there was some 
place in his enterprise which would permit someone to learn the 
things while working for him- -an apprenticeship idea. 

Then I got this letter back from Peter Martin Ray. I 
think he's still called that, isn't he? Whatever happened to 
him? 



Teiser: He's still in charge of the winery, and he teaches at Stanford, 
I think. 



15 



Winiarski: Does he? Biology, botany. He was a man of some accomplishment 
in the field of biology or botany. His research was at a high 
level of sophistication. I mean, he had a very high order of 
acquaintance with the field. I'm not in a position to [judge 
his work] , but he had a position with the university in 
research. He also wrote a sort of basic textbook. 

The letter said that there was some possibility, because 
they had just made some changes in their organization. Someone 
had left them, and there was a possibility that they needed 
someone to help out with all the things that Martin did. It 
was pretty much a one-man operation- -one-man guidance, one-man 
inspiration, one man not smelling every bung, perhaps, but 
pretty close to it. 

In any case, he led me to believe there was hope that 
something that I wanted and something that they wanted would be 
to our mutual interest. That was a very exciting moment when I 
got that letter back. Then there was some further 
correspondence back and forth. I went out then to Ann Arbor to 
visit Peter and his family and to taste, finally, Martin Ray 
wines, which were a revelation. Beautiful wines. 
Chardonnays- -I ' d never tasted anything like that. I think it 
was whites only, if I recall. 

Teiser: I didn't realize that the son had that much interest in the 
winery that early. 

Winiarski: He came out there on occasion and worked there. He was 
Eleanor's son. 

Teiser: Yes, I believe so--not Martin Ray's son. 

Winiarski: Right. Martin adopted him, I believe, and then Peter assumed 
the name Peter Martin Ray. 

The wines were extraordinary, stunning, a degree of 
artistic excellence that I had not experienced in California 
wines before. It was unquenchable, then, this desire to put 
this thing together and make it work. I thought to myself that 
it is people and their endeavors that really make this turn 
around- -such stunning examples of excellence, such exquisite 
pleasure to accompany food and dining. By this time I had some 
experience with European wines and their similarities. They 
had some regional character, but still outstanding in light of 
that article of mine, "The Hierarchy of Wine Quality" 1 . There 



l Uines and Vines, August 1986, pp. 33- 35. 



16 



is a hierarchy, and these wines were at the top of the 
hierarchy. They were excellent not for their regional 
qualities, not for their here-and-now qualities, but they could 
be at any time, in any place, and anyone would recognize them 
for quality. 

Peter got these shipped in from Martin, I guess as part of 
his recompense so that he'd have the wines to entertain his 
friends. They knew about the wines, and they put them in a 
vault because even then they were so expensive that they were 
properly cared for in safe places. 

Everything seemed to be satisfactory on both sides, and to 
explore this to the next step it was necessary to go to 
California. They arranged it for me, and I think they even 
provided for the passage from Chicago by train. Peter was 
bringing his family from Michigan, the train passed through 
Chicago and I got on the train. They were in a compartment, 
and I got another compartment, and we went across country on 
the old Santa Fe railroad. It went through Iowa, Nebraska, 
Wyoming. Was it the Capitol Limited? They were trains that 
traveled through the night. We got off at Niles, a stop near 
Martin Ray's vineyard and winery, to go up to Cupertino and 
then up into the Santa Clara mountains. 

It was the middle of winter when I went there. I think it 
was actually toward the end; it may have been February or 
March. It coincided with Peter's being off from his teaching 
responsibilities. As we traveled through the winter-scorched 
plains and through the snow-covered mountains, can you imagine 
what an experience it was looking out the window the day we 
came across the Donner Pass and descended into the Central 
Valley, where everything was green? 

I spent a week at Mount Eden with Martin, Madame Pinot 
(Eleanor), Peter and his wife, Terry, and two of their 
children. They had built a building they called the chateau; 
the partners contributed towards having their own place of 
residence when they were there, part of which was for 
residential purposes and part for making wine. I believe they 
called that building the chateau, and I had a room in it. 
Above that was the house where Martin lived, and then they had 
a little guest house where Peter lived. 

During this week I was to see how I liked them and how I 
liked the work, and how they liked me and how good I could do 
the work. I wasn't very good, I don't believe, but I did all 
right. For one of the farm jobs, I walked behind the tractor. 
They had just cleared one of the mountain tops for Chardonnay, 



17 



and I walked behind the tractor and picked roots out of the 
ground. I did some pruning. I can't remember whether I did 
some tractoring or not. I think I did some tractor ing- -driving 
a tractor. Yes, I remember there was a breakdown, and the disc 
that I was using broke down. I got Peter to help me, and I 
can't imagine how I got to that point- -how I went back to get 
Peter to help me fix the disc- -unless I had been driving the 
tractor. Let's assume that's correct. I was supposed to do as 
many things as possible during the time that I was there. 

I helped them bottle. It was a fantastic experience. 
They bottled with a siphon hose from a barrel. Everything had 
its special magic. If you've never been up there, you don't 
know that Martin had accumulated a number of bells from 
schoolhouses that were no longer being used as schoolhouses . 
On occasions, when visitors came, they rang those bells. It 
was like a cathedral with all its bells ringing. It was 
ceremonial; it was formal; it was very special. It called for 
your taking strong notice, that this was not without its 
"breath of divinity," for it invited comparison with its 
churchlike original. The quality of the life there- -there was 
nothing ordinary; not a thing was left to its ordinary 
disposition. It tried to be heightened, enhanced, increased in 
meaning. After a while you had to sort of rub your eyes, 
because you couldn't believe all this was happening. 

All this lasted a week. If we are able to come back to 
these things I will be able fill in and speak about some of the 
specifics. I hesitate to tell you about the parties and the 
ceremonials that accompanied the eating, both casual meals and 
the special meals that took place. Maybe we can get into that 
if you think it's valuable, because that had something to do 
with it, too. 

Peter and Terry drove me to the train station. They were 
going to spend another week at Mount Eden. I was feeling 
pretty good, but then I noticed there was a kind of silence, a 
lack of the typical easygoing vivacity which was characteristic 
of our previous relationship. I noticed this kind of strained 
quality to our conversation after while, and I couldn't quite 
figure it out. Anyway, I went back to Chicago, and then I got 
a message by letter (after I had written and thanked them for 
the week and for showing me all the things, and expressing my 
desire to go forward with our thoughts and discussions) , saying 
that they had thought about it and- -I forget how Martin put it: 
he didn't think it would work out because I was too 
independent. I think that's the phrase he used. 



18 



In the meanwhile , they had shown me the place that they 
expected me and my family- -Barbara and our two children- -to 
live. It was small. We chalked it out on the floor; we marked 
out where this would be , where that would be , where the other 
thing would be. It was small. We were still willing to do it, 
however, but that was a tough one, I tell you. It was tough to 
think about living there, and there was a little pause in my 
mind. 

I had seen something of Martin's character at the same 
time, and that may have expressed itself while I was there. 
The magic --after I rubbed my eyes, some of the magic that I saw 
there didn't seem to be magic. I wondered how this was 
possible. There was a kind of unreality, and I wondered what 
would happen when the reality emerged. And yet I was so* 
devoted to the idea and so desirous of going forward with the 
project that I thought, "Well, you just have to do all these 
things. You have to forget about that, not look at this, not 
see this, and forget about all these spaces that are so tight 
in this cabin." I thought to myself later that I would be 
willing to undergo this kind of "voluntary servitude," because 
that's what it would have to have been, but I really wondered 
if I could subject my family to the same thing. 

Anyway, I still wanted to go forward with it, so when the 
letter came it was a blow. I wondered how that could be 
recovered. I talked to Peter on the phone, and I then went out 
to see them in Ann Arbor. We talked it over: could it work, 
would it work, why didn't it work? What was the independence, 
and what were the things that had to be done or couldn't be 
left off? I still thought, "Well, all those things may be 
problems- -all the circumstances that might lead to 
difficulties--." I think I was trying to fool myself, that I 
could just forget about all those things. I think probably 
Martin was wiser and saw something about me that revealed to 
him that it probably wouldn't work. 

So that was the Martin Ray story. 

I think the lesson was invaluable for me, however it 
turned out, to see something of what I wanted to achieve- -one 
rendition of it. To see this man, who was able to inspire, who 
did inspire, who evoked admiration, and whose achievements were 
magnificent at that time. Some people have a different sense 
of his wines. The wines I tasted were all outstanding. It was 
said that some bottles didn't live very long, and the wines 
were subject to oxidation and all that sort of thing. I, 
unfortunately or fortunately, did not have the experience of 



19 



Teiser: 
Winiarski: 



Teiser: 



the faulty wines the times I was there and the times I had them 
afterwards . 

Reflecting on that afterwards, I thought Martin's great 
achievement was perhaps doomed to failure, because it took 
someone of that huge magnitude and capability to show what was 
possible. But maybe that magnitude was unavoidably accompanied 
by this --well, it's a tyrannical paranoia, if I could use this 
kind of semi-clinical description. There was a tyrannical 
spirit about him, absolutely to have everything his own way; 
and that goes with the other thing, because in paranoia, to 
feel that people are not with you all the way is an inevitable 
consequence of wanting everything your own way. 

But you saw California enough to want to return? 

Yes. The idea was still very much alive. Maybe I went too far 
to an extreme in thinking about how much could be overcome. 
But as it turned out, I think the ending that came about was 
entirely appropriate. I immediately began to say, "Well, 
that's not going to be possible, so what else is possible? 
What else can be done? 

It was fortunate that you saw it that way. 



Teiser: You had seen one part of California- - 

Winiarski: Yes, and the mountain life- -this isolation and the endeavor. I 
heard some things when I was there that led me to believe that 
other people did not see eye to eye with Martin on how to do 
this: Gil Nickel and Jack Davies. So I knew this wasn't the 
only resolution, that there were other possibilities. Then: 
Well, what were they? What other people? There's the Napa 
Valley, there's Mayacamas , there's Lee Stewart. I began to 
write to other people, and I'd give the same presentation: 
"Here I am. I will do what's necessary in your organization. 
I'd like to learn how to do these things, and we can be of 
service to each other." 

I got three letters back. Chaffee Hall wrote back and 
said there was no possibility; or did I hear that? I can't 
remember now. But two letters I do remember, one from 
Mayacamas and one from Lee Stewart. They were both in the same 
area, and that meant a trip to see what they were like and to 
talk further with them. 



20 



Something happened at Mayacamas between my letter to them 
and their letter coming back to me. Bob [Robert] Ellsworth, 
"The Compleat Winemaker," was there. He and Phoebe lived up 
there and were sort of running the thing. But I think 
something had happened, because the letter that I remember 
receiving, and the letter from Lee Stewart, said he had just 
had a change. They both indicated that it would be beneficial 
to come and see what they were like and talk further, and 
that's what I did. Bob remembers it differently. Bob 
remembers indicating that there wasn't any opening at 
Mayacamas. We were both trying to recollect the other day 
about how that happened. 

I spent an afternoon up there, but then I found out that 
they didn't have anything, it really wasn't an opportunity. 
Bob and Phoebe kindly invited me to lunch in spite of the 
misunderstanding, and we had an interesting conversation. They 
were both very urbane and comforting, given the circumstances. 



Working at Souverain. 1964-1966 



Winiarski : I spent the balance of the time at Souverain, and there we did 
seem to hit it off; we did seem to have something that was 
beneficial for both of us in the proposal. So the deal was 
settled, and we made an arrangement for me to return in the 
middle of the summer before crush to establish my family. I 
didn't even have time then, I think, to definitely find a place 
for us to live, so that had to be done a little remotely. But 
we did find a place finally, and we arrived out there. Barbara 
should tell you some of the stories about coming across the 
country in this station wagon with a trailer. The first day 
out of Chicago we broke down because of the load we had. We 
had to have the engine rebuilt, and it was worn out by the time 
we got here. So we wore out two engines getting to California, 
traveling with two children and all the things I had- -lots of 
books, bookcases. And books were still coming; books were 
still loaded on railway express, which had a depot in Vallejo 
at that time. 

Teiser: What were your duties at Souverain? 

Winiarski: I was the assistant winemaker in a two-man winery, so that 

meant do everything and anything. I tell you, that was a very 
good experience, because every step was available; every single 
step was open to observation, and you had to do every step, 
from the most inconsequential to the most important. 



21 



Teiser: As I have heard, Lee Stewart was another person who inspired 
young winemakers. 

Winiarski: Right. He made some outstanding wines there, and they created 
a stylistic identity, that slightly sweet white wine of great 
cleanliness, great clarity, and with refreshing qualities. 
There weren't many examples of that in California. They were 
not magnificent wines, as Martin Ray's tended to be on a large 
scale, very sweeping statements of wine style, but at their 
level of complexity they were extremely refreshing, pleasant, 
agreeable, and expressed the fruit to a high degree. Martin's 
wines tended not to express the fruit but the complexity, and 
Lee's wines tended to be faithful to the expression of the 
fruit characteristics of the grapes, even such poor wines as 
Green Hungarian, which he made in those days. They are poor 
grapes , but by careful blending he made it in a style which was 
very pleasant, refreshing, appetizing- -enlivening wines and 
very expressive of the fruit without complexities. Some people 
said maybe some of that was due to the below- threshold level of 
residual sugar that he left and also to the levels of C0 2 . But 
there were not many wines of that character, and one found 
those wines boundlessly enlivening and pleasurable 
accompaniments for food. 

Teiser: It sounds like the kinds of wines that Paul Masson made about 
that same time. 

Winiarski: Well, I'll tell you, the whole idea of cold fermentation for 
California white wines was then in development by Lew [Lewis 
A. ] Stern, who had been at Charles Krug. I think I met Lew 
Stern once, but I've been given to understand this- -very cold 
fermentation and retaining some of the C0 2 developed during the 
fermentation, and a reasonable degree of acid and low, below- 
threshold levels of sugar. This type of wine- -and I don't know 
how it got to Paul Masson; maybe Lew Stern was-- 

Teiser: Maybe I'm wrong. I suppose by then Peter Mondavi was making 
that type of wine. 

Winiarski: Yes, and I think Peter and Lew Stern collaborated to a high 

degree for this. Who is actually the originator and how this 
came to be , I have no way to say. I knew Lew went then to 
Gallo. He had some physical infirmity, and it was difficult 
for him to continue. I think eventually he went to Gallo and 
helped with some of the techniques. I don't know where that 
originated- -who sat down one night and worked out this 
formula- -but certainly Lew had passed through Souverain at one 
time and was acquainted with Lee Stewart. 



22 



But it was more than that sort of accidental transmission. 
I think it was a kind of wine that represented Lee Stewart's 
personality more than anything else. It was a wine natural for 
him, because he was a man of extremely fastidious 
characteristics. One could almost say he was obsessively 
concerned with the minutiae and the detail and the cleanliness 
of all the process. Of course, this was a big- -it was like 
Pasteur in the old days. Who would have thought that you 
needed to wash your hands when you did some things? The 
cleanliness of his operation was what struck me immediately- - 
the scrupulous, even exceedingly scrupulous attention to all 
this kind of thing where the wine could have been unfavorably 
disadvantaged by carelessness. 

Teiser: Where did Lee Stewart learn to make wine? 

Winiarski: I'm not sure. I'm assuming that he had some assistance from 
all these people when he decided to give up chicken farming 
there. I think that's what he came there to do. He had left 
Armour and Company. He had what I understood was a pretty 
responsible position, and he sort of abandoned all that and 
went up to that hill and began to raise chickens. 

Teiser: You learned things there that you wouldn't have learned at 
Martin Ray's? 

Winiarski: Absolutely. Let me just continue that: I remember him telling 
me the story one day that the carrying of these sacks --he was a 
man of great strength, and he worked as a coal stoker on a 
train at one time, so he had lots of physical strength. He 
said something about becoming impatient with carrying those 
hundred-pound sacks of chicken feed. I think the difference 
between what you could earn from chickens and what you had to 
feed them became smaller and smaller, and this may have decided 
that the use that he was putting that property to was not 
giving the most economic benefit. 

It would be interesting to pin that down a little bit. I 
think Lew Stern was part of it, Andre Tchelistcheff may have 
been part of it, and there may have been others when he 
decided--. I mean, that was really the kind of winery that you 
developed. You'd buy a barrel, you'd buy some grapes or grow 
some grapes, you eventually paid for the barrel when you'd sell 
some wines, and you'd buy another barrel. 

That's the way we started here also. We didn't start with 
the resources. The building (our fifth building) that you saw 
when you passed by here is being built in a little different 
way. We do use the bank now, but in the old days --and I think 



23 



Lee went through this process. Of course he had loans later, 
but he was not only frugal but parsimonious, and some people 
would even say tight. [laughter] He was very prudent, very 
cautious. You can't say that a man who came out and abandoned 
that business career that he had was entirely without a 
gambling instinct, but yet there was this other part that was 
very parsimonious. 

So that way of proceeding- -you buy a barrel, pay for the 
barrel, buy another barrel maybe, or maybe another half a 
barrel if it's not a good year. [laughter] 

Teiser: You certainly learned how to start from the ground up, then. 

Winiarski : You said I learned things there that I would not have learned 
from Martin Ray, and I think that's quite right. That's a 
worthy thing to speculate on, but I certainly learned things 
from Lee. He was an enormously beneficial master. 

Teiser: Was he generous with his information? 

Winiarski: Well, yes and no. I think he came to see very quickly that my 
capacity for information was rather huge. He did try to 
dissuade me from an independent course; he did do that. He 
said at one time to me- -at that time there were probably ten 
wineries in the valley- - "There ' s probably room for two more 
wineries in this valley." Of course, I didn't believe that for 
a minute. I listened to that, but I couldn't believe it. I 
examined the argument, I examined all the things. Who knew at 
that time? I don't think there's anyone who knew. As we saw 
the wine prices move from $3.50 or $4 a bottle to $5 a bottle- - 
man, that was a huge jump. 

When Joe [Joseph E. ] Heitz came along with an $8 or $9 
bottle of wine, that was phenomenal. Some of us knew that 
Martin Ray got extraordinary prices, and that's the 
sustainability idea- -my idea that we could not do what we 
wanted to do on "culls," things that were culled. I knew 
Martin Ray's wines were not culls. Even when I was there I 
think he had sold some wine to the White House at extraordinary 
prices because there was some interest to get those wines, and 
that was the only way it would work. 

So the sustainable idea. This excited a certain amount of 
interest in land; the fact that wines could be sold in quantity 
at this elevated price excited a certain amount of interest 
from nonprofessional and non-dedicated investors- -people whose 
interest was monetary investment simply. That was one of the 
main ingredients in that later development that made possible 



24 



the excellence that we perceive today in the making of the 
wines, the growing of the grapes. You had to have this outside 
investor economic interest. 

Teiser: There were tax advantages, too. 

Winiarski: That was also there. All of those things. We didn't talk 
about the major ingredient, the accumulation of scientific 
information and things that people did at Davis. Maynard 
Amerine's work with grapes and where they grow best --that 
bulletin of the Agriculture Experiment Station at the 
University of California 1 that I used as a Bible, reading it 
in a devotional way. Every day you read a little bit of this, 
at night you read a little bit of that, getting intimately 
immersed in the contents. You read another chapter and tried 
to figure out what these must analyses could mean and what 
their significance was. The existence of such a rich body of 
knowledge was certainly another major ingredient. 

And I think the other thing was the people, among whom I 
count myself, whose taste and aspirations were formed elsewhere 
and who brought in the ability to actually accomplish the 
coming together of these several elements. 



Teiser: Maybe you were again echoing this kind of community that you 
spoke of earlier. 



Winemaking Technology of the Mid-1960s 



Teiser: Did you find there was a community of interest in northern 
California, the wine people and their technology? 

Winiarski: Yes, I wanted to be a part of that community, no question. To 
give you an example from my observations about the technology. 
In touring wineries when I got here, all red grapes were pretty 
much treated alike- -fermentation time, pumping-over regime, 
degree of maceration, yeast strains, even malolactic organisms, 



1 M. A. Amerine and A. J. Winkler. California Wine Crapes: 

Composition and Quality of Their Musts and Wines. California Agricultural 
Experiment Station Bulletin 794, 1944. 



25 



Teiser: 



Winiarski: 



which was just beginning to come under a disciplined control. 
I'm not sure precisely when ML34 was isolated, but Andre had 
much to do with that. The importance of that was not 
universally appreciated. Lee, for example, tried to avoid 
malolactic, although Andr6 had conducted some experiments in 
barrels there and he had malolactic microflora in his tanks. 
Lee did not see the leavening quality that properly conducted 
malolactic fermentation imparted to the wine. He did not 
particularly appreciate it. 

The real key, the real illuminating factor for me was how 
they treated the skins. In red grapes the skins are the life 
from whence the wine comes, and they were all treating them 
alike; every variety was treated alike in the fermenters, with 
the same pump -over regime, same times, same degree of pump over 
and degree of maceration. The difference between the varieties 
was simply not taken into account. The difference in the 
quality of the skins from one place to another was not taken 
into account, and that you might have to respond to that 
difference by a different treatment in the fermenter and a 
different form of maceration. Nobody talked about that. 

You'd go from winery to winery, and you would see them 
pumping over twice a day for ten minutes or fifteen minutes or 
whatever it was, and the least skilled person in the winery was 
doing the pumping over, not responding to anything that was 
happening in that material that was before him. I mean, you 
are like a potter or sculptor, forming and shaping the 
material, and here they are; they have somebody from the 
vineyard that they brought in to pump over the wines because 
they didn't believe anything was particularly important about 
that stage. Granted it doesn't require the greatest skill, but 
to think you could bring someone from the vineyard, whose 
outlook is not conditioned to respond to and respect anything 
that's going on in that material --to expect that to make no 
difference indicates the neglect there was for a very important 
factor in red-wine making. That was, by the way, quite common 
in those days- -that you'd get people in from the vineyard to 
work in the winery. 

When did this change take place, of differentiating the grapes 
and their qualities? 

Gradually over the course of time people began to see that 
there were differences. I was certainly sensitive, and I think 
part of that comes from having to rework everything people told 
me and put in my own way. I couldn't believe that those skins 
were not responding differently and that it was not a major 
factor in what was going on for our red grapes, given that most 



26 



Teiser : 
Winiarski 



Teiser: 

Winiarski 



of the fermentations were short skin contact time and not long 
skin contact time. 

Under French conditions, where you leave the maceration to 
take place for twenty days or so after that first four days of 
fermentation, it doesn't have the significance, because by that 
time the skins are all worn out; they've given all that they've 
got, so they're so to speak cooked. I believe that's quite 
true under those conditions, but under our conditions, as we 
were then making wine here, we had short fermentation. We had 
only four days to get the treasure from those skins, and how 
you got it made a difference for a variety, even for the same 
variety grown in different locations. For example, near the 
river or out on the hills, the skins yield their riches 
differently, they present themselves differently, and you only 
have these four days. So does it make any sense to have the 
extraction process be conducted by the least skillful person in 
the winery? 

I think those observations, that awareness, that 
sensitivity (Pinot noir might have contributed because of its 
particularly recalcitrant character; it doesn't yield itself 
very easily, and you have to think about those skins a lot) 
might have caused reflections in some of the other varieties as 
well. People began to be sensitive, that here is a treasure 
that we are looking for in these skins. We have treated it 
with contempt, and that's not the way to get the best parts out 
of that material. 

Were you aware of temperature differences during fermentation? 

Yes. I think everyone knew how excessively hot temperatures 
were negative. That I remember. Maybe we even swung too far 
to cold for a certain period of time, thinking that we had gone 
too hot, and now it was time to go too cold. As Gerald Asher 
said once so beautifully, "The pendulum that swings one way has 
yet to be invented." [laughter] 

So we were fermenting too cold and not getting robust 
qualities. We were using red skins as though we were making 
white wine, I think, when we got below 70 degrees. I remember 
that was an effort that was made at Mondavi at one point when I 
was there. We were trying to get delicacy, and instead we were 
getting anemia. 



Why did you leave Lee Stewart? 

I think that independence was coming out again. 
stayed two years, going through two crushes. I 



[laughter] I 
saw later in 



27 



Teiser : 



Winiarski : 



our own employment practices at SLWC [Stag's Leap Wine Cellars] 
that someone who is bound to make his own wine learns the 
essentials of the process in two cycles of the vines' life. 
You can see that very well on a small scale, not so well on a 
large scale. There you only get a fragment of a whole process; 
you're only a segment, and you don't get to see the whole 
thing, and it may take a bit longer. But in a small winery, 
where the process is pretty much available to sight, and you go 
through it intimately in those two years, I think probably 
someone who is asking someone else the right questions, 
thinking the right thoughts, and asking himself the right 
questions and reading and doing all the right things-even 
starting as I did with no professional training--! think that's 
about the time it takes. If it's not happening then, you might 
get a little concerned to move on. 

I may have been revealing that sort of thing. Lee 
initiated that. He may have thought this was the best 
decision, because it made an opportunity possible for me, for 
which I thanked him later. When we visited together years 
later, he came back to our winery and we talked. I showed him 
in the winery how I was making the notches in my bungs, just 
the way he did, so that they lined up with the grain of the 
wood, a little subtlety that I believe not many people were 
doing. Now, of course, we have bungs that are not wood, so 
this is an aspect which is completely lost. We have surgical 
rubber bungs now, and they don't have any orientation or grain. 
I kind of think that's too bad- -not in itself, perhaps, but 
because the use of surgical rubber bungs doesn't require 
certain habits and dispositions of care, so other aspects might 
reflect a lack of care also. 

We talked about my leaving, and I think we both agreed 
that it was the very best thing that could have happened. 

Going to Robert Mondavi in '66- -that was quite a different 
operation, wasn't it? 

Yes, it was. Lee had only one kind of pump, which we will call 
a positive pump. That means it creates its own suction. He 
thought that was better, that it was gentler. He was in 
general right, but at a certain stage of the wine's life it 
doesn't really make a huge significance. However, I didn't 
know another kind of pump existed, because all I had learned 
was the modes of wine transfer at this small winery, and we 
only had one kind of pump. It was a great shock as well as a 
chastening experience for me to realize that I didn't know 
everything. [laughter] 



Teiser: 



28 



Maybe this is a good place to break and begin next time with 
your time at Robert Mondavi. 



Winiarski: That would be fine. 



Starting Up the Robert Mondavi Winery. 1966-1968 
[Interview 2: July 25, 1991]#// 



Teiser: How long had Robert Mondavi been operating when you went there? 

Winiarski: They hadn't been operating at all. I came there in the year 
that was their very first year, 1966, the year they broke 
ground. 

Teiser: I see. What did you do? 

Winiarski: I moved laterally, I think one could say. That would not be an 
inappropriate term. Mike [Michael Mondavi] was doing his 
national guard duty. I think he was married that spring or 
early summer, and they broke ground somewhat in the middle of 
the summer. I was really the only experienced winemaking 
person that they had around. Bob originally intended to do his 
own winemaking, but I think they rapidly realized that between 
trying to get the building up and organizing all the details 
they had for running the winery, financially and otherwise, 
there simply was not any time available for him to be doing 
that sort of thing. The equipment came in, and it had to be 
situated, organized, put into place. 

I spoke to Andre Tchelistcheff , who made the suggestion, 
after I parted ways with Lee Stewart, that I should talk to 
Ivan Schoch, which I did. Ivan Schoch was one of the partners 
in the Mondavi enterprise in that year. Then Ivan spoke to 
Robert, and I had a meeting with both of them over at Ivan's 
house. They made a commitment that we would go forward with my 
participation in the winery when construction began and when it 
was time. I'm not sure construction hadn't already begun, or 
at least foundations and footings and that sort of thing, but 
there was no building and there was no winemaking facility. I 
was supposed to be in charge of helping to get all of that 
organized, which I did. 

There weren't always winemaking things to do, equipment 
wasn't always arriving, and overseeing some parts of that 
wasn't always happening, so when it wasn't I would pick up a 



29 



hammer or a crowbar or a wiring device or a plumbing tool or a 
pipe. Bob was there at the same time, as much as he could, and 
we put that winery together with the carpenters, the masons, 
the plumbers, the electricians, and the winemakers all working 
on top of each other that year. 

Teiser: Were you making wine outdoors? 

Winiarski: Yes. For a while there was no roof. There were walls, but 
there were no catwalks, no ladders. We had to make ladders. 
The crushing had to take place before everything else was in 
place for it to happen. You know, it was a frustrating 
experience, because some of the pieces that were necessary were 
not in place. It was like the nail in the horseshoe that lost 
the kingdom in another famous incident. We were frustrated 
trying to do a very simple operation for the want of a single 
piece that someone had not remembered was necessary to operate 
the whole thing. We had to find the piece before we could do 
what we had to do. It was quite an experience. 

Teiser: It must have given you a lot of knowledge to apply to your own 
buildings . 

Winiarski: Indeed, out here at our new building it's a similar situation. 
Of course, we've got an existing winery in operation here 
today, so that if we do happen to forget something we can go 
right over and find what we need. This is kind of an 
additional facility. We had a little bit of that same 
situation and same access in 1966, because although the Mondavi 
brothers were, you might say, going their separate ways, we did 
have quite a bit of assistance from people and from things at 
Charles Krug. Even some grapes were exchanged, I believe. 
Certainly I remember that Bill Bonetti was there at that time, 
and we did even get some laboratory work done. Bill Bonetti 
I'm assuming had Peter's implicit if not explicit authorization 
to go and do certain things for us, and we took some things 
over to get tested. We were titrating in buckets; that's what 
it amounted to. It's quite an interesting thing if you have to 
titrate in buckets. That's a little bit of an exaggeration, 
but it gives you the flavor of the kind of mild chaos that was 
present in 1966. 

Gradually, though, things began to fall into place. We 
did have the assistance of not only the Krug establishment but 
many other people in the valley to make that work. I do 
remember that. Many people bent over backwards to give us 
whatever counsel and guidance we needed as well as actual 
material assistance. Louis [P.] Martini, I remember, was 
helpful, and we got some assistance some time from BV [Beaulieu 



30 



Teiser: 



Vineyard] . Altogether there were many people who pitched in 
under those extraordinary, difficult, and trying circumstances 
to help Bob get started. 

There was a lot of sympathy in the valley for each of the 
brothers . 



Winiarski: Yes, that's certainly true. People were disturbed that this 

had occurred. They didn't talk about it very much and sort of 
looked the other way, but they did what they could to heal the 
rift and to make whatever contribution they could to make it 
possible for the rift to be resolved. 

Teiser: By the time you left, two years later, was the winery complete? 

Winiarski: Oh, yes, the building was completed. Quite a bit of planning 

had gone into the staging of the various things, and eventually 
all the pieces were put together. We were making wine in a 
kind of calm, deliberate way even toward the end of the crush 
that first year in '66, again without full facilities, without 
ease, without smoothness, but with relatively calm 
circumstances . 

That was a late crush; it was a late harvest in 1966. The 
last Cabernet grapes came in on November 11. I remember that 
holiday, Veteran's Day. It was very cool there at the Oakville 
location; there was fog all morning, so we had the advantage of 
that. Now that you mention it, it's very similar to this year, 
isn't it? This year is turning out to be a very cool year-- 
very cool nights, fog frequently until ten or eleven o'clock in 
the morning. 

Teiser: Are you going to have a good crop? 

Winiarski: Let's hope so. We have a very good-sized crop out there. The 
size is wonderful. Whether we'll get all those grapes ripe is 
another question. 

But, as I say, it was running smoothly toward the end, 
helped by the fact that, because of the coolness, we weren't 
rushed in the harvest. So even that first year the basic 
facility was almost complete. But other things were still to 
be done, and the destiny of the winery was only beginning to 
unfold. 



Teiser: Who was the winemaker then? 

Winiarski: Well, Mike [Michael Mondavi] eventually came back. I think 

they hired a laboratory person, although I still continued to 



31 



do things in the lab: I ran basic tests --the trial fining 
tests --made the blends the first year, and did some of the 
analytical work of a simple nature- -the sulfur content, the 
acid and pH determinations. I'm not sure, but that first year 
I don't think we had specifically a trained, technical person 
in the laboratory. That's my recollection. I remember doing 
the fining trials, for example, making equivalent samples in 
small bottles of what we might do in the tank and trying the 
different levels of fining agents to see what the effect of the 
fining agent would be, and therefore providing the basics to 
make a decision. Bob would be in on it, and later Mike would 
be in on it also. Bob's partners, Fred Holmes and Ivan Schoch, 
would be in on those tastings. They were held both at the 
winery and at Bob's house. I would make up the equivalent 
samples, we would all taste the various levels of fining 
material, and then a decision would be made as to what level of 
fining would best help to perfect the wine. 

Teiser: As you progressed, then, did you have more specialized help at 
the winery? 

Winiarski : I think the following year there was even more grapes than 
there had been the year previous, and there were additional 
people. At some point someone came in the lab because we were 
getting more complicated. 

Teiser: Was Mike [Miljenko] Grgich working there then? 

Winiarski: I don't think so. I think Mike came in after I left, if I'm 
not mistaken. He was still at BV. I left in '68, so I was 
there for two crushes also, in ' 66- -although I'm not sure you 
would call that a crush or a construction time, it was so much 
of both- -and '67. I left prior to the harvest in '68. Mike I 
think was not there at the time. 

Teiser: Had Zelma Long come in? 

Winiarski: No, Zelma wasn't there either. I think Mike came in either 
shortly after that or a little later. 



The Denver Winemaking Enterprise. 1968-1970 



Teiser: How did you happen to leave? 

Winiarski: Do you remember that two-year cycle I spoke about? After two 
two-year cycles, one having to do with what you might call a 



32 



village art as practiced by Lee Stewart, and the other with a 
high technology component as at Robert Mondavi , I thought I had 
seen both poles of the possibilities for the industry. We had 
meanwhile established a vineyard of our own up on Howell 
Mountain from land that I purchased out of our own resources. 
That Cabernet sauvignon vineyard, by the way, was the first one 
of that variety ever planted on Howell Mountain. 

I thought it was time to move on, and I was talking to 
other people about what possibilities there were, I suppose 
still thinking more about our own enterprise more than any 
specific additional move laterally. I think I was thinking 
about finally embarking on our own venture. 

That came up with the Ivancie situation which you asked 
about . 



Teiser: Ivancie was a company in Denver. Was it a retailer? 

Winiarski : No, Dr. Gerald Ivancie was a man who loved wine, and he loved 
the idea of wine. He loved the idea of making wine, and with 
friends he had made wine from grapes that they had brought in 
from California for a number of years before he decided to 
enter upon the commercial aspect of it in Denver. His idea was 
fairly simple and can be described as follows: We have now the 
technology of refrigerated transport, and it was roughly thirty 
hours from California to Denver by refrigerated transport (in 
those days. I don't know what it is now; it might quite 
possibly be much shorter). I think he expressed it this way, 
"If we can't get Mohammed to the mountain, we'll bring the 
mountain to Mohammed." [laughter] 

He thought the best thing to do would be to bring the 
grapes from California to Denver, make them into wine, and have 
what would be a unique marketing approach for the Denver 
audience- -California wines made in Denver, operated by a well- 
known Denver resident. He was a periodontic surgeon, I think, 
so he was well known socially and had lots of connections in 
the business world and elsewhere, and he thought that would be 
translatable into a certain marketing advantage. He couldn't 
get all the good wines in those days that he wanted into 
Denver, and he thought this would be a way to do it and 
establish himself as a marketing presence at the same time. 

He came out and was looking for grapes. He got my name 
somehow as someone who knew where various kinds of grapes were 
grown and what their quality characteristics were. He sought 



33 



advice as to where the grapes he was interested in did well and 
where they were obtainable. His program appeared to offer a 
possibility of making the skills that I had acquired more 
valuable to other people who were in such a "beginning" 
situation. He also had some rented space in Denver where he 
wanted to construct a facility. He very much wanted to start 
his own winery. He made an offer that in those days was 
irresistible, and I thought this would be a beneficial step to 
utilize some of the things I had learned in the past four 
years. 

We did work together for that harvest. 
Teiser: Did you go back and forth? 

Winiarski : I went back and forth to Denver --that was the idea --as an 

itinerant winemaker. I gave him the opportunity to procure for 
himself the grapes, because I simply indicated where I thought 
grapes might be of good quality, and he made those further 
business arrangements and arranged for the transport. I 
arranged for the loading of the grapes onto the transport. 
That seemed like a marvelous idea. If this would really work 
out, it was quite an extraordinary and interesting endeavor. 

We loaded the grapes here frequently. That happened maybe 
two or three different times for different types of grapes. We 
used Camay beaujolais, and we used Cabernet and Pinot, but none 
of the white grapes because we perceived that that might be 
more risky in transport. Then I would get on a plane, and I 
would be in Denver when the truck arrived with the grapes. 
Quite an interesting thing. 

Teiser: What kind of equipment did he have? 

Winiarski: He had secured small-scale but best-quality equipment. He had 
stainless steel tanks and fermenters, and he had proper 
refrigeration, some of which I helped him to specify and 
obtain. He had a beautiful crusher from Art Rafanelli at 
Healdsburg Machine Company. He had pumps and all the necessary 
paraphernalia for doing a good job with the grapes. And the 
wines were pretty good! Some people have told me that they 
recently tasted some of the wines that they had purchased when 
they were released in Denver, and they were very pleased. They 
thought at the time that the grapes came from local sources; 
they didn't realize they were actually from California. In 
general it was a very enlightening venture. 



Meanwhile we were doing other things, too. 
established this vineyard I told you about. 



We had 



34 



Teiser: Was the Ivancle enterprise successful? 

Winiarski: I think it was. I think the first wines that we made were 

sought after. He attracted other people to the endeavor on the 
basis of these first efforts. They even thought at one time of 
purchasing land in the Grand Junction area to grow grapes, and 
I think they did so under different management. When Dr. 
Ivancie was no longer involved they had professional 
management. Their problem, I think, eventually turned out to 
be a certain amount of inexperience with what it actually took, 
on a first-hand basis, to run a winery. Their professional 
management decided that it would be appropriate for them to try 
to do everything in Denver, and they got to be quite a 
substantial organization as far as financing from local 
sources, but I think eventually their marketing considerations 
got top-heavy, and that put them under a severe financial 
burden. Also I think they didn't quite realize that these 
production things, if not done by yourself as a single guiding 
mind- -I don't mean a single person necessarily, but to start 
that way, you have to at least know how to do it all by 
yourself. You have to be able to do all the things yourself 
and to be capable of making all the decisions yourself and be 
properly organized. 

That was my perspective. Eventually they couldn't support 
the organization they put together. I think most of those 
grapes that were put in at Grand Junction were eventually sold 
to another winery or to hobby winemakers . There was another 
effort to keep the winery going, and I think probably by that 
time Dr. Ivancie decided he had better spend most of his 
remaining time in his professional career- -in his first 
profession. He was by that time completely separated from the 
venture . 

Teiser: Meanwhile you were back here in the Napa Valley buying land. 
Winiarski: Well, we bought the SLV [Stag's Leap Vineyard] land in 1970. 
Teiser: How much land did you buy? 

Winiarski: About 40 acres. We bought SLV on the basis of having tasted 
some wines that Nathan Fay had grown. Where are we in the 
chronology? 



Teiser: 



We're just at the beginning of your own enterprise. 



35 



Consulting and Studying. 1968-1970 



Winiarski: What I did was consult for others in Sonoma County and 

Mendocino County. There were a number of wineries that were 
bulk producers for the most part, who were not acquainted with 
preparing wines for bottling. Certainly I had acquired that 
skill at Robert Mondavi winery. 

Teiser: Which wineries did you work with? 

Winiarski: Parducci for one, Pedroncelli, if memory serves, for another. 
There were a number that I did different things for up in that 
area. That's the way I supported myself --with Ivancie and with 
consulting for California wineries that were making that 
conversion at that time and needed transition assistance 
because they were not ready to establish themselves first-off 
with a complete organization the way Dr. Ivancie eventually 
thought to do in Denver. They were making that transition 
slowly, and they needed some transition consultation. At that 
time Parducci didn't even have stainless steel tanks. Their 
wines, for the most part, were sold in bulk, but they wanted to 
get started in bottling and marketing for themselves on a large 
scale. It was a perfect match for my own skills in helping 
bring wines to completion, to a state where they were finished 
in a more complete way than they had been for bulk sales 
before. The next step that I could help with was in 
stabilizing and otherwise preparing the wine for bottling. The 
final step for me was in organizing and executing the bottling 
itself. 

Teiser: Were you consulting about their bottling facilities and about 
their technique of bottling, too? 

Winiarski: Yes, the technique of bottling and preparing the wines for 
bottling both. 

Teiser: At some point you also took a short course or two at UC Davis? 

Winiarski: Oh, I took all the short courses, every one I could, and read 
all the time. Someone remarked to me that the two teachers I 
had were not the kind of people who could or would sort of pull 
you aside and say, "Now, this is the lesson for today." That 
remark is perfectly just. We had work to do. This was not an 
educational endeavor that they were running. They were running 
wineries, right? And Robert Mondavi in addition was building a 
large organization. There wasn't time for the "this is the 
lesson for today" kind of approach to things, but you learned 
as you worked. But in order to learn enough and deeply enough 



36 



and comprehensively enough, you had to be thinking all the time 
of what you were doing and why you were doing it. Gradually 
you saw that if you did steps one, two, and three, step four 
was necessary. The sequence of things and the whole grid, the 
matrix of things that I had to learn was becoming clearer to me 
because I was taking all the short courses and reading. But 
perhaps more importantly because after coming home from working 
and doing all those things, I would try to find out why I did 
those things. So it was perhaps because my two main teachers 
were not "here is the lesson for today" fellows that I had a 
huge need to ask myself what the lesson for today was. 

Teiser: So you were learning theory on top of the practice. 

Winiarski: Yes. Not only that you do this kind of thing, but why you do 
this kind of thing and how many steps were implicated further 
forward and behind. I was putting all this together, so it 
wasn't necessary for someone to tell me, "This is the lesson 
for the day," because I was already figuring out what the 
lesson was and how all these things fit together and looking 
for the larger picture that was emerging through all these 
mechanisms- -through working with it, through asking key 
questions. Sometimes I would ask a key question, and a short, 
simple answer would illuminate a complex whole without a long 
explanation. So someone didn't always have to explain to you 
steps one, two, three, and four, because if you asked the right 
question about step five, you knew that the other steps were 
predecessors for that one and that there were successive steps 
as well. 



Teiser: 
Winiarski 



This whole picture was emerging. You asked specifically 
about the short courses, and that was of enormous benefit. 
Talking to people was another enormous benefit. Tasting 
different batches of wine- -I think this is what led to the 
discussion of the vineyard. Since I had developed, in addition 
to the acquaintances in the places where I worked, a large 
variety of friends who were making wine or assisting in making 
wine and working in various phases of the industry, they 
graciously permitted me to taste wines in other cellars before 
they were blended. 

What years did you take the short courses? 

I think the first one may have been in 1965. I took the [Napa] 
wine library course in the fall of 1964. Thereafter in 1966, 
1967, 1968. I don't remember exactly, but it was almost every 
year, and then I began to take the viticulture seminars as 
well, through the mid- seventies . 



37 



Teiser: 



Winiarski 



Teiser: 
Winiarski : 



You remember we talked yesterday about the fact that most 
people that I knew about in those days treated all the red 
wines alike, with the same pump-over regimes and without making 
fine distinctions? Also no one was bottling wines in those 
days to reflect regional distinctiveness of a given variety in 
the different parts of the Napa Valley. There was no one 
bottling a Howell Mountain Zinfandel or a Stag's Leap district 
Cabernet or a Spring Mountain Cabernet. These were just ideas, 
very generalized, and it was not part of any winery practice I 
know of to separate these different lots for purposes either of 
identification or for purposes of following those different 
local characteristics all the way through to the bottling. The 
scope was more generalized. Division was more generalized. 
Even though I think some of the winemakers paid attention to 
the differences, they were not going to follow those 
differences through. It was not the destiny of those grapes to 
be separately bottled. 

But that was of intense interest for me, to see these 
differences and to try to identify the characteristics, because 
we were still looking for our land, and I still had the idea 
that Cabernet was so fine and so rich in possibilities that 
this is what I would like to do. It was a very practical 
interest as well as a theoretical interest to identify the 
regional characteristics. 

Going back to your Davis short courses, was there anyone you 
worked with there or took courses from who was particularly 
helpful? 

I don't think that's quite the way they were set up- -to 
specialize with particular people. I remember Harold Berg, 
Maynard Amerine , and Vern [Vernon L. ] Singleton. Jim [James 
A.] Cook was there giving courses. 

The whole faculty was teaching. 

Yes, and the short courses. The viticulturalist A. [Amand N. ] 
Kasimatis was there. Microbiology was Ralph Kunkee. I think 
he is still there. There were many people who presented topics 
of their specialty, and these short courses went on for two or 
three days, so you had a variety of presentations in that 
period of time, all very useful and all very necessary and 
immensely helpful for me. Without that capability I wouldn't 
have been able to do what I have done. The availability of 
those subjects to be reviewed in such a concise and yet 
comprehensive way was very important. The whole scientific 
aspect of this field was very much in ferment (without making a 
pun) at this time, so it was an exciting time. People were 



38 



discovering new things, elaborating new approaches, and I was 
partaking in that. That was a very exciting and stimulating 
aspect of it. 

Teiser: It was a wonderful group of people at Davis then. 

Winiarski: Yes, very. Have we left out anyone? Corny [Cornelius] Ough 
was there, naturally, and he gave part of the discussions. 
Dinny [A. Dinsmoor] Webb also. Some of the senior folks, the 
ones who had lots of practical experience, like Harold Berg, 
gave enormously helpful presentations from that perspective. 
There were people attending the classes with variegated 
preparation and backgrounds, so they had people who were highly 
expert technically as well as people like myself, who had only 
very general knowledge of this, some practical experience, but 
interested in learning and intensely concentrated on the topic. 
You had this wide spread, and the teachers at Davis managed to 
bridge this spread of preparation, competence, and interest 
with great success. 



Teiser: All this time you were thinking about- - 
Winiarski: Our own vineyard. 

Teiser: And matching your knowledge of the areas here with what land 
was available, I suppose? 

Winiarski: Right, land that was available. For example, every time there 
was a frost, I would go out and visit these various areas to 
see whether damage was more in certain areas than others, where 
it was free from damage, and all this sort of thing. I did 
this not only to coordinate the soil types and what I perceived 
to be the growing microclimate (I think they call them mesoclimates 
now), but these major, very practical influences- -what areas 
were relatively frost free, what areas were almost invariably 
subject to frost. All these, I hoped, would begin pointing in 
certain directions so that I could begin to prioritize, if we 
had the opportunity, where this land would be. It wasn't clear 
that we were going to be able to do this on the scale that 
would permit us to live from it without other assistance. 

Teiser: Were you visualizing being able to make the transition from 
working for others to working for yourself in a certain way? 
Was there a point at which you felt you could just work for 
yourself? 



39 



Winiarski: No. I hadn't specified that. I was hoping that would come, 

and eventually something would present itself that looked like 
the opportunity to make that possible. But first I knew that 
to make that possible I had to get people interested. I mean, 
in the future that may have presented itself, but I would have 
to know enough about this whole field to make some kind of 
judgment myself. It would be something that I would want to 
do, and by acquiring the knowledge, be able to do. 



Starting a Vineyard on Hove 11 Mountain. Spring 1965 



Winiarski: You know, we had established this vineyard on Howell Mountain. 
We bought some land up there in 1965. We moved from the first 
place we lived in the Napa Valley, below Souverain cellars in a 
place called Crystal Springs, up onto Howell Mountain and lived 
on property that had once been used as a stagecoach resting 
place by the Wells Fargo company; it was the rest stop on the 
way from Pope Valley to the Napa Valley. The Pope Valley to 
Napa Valley segment was only a part of a larger trail that 
Wells Fargo had, and this ranch had been the way station and 
overnight stopping point, I suppose, also. 

Teiser: How many acres did you buy? 

Winiarski: It was about thirty acres, and about ten acres of it were 
plantable . 

Teiser: Was it planted? 

Winiarski: It had not been planted. I bought the thirty acres from a man 
who was a successor to the interest of the Wells Fargo Company. 
He grew grapes on another part of the Wells Fargo property. It 
was called the Nurenberger ranch, but my part of it, which he 
subdivided, had never been in grapes. 

Teiser: What did you plant? 

Winiarski: We planted Cabernet sauvignon. As far as I have any reason to 
believe, this was the first Cabernet ever planted on Howell 
Mountain. This land was above the thermal belt, which made it 
subject to cool nights, warm days. It was located above the 
valley frost, and it was on red soil, which I then believed and 
still do believe makes for intensification of the varietal 
character in a red wine. Since it was on light soil, it 
promised to fulfill all the sort of mystical expectations that 
one develops, thinking that lean soils produce outstanding 



40 



fruit. It was also the kind of soil where the annual, 
vegetative aspect of a vine's life would not have a tendency to 
develop excessive vigor and where the vine could therefore 
concentrate on making beautiful, expressive fruit. 

So it had all these characteristics. I talked about 
frost, and while it was subject to a minimum amount of frost, I 
thought that was fairly infrequent. All these things came 
together for that vineyard and suggested that it would make 
outstanding Cabernet. 

Teiser: And did it? 

Winiarski : Well, I didn't have very many vintages of that to work with. 
It's near land that Randy [Randall] Dunn uses for his grapes 
today, and many others have established vineyards in that 
vicinity for Cabernet. 

Teiser: Doesn't Ridge get some of its Zinfandels there? 

Winiarski: They do, from the Beatty ranch. Where does that Howell 

Mountain Zinfandel come from? There are three old vineyards. 
The first was from the Nurenberger vineyard. Another was from 
land that Keith Bowers owned at that time, which is now owned 
by Doris Muscatine. I think that was the old Mackie place; I 
think he was Finnish. Then there was the Ferrazzi ranch. That 
was further back in the mountain, and that may be the source of 
the Howell Mountain Zinfandel. 

Teiser: I know he gets some now from the Muscatine property. 

Winiarski: Oh, he does? Keith Bowers, who was both the county extension 
agent for viticulture for the University of California and the 
farm advisor for Napa County, eventually planted some Cabernet. 

Teiser: Is he still alive? 

Winiarski: Yes, Keith is retired now but still living here. A wonderful 

family. His recollection of some of the things that went on in 
the early days in the valley would be extremely valuable. 

Teiser: Yes, he saw big changes here. 

When did you start harvesting enough from that property 
to-- 

Winiarski: You see, we sold it to buy SLV. We couldn't do it without 
having sold that property, since our resources were minimal 
when we came here. You might even say less than minimal. 



41 



[laughs] We put together a partnership, but our contribution 
to that partnership was not only having discovered that land 
and organizing the partnership, but we also made a monetary 
contribution to that partnership as well. Our share (the 
financial contributors were divided equally between all the 
partners) came in part from that first land. We had to sell 
the land on Howell Mountain and to transform our labors here 
into the new land. 

Teiser: That was done in 1970? 

Winiarski: Yes. But after all these regional investigations, after all 
these attempts to find where all those factors converged- - 
frost, the quality of the land, the assumed quality of the 
fruit from given soils and from different microclimates, and 
all these things that I had been working to put together and 
make converge to spotlight the place where I thought the best 
Cabernet would come from--. Some of this came from reflections 
later; not all of this was perfectly obvious to me at the time. 
Thinking about it afterwards, there was something working to 
put all this together, but all those steps weren't perfectly 
conscious and perfectly deliberate. I was doing all that 
investigation, things were falling into place little by little, 
but they weren't all organized with a perfect sense of how the 
organization should be and how all the steps were put together. 
Some things were very haphazard, I'm sure, and it's only on 
reflecting on it afterwards that the coherence of the whole 
thing become visible. As has been said so many times, there's 
nothing like twenty-twenty hindsight. But reflection 
afterwards made it compellingly clear to me that something was 
sorting and sifting all the elements into what emerged as 
coherent progress. 

One thing that did make a larger impression than some of 
the other things and turned on again this light of 
illumination- -someone suggested to me that our irrigation 
techniques up on Howell Mountain were too labor intensive. I 
irrigated that land from the back of a truck with buckets, made 
basins in front of each vine- -you know, the old-timers did it 
this way; you make a basin in front of each vine, and then you 
put water in these basins, and that's the way you irrigate. 
You give them five gallons or seven gallons, and then you close 
up the basin. Well, this is very labor intensive, digging 
these basins and doing all this. 

Besides, it occurred to me afterwards, since you dig this 
basin you are very near to the roots of this young rooting that 
you have put in, and those root hairs are very delicate and 
fragile. This water has a certain velocity when it begins to 



42 



Teiser: 
Winiarski : 



pass through the soil, and because you dig this basin you are 
closer to that root than if you had your basin at the surface 
soil level and it percolated slowly. By the time it reached 
the lower levels, these root hairs would be relatively 
undamaged. You would lose some root hairs, but you would gain, 
of course, by the water. Maybe we could avoid losing this. 
That was my theory. 

Someone said, "Nathan Fay has devised a way to do this 
with a plow. You don't have to dig each basin by hand." The 
idea of a plow struck me as being interesting. If you could 
throw up a rill, a ridge, on both sides of the vines and do it 
all in a row, then you wouldn't have the bottom of your basin 
six inches into the ground; you would have it at ground level. 
The ridges that you threw up with the plow on both sides would 
be the sides of the embankment, and you wouldn't have this 
inconvenience, if it was occurring, of breaking up the root 
hairs as you irrigated each time. 

I thought I should see that, and I came down to visit with 
Nathan. Well, it wasn't quite as it had been described, but it 
had enough improvements in my own technique of watering so that 
I wanted to use it. We got to talking about this thing and 
that, and then he invited me in to taste some of the wines that 
he had made from Cabernet in his ground, right out in front 
here. [points to the original Fay vineyard] "Right out in 
front here" means that the location is to the east of where we 
are sitting overlooking this little interior valley surrounded 
by hills. 

Nathan was the first to plant Cabernet in this area. He 
told me once there were only seven hundred acres of Cabernet in 
the whole state when he planted this land. Does that sound 
right to you? This was in 1960. 

I don ' t know . 

I should check this. [Added later:] According to CDFA 
[California Department of Food and Agriculture], that is 
correct: in 1960, 721 total acres of Cabernet sauvignon 
planted in the whole state! Currently it's 34,000 acres. But 
surely I knew there were no Cabernet planted south of the 
Oakville crossroad. People said, "It's too cool down here." 
Indeed, none of this land was planted to varietals except 
Nathan's. All that [indicates] was pasture. Our land was 
prunes, cherries, apples, and a small amount of the old 
standard grapes. The field that is now planted by Mondavi 
across the way was pasture, dairy land, and there was hay land 
beyond. The Reguscis had some Zinfandel up on the hill because 



it was out of the frost; people thought when you got down below 
the steep slopes it was too frosty. This little hill land, 
because of the slope of the land, tends to be relatively frost 
free; this is affectionately known as the "banana belt" in 
here, because we turn the wine machines on very little to 
defend the vines against frost. 

Teiser: You are gesturing toward the east. 

Winiarski: Yes. So there were very, very few vines around here 

altogether. Regusci was pasture, prunes; SLV was mainly 
prunes; this was pasture. Stelzner had a little bit of grapes 
back here when we moved here in 1970, but in 1960 he wasn't 
here. None of the other plantings around here existed then. 

Nathan possessed real daring and pioneering spirit to do 
what he did. It's lonely, if you think of it. You prepare the 
ground, you plant the vines; you're waiting about two years for 
the time the vines make their own first leaf after the graft in 
the first year. The second year it doesn't have any fruit, and 
the third year you might have a bit of fruit, but if you're 
sensible you cut it all off. So now it's four years and maybe 
five years since you've prepared the ground before you taste 
any of the relatively mature fruit from relatively adolescent 
vines. Maybe it's six years, and maybe it takes a year or two 
in the winery before it develops any kind of subtlety. You 
might say a whole decade passes before the sense of what this 
land can produce planted to this varietal is at all visible. 
That's a third of a man's adult working life, or maybe a little 
bit less. 

Teiser: It certainly is a long time for a man who doesn't have much 
money to start with. 

Winiarski: No question. This is a highly venturesome, speculative 

endeavor. Now, people did recommend to Nathan that he plant 
Cabernet, but I don't think any of these people were certain of 
the outcome. I mean, it's impossible that they could have 
known what the outcome would be. They were thinking more in 
terms, I believe, of what they would like to have happen or, 
less charitably, of what variety was increasing in popularity, 
rather than a sure- thing result. The important thing is that 
no matter how well or ill informed one's recommendations are, 
they do not change the character and the magnitude of the risk 
and the quality of daring that was involved in this unknown 
area or in an untried variety. 



44 



Teiser: That was your introduction, then, to that area of the Napa 
Valley? 

Winiarski: It was. That's exactly right. 



45 



III STAG'S LEAF VINE CELLARS 



Introduction to the Property. 1969 



Winiarski: It was in 1969, I think, when I came down to get this 

assistance for thinking about irrigation, and I tasted the '68 
wine that Nathan made himself. He had already been selling the 
grapes from his land to Krug for a number of years , and I think 
they were esteemed. But he also made his own wine, and I 
tasted that wine. When I tasted his wine, I said, "Eureka! 
That's it; that's the grape that satisfies what I believe to be 
most expressive of the variety. It has not only regional 
character but also has elements of 'classic' character." That 
is to say, it had all the characteristics that I thought would 
not only express regional distinctiveness but had also the 
potential to express the classical characteristics if properly 
vinif ied. 



Teiser: 
Winiarski: 



From that point on- -I think I even said something to 
Nathan: "Where do these grapes come from?" He said, "Those 
are my grapes," because he had some others; he had some white 
grapes, and he had some different wines that we were tasting 
that were not all his own. He and Father Tom Turnbull grew 
grapes together for many years. Father Tom eventually bought 
some land from Nathan over there, and produced his own grapes. 
He's passed away now, but they worked together and made wine 
together for many years. 

Anyway, the wine which was such a revelation to me was 
made from Nathan's Cabernet sauvignon grapes, and I believe 
they were from 1968. 

You could tell in that young a wine? 

I could tell in that young wine. It had the characteristics 
that I was looking for. We tasted other wines, and they really 
confirmed it. Maybe I had the germ of the idea from that wine. 



46 



Winiarski 



Teiser: 



Winiarski; 



We did taste older wines, and all the evolution of the wine 
from more grapes suggested the same qualities and virtues that 
I tasted in that first sip. So at that time, the conclusion 
was: we had to buy some land in this area. 

By chance, the adjoining Held ranch was available. My 
mother had been suggesting for a number of years that if we 
were going to do this California adventure--! mean, she sort of 
didn't approve of it when we did it in the first place, but she 
suggested that we should be thinking about buying land. When 
this land came up, she provided, in a manner of speaking, the 
seeds for the venture. We sold our first vineyard in Angwin of 
course, but really the seed for this SLV venture came from her 
making available by a form of a loan to us some capital by 
means of which we attracted others. That was really the first 
part of it. So we had her help, and then we got the partners' 
help, and we eventually succeeded in purchasing what became SLV 
and planning the development, pulling out the prunes- -ten acres 
the first year and the balance of it the second year- -and 
replanting to Cabernet. 

[Interview 3: March 24, 1993 ]## 

We seem to be getting a little more historical. The anecdotal 
part of it serves its purpose at the beginning, because that's 
what it was. There were no themes there, really, and now we 
are getting to some of the thematic parts. 

The general theme really should be what is your dominant idea, 
and what are the things you are doing and have done to go 
toward that idea. You clearly have a more abstract concept 
than a lot of people who go into the wine business. It seems 
to me that what is important about this interview is that you 
can express what it is that you have been wanting to do, have 
done, and will be wanting to do. It's very interesting to 
have someone as articulate as you keep this in mind. 

I will keep that in mind, because it might have some value for 
others to think about. 



Teiser: I don't know what most people have in mind when they go into 
the wine business. A lot of them just want to lead country 
lives, I think. 

Winiarski: I'm not sure we were far from that in the beginning; that sort 
of agrarian aspect certainly made it attractive. When I saw 



47 



what was happening up at Martin Ray's, that was certainly part 
of it- -the fact that he had the economic resources to support 
that. The question for us, then, was whether, not starting 
with his resources, we could pursue that way of life and at the 
sane time make it sustainable economically so that we could 
live from it. You and I talked a little bit about that in the 
course of the interview- -that this was an issue. Maybe that's 
not possible any more, but that agrarian aspect was certainly 
attractive as a way of thinking about what, we wanted to do. 

So we are just purchasing that vineyard from the Heids 
after that visit to Nathan Fay- -tasting his wine and deciding 
that this was the place that would express most fully the 
character of the wine that I wanted to make from Cabernet 
grapes. This was a place I thought was most appealing to me, 
most attractive, most expressive of the characteristics that I 
would like to have embodied in a wine. This area did that for 
those grapes . 

We were at the point where it became the quest to identify 
some land that might be purchased in this area. I think it was 
again one of these things that happen by chance, that I didn't 
have to go very far to do a lot to induce someone to sell land 
in this area. In fact, there was some land that was being 
actively offered for sale and was in the hands of a real estate 
agent. It had been for some time. 

I don't remember now the exact mechanics of how that 
happened with this land. I didn't go to every real estate 
agent, but it wasn't too long after a decision was made about 
finding some opportunity in this area to purchase that we 
became actively engaged in discussions and negotiations to 
acquire what was then known as the Heid Ranch. Fred Heid's 
first year on that property was 1928, the year that I was born, 
and they made wine. Afterwards he gave me his little 
notebook- -a kind of cellar journal- -describing the wines that 
they had made in each of the years. The first entry in that 
journal was in 1928, so it was kind of a touching coincidence. 

They made the wine from that property. That would have 
implied that there must have been grapes there planted before. 
I'm not sure we ever talked about that. That's an interesting 
point: who actually planted those grapes? Since they came on 
the property in 1928 and made their first wine, the grapes had 
to have been there. When we purchased the land, they were 
Petite Sirah and Alicante Bouschet- -Petite Sirah, which is said 
to be Durif , from the hillside vineyard, and Alicante Bouschet 
from the lower vineyard near the creek, the two extreme ends of 
the cultivatable land. 



48 



Teiser: 
Winiarski: 

Teiser: 
Winiarski : 



The Alicante would have been planted during Prohibition, 
probably. Alicante was a good shipping grape. 



Teiser: 

Winiarski : 

Teiser: 

Winiarski; 



Teiser: 
Winiarski: 



Right. For shipment, 
tough- skinned berry? 



It's a large berry. Is it a fairly 



Yes, it's got tough skin and lots of color. It shipped well. 

I know that variety was coming into the Chicago market, because 
I saw it arriving sometime when we still lived in Chicago--! 
went to the market where food came in from California- -for 
Italian winemakers who used Alicante for part of the blend. 
That may have explained why it was planted along with Sirah. 
Maybe both were shipped. Sirah has wonderful color, a deep 
color. I'm not sure about the stability of Bouschet's color, 
but Sirah has deep and stable color. 

The story was that the Italians in the East liked it because 
they could get lots of colored wine from it. 

Was it a stable color? 

Yes, and they could add water and still have color. [laughter] 

I know they blended, because I saw some of them looking at 
grapes, pinching the grapes, and sizing up what was available. 
In these lugs coming in- -I think they were called "L.A. lugs," 
twenty-eight-pound paper-backed lugs- -they would not buy a 
single variety; they bought a number of different varieties. I 
chatted with some of them, and they said they always put 
together a number of varieties for different purposes to 
acquire a different character into the final wine. A little 
bit of this, a little bit of that, a little bit of something 
else- -that was their approach to it, and always dependent on 
the fruit quality also. Some of it would not have shipped as 
well for some particular reason, so if the grapes were more 
shriveled they would have bought less of this and more of 
something else. All those kinds of practical considerations 
weighed very heavily when they were making their blends- -not 
only what they would have liked to have done from an artistic 
point of view or from an end-quality point of view, but also 
what happened to be not so good in its arrival conditions. 

I guess those are compromises that are always made. 

A similar kind of thing of course happens in France. They made 
their original plantings not so much from any artistic point of 
view or end product point of view, but from the point of view 
of what would ripen in some years and wouldn't ripen in other 



49 



Teiser: 

Winiarski: 



years. As farmers, they are always thinking about a crop-- 
having crop in some year. Some of it would get wiped out by 
the frost because it was earlier- -for example, Merlot. Some of 
it wouldn't ripen in the fall because it would be decimated by 
fall rains. So they were always striking these compromises as 
well with what they planted. Lots of people think the planting 
decisions were made on the basis of their wine character, and 
that's only partly true. To a large extent it was farming 
considerations that dictated what they would plant. 

The choice of this land, however, was guided simply by the 
consideration of the wine quality that I had tasted from Nathan 
Fay. 

Was Fred Heid a good winemaker? 

His wines were not bad. They were palatable, and some of them 
were quite agreeable but in a rustic style. 



Replanting the Vineyards. 1970-1972 



Winiarski: We pulled out the Alicante, and we pulled out ten acres of 
prunes for the first year. We left the Petite Sirah on the 
hillside for one more year, and eventually that was pulled out 
also. We planted Cabernet and Merlot. The Merlot was the 
first in the southern part of the Napa Valley- -the first in 
what is now Stag's Leap District. The first ten-acre block was 
two -thirds Cabernet and one -third Merlot. That was the least 
favorable soil, where we planted the Merlot. I had the 
impression somehow that the best Merlot in France was planted 
on rocky soil. That was misinformation. Specifically we are 
talking about vineyards that have a higher clay content than I 
was led to believe. But we did plant it, and it turned out to 
be a good decision. It had the same conditions as clay soil on 
the root limitations so that it would not be very vigorous, and 
it would not tend to delay its vegetative cycle. Where we 
planted it, in fact, the rockiness of that area contributed to 
the same end product. In other words, we didn't have very 
great root development, we didn't have very vigorous vines, and 
the two conditions, although they are not the same, contributed 
to the same end- -a shorter vegetative cycle and more rapid 
ripening at the end of the season. 

Teiser: I should bring this up in connection with current necessity to 
replant. 




Julia, Stephen, and Kasia Winiarski tying young vines, 1973. 



50 



Winiarski: 

Teiser: 

Winiarski: 



Teiser: 

Winiarski: 

Teiser: 

Winiarski: 

Teiser: 
Winiarski: 
Teiser: 
Winiarski : 



Teiser: 



Winiarski: 



Due to phylloxera? 
Yes. 

Fortunately we don't have that situation there, 
a consideration. 



But it's still 



It's quite interesting that the considerations then that 
led me to plant those two varieties, and in the places where I 
planted them, have changed a little bit. We're still looking 
for quality fruit, but the way to the quality fruit is a little 
bit different now. Not only spacing, an important 
consideration, but rootstock- -we would make different decisions 
today than we made in 1970. We know a little bit more. We're 
still interested in quality fruit; tonnage is not the 
objective. But the way to that objective is seen differently 
now than it was. 

Did you plant rooted cuttings? 

We planted rooted cuttings of St. George. 

Where did you get them? 

I think we got them mainly from Frank Emmolo that first year, a 
nurseryman here in the valley. 

And they worked? 
They worked. 
You're lucky now. 

Right. St. George is not the best, but from the point of view 
of phylloxera it was certainly the decision to make. The second 
planting was put in in 1971, the year after. I think we 
replanted everything. There was a small part that we didn't 
plant in 1971, and that was done in '72, so within those three 
years we replanted the whole thirty-five acres. 

That was a big gamble you were taking, wasn't it, starting with 
new vines? 

Well, I had Nathan's experience. It was less of a gamble than 
he took, because we knew how the grapes had turned out for him. 
This is now a time in the valley when planting is taking place 
at a fairly rapid rate, and I wanted to be in on that ground 
floor with our development so as not to get behind the curve, 
so to speak, of the things that were taking place. So we did 



51 



want to plant as rapidly as possible. This was done with 
investors, and they were interested in getting it done as 
rapidly as possible. They were not patrons; they were 
investors. They were interested in what I wanted to do, but 
they wanted to see a return on it also. They were friendly 
investors, but they were investors; they were people who wanted 
to get some benefit from their investment. 

Teiser: That's a good mix. 

Winiarski: Well, it was, I think. Do you remember when this Bank of 
America report came out in the seventies that was so 
influential? 

Teiser: Yes. [Bank of America, California Wine Outlook, September 
1973] . 

Winiarski: That actuated a number of things that were happening in the 
past. For example, there was a scientific component to this 
revolution, this development that took place. There were the 
scientific aspects of it, there were the economic aspects, and 
there were the human resource aspects. All three of them had 
to come together in those early days, in the late sixties and 
early seventies, in order for this tremendous enlargement of 
the scope of California winemaking to take place. You had to 
have all that patient scientific work that took place in the 
past- -that all made a contribution, all the giants of the 
"golden days" --whose work was so important to the progress of 
the science. All the development that was taking place needed 
to have been done already and waiting. Secondly, you needed to 
have people who were interested, who wanted to be part of the 
new development. They had the idea that maybe the California 
wine industry was entering upon a new age. They understood 
that it took the human resources to organize the whole process. 



Then you had to have people who were interested in 
"banking," in funding and in risking an investment opportunity 
to support those other two aspects. But you had to have the 
human resources to organize all that, the craftsman- 
entrepreneur- -in which category I would count my own position 
there. I had an aesthetic interest and an artistic interest to 
make those kinds of wines, but I evidently had acquired enough 
organizing ability to put those other two components together -- 
the scientific winemaking and grape growing disciplines on the 
one hand and the financial -economic investment people on the 
other hand. It couldn't have been done on the old scale, 
because it took people with a fresh vision to do that. I 
remember discussions with some of the old-timers about the day 



52 



when they thought varietal grapes would be nothing but a 
passing fancy, would be out, and we would return to 
"standards." I couldn't see this for anything. 

I had discussions along these lines with a number of 
people, just to confirm the absence of reality to their own 
thinking. We were never turning back to growing standards. 
That's not what the land was capable of, and the land would 
naturally, I thought, move to its highest capability, which was 
not growing standard grapes and common grapes --the Zins, Petite 
Sirah, Carignane, Alicante Bouschet. This was not going to be 
what this land was used for. I could see that. 

So it took someone to see that. It took someone to see 
what potential there was, someone, as I think I said, whose 
taste was formed on the outside of this valley, whose 
aspiration gave impetus to putting together the other things 
that were out there, building on the work of the scientific 
giants, as I call them, and utilizing all the advances that had 
been made at Davis and at Fresno State in the whole scientific 
discipline . 

Teiser: What did the Bank of America report do? There was also a Wells 
Fargo one that was similar. 

Winiarski: Was there? I don't remember that. 
Teiser: Very similar. 

Winiarski: Now that you mention it, I do remember others supporting that 
original one. I knew of it as the Bank of America [report] 
because it had such a powerful impact. It showed that this 
tendency was not only local but worldwide . There was an 
interest in high, non- commodity type wines. At the same time 
that this was taking place , there was a continuing replacement 
of the dessert wine consumption with dry wine. That was not 
only in California but was a widespread phenomenon in Australia 
and in other places around the world. Dessert/fortified wine 
was losing, but table wine was gaining. 

Among the table wines, specialty, non-commodity type wines 
seemed to have the brightest promise. There was a strong 
interest, whether it was due to the war, as some people say, 
with people getting experience of drinking wine as a mealtime 
beverage, or whether there were other factors. You can't 
believe that all over the world the same thing was happening. 
You think it's in the air, people breathe it, and then they're 
infected with it. But it seemed to be a very broad phenomenon, 



53 



and it seemed to have a very powerful demand support from 
consumers . 

I think that's what the Bank of America report identified. 
It identified where those tendencies were leading, and one 
could make certain reasonable conclusions based on that. I 
think that gave a very strong feeling of confidence to 
investors that this was something that would repay their risks; 
so they ventured. So all of this came together, the people -- 
the human resources- -the science, and the economic capability. 
There was this kind of investment, and one didn't want to be 
behind in what was happening. 

Our investors certainly were aware. I certainly used the 
Bank of America report to reassure investors that this wasn't a 
kind of an idle dream and that it had a reasonable certainty, 
if it was done well, of being successful and that their 
economic expectations would be fulfilled. 

Teiser: I think others' expectations were too high sometimes so that 
there was a drop afterwards. Wasn't there a world price drop 
in about -- 

Winiarski: Seventy- four . 

Teiser: But then the market recovered. Did that drop bother you? 

Winiarski: No, because at that time we had started the winery. I'm just 
talking about the vineyard here; [we had] a separate set of 
partners. By that time we had set up the winery, and we had 
made a sweetheart arrangement between the winery and the 
vineyard; the vineyard grapes were committed to the winery. 
Since I was general partner of both the vineyard and the 
winery, and some of the ownership was duplicated in both 
organizations, this made it a very good arrangement between the 
various parts. 

But I think you're right; there were some disappointments 
for one reason or another. There were a lot of "ifs." The 
fact that it was a very favorable time didn't guarantee that 
everything would be done well and would prosper. 



Developing a Wine Estate 



Teiser: Had you always intended to follow your vineyard purchases with 
a winery? 



54 



Winiarski: That's a very good point. I think that was always an 

aspiration, but it awaited the opportunity. I don't think you 
could even say that it was a conscious and deliberate plan that 
steps would follow. I think you could say it was always a 
potential, always something like a possibility, but it required 
putting together a number of things that I could not count on 
being put together. 

Teiser: When did you decide to go ahead and build a winery? 

Winiarski: Actually, that was another thing that happened by chance. I 
think I was still working for Ivancie, and somehow the 
connection was made between Ivancie and the source of grapes 
and the Martini planting on Zinfandel [Lane], which was 
Cabernet. So acting as a consultant or an agent for Ivancie, I 
visited the Martini ranch on Zinfandel Lane and made contact 
with someone who was representing the Martinis for some of 
their real estate. That was the person who happened to own the 
house at the top of the hill, the house [belonging to the 
Winiarskis] that you visited last time. 



Winiarski: So, Ruth, this was one of those chanceful things, because this 
person, Marian Backus, who represented the Martinis, lived in 
the house at the top of the hill, the Tommy Parker summer 
house. This hill that we're on is called Parker Hill on the 
maps. Tommy's family was one of the original pioneers in this 
whole area. Tommy Parker's father built the house in 1910 at 
the top of the hill as a summer house to catch the cool breezes 
from the bay. When the valley was hot, they thought that was a 
good spot. 

I took Barbara with me on this visit where I had to 
discuss something about the Martinis with Marian Backus at her 
home, and we fell instantly in love with the house. 

Teiser: It's a delightful house. 

Winiarski: It wasn't quite what you saw; it was a little bit different, 
but still we loved everything about it. So I think the whole 
idea- -and the house was sitting on thirty acres. Marian 
happened to mention that the house was for sale. This house is 
less than a mile from the vineyard. And there were thirty 
acres with the house. This is one of the chanceful 
circumstances. We fell in love with it, and by this time we 
were thinking that we had always rented, and it was time to buy 
a house; it was time to live in a house for our family. We 
wanted to be out of the "fatigue of need" that had gone on 



55 



since we were in the valley. The whole venture since we moved 
from Chicago was now time to be remedied or at least thought 
about. The presence of the house, the fact that they had land, 
and the possibility of purchasing it--. 

When I came back the next day to talk about it some more, 
I misunderstood something that David Backus had told me. I 
misunderstood by a wide margin the amount that he thought he 
needed to sell the house. The original dream about a 
misunderstood number transformed itself from something that we 
might do ourselves on the basis of a misunderstood number to 
something that we could only do with others. So the idea of 
making a chateau for winery purposes came to be, since its 
location, its suitability, and everything suggested that we 
could make this work. The idea of buying the house would only 
work if we could buy the house as an adjunct to a winery, an 
enterprise that would be started on the property. We really 
wanted the property. The winery needed the property, our 
family needed the house, and we thought there was some synergy 
there and that maybe the two could work together. 

Teiser: And you managed? 

Winiarski: That was the thing that was managed. But at first it was 

entirely chance. As it turned out, it's a wonderful place for 
entertaining winery guests, and it was then. It was very 
useful for the partnership while we were a partnership. But 
that's how it started; it started with this effort to bring 
together our need for a house and the need for the 
establishment of the winery for purposes of utilizing the fruit 
that T*as so close, and the whole estate concept was created. 

Teiser: How many partners did you have? 

Winiarski: We had eight other partners in the beginning, some of whom, as 
I said, were in the vineyard and remain in the vineyard. Some 
were brought in through their acquaintance with the original 
vineyard partners, and some of them were new. Are you talking 
about the vineyard or the winery? 

Teiser: Both. 

Winiarski: Well, there were eight partners, and then we brought in another 
for the vineyard. 

Teiser: When was it that you made your decision to go ahead and have a 
winery? 



56 



Winiarski: I don't remember. [laughter] It just happened. Maybe it 

happened on the circumstances of the house. It's like if you 
have a dog, you have the other things --the leash and so forth, 
[laughter] 

Teiser: When did you actually start planning the building of a winery? 

Winiarski: The first thing was to close the purchase for the thirty acres 
and the house . That was dependent on finding water , because 
this is a very poor area for water. The idea of the winery and 
the house together on this site had already been put together, 
and we needed water. We needed more water than had been 
available for domestic purposes, so we couldn't close without 
demonstrating that there was adequate water to operate a 
winery. We drilled while our escrow period was in effect. We 
drilled many holes. We never found the water on the property, 
but we decided to bring water over from the vineyard property, 
which was closer, as a way to accommodate the winery need. 

I think the idea had already been formulated of putting 
together the house site and its acreage for winery use, but 
where it would be located, where it would be built, and how it 
would be built we didn't decide until we got together with some 
of the prospective partners. 

Teiser: When was the winery built, then? 

Winiarski: The winery was built in '73. The negotiations were concluded 

in '72, and we thought we might use part of the house premises. 
It's a building on three stories because it's built on the 
hillside, so the bottom area was capable of being used. 
Indeed, we had that bonded. For the first year we used the 
winery house for our wine aging program. We brought in barrels 
and used that for wine aging. 

Gradually we moved out of that space when we built the 
winery building in '73 and used that space for case storage. 



Buildinc and Equipping the Vinery. 1973 



Teiser: Did you yourself design the winery? 

Winiarski: Yes. 

Teiser: By then you knew-- 



57 



Winiarski: Well, it's a simple building, as you can see. It's a 

vernacular kind of architecture, so it didn't take--. We had a 
local engineer help us with the engineering, and between 
Barbara's and my concepts of what a winery should look like- -a 
simple building, vernacular style- -it was born in that 
simplistic way. It didn't have an architect as such., 

Teiser: How about equipment? 

Winiarski: I knew enough about the equipment; that was my business then. 
All that was designed and scrounged from used equipment in the 
beginning. We were thinking about a very conservative 
approach, so wherever we could, we got used equipment, things 
that had already been around and were no longer in active 
service. We managed to moderate our capital requirements by 
using a great deal of used equipment. 

Teiser: Has that stood up? 

Winiarski: Yes, but that's all changed now. I don't know what we have of 
the original equipment except the tanks. The original presses 
are gone. I think we may have some of the original pumps, but 
in general all of these things were very useful in the 
beginning. The lift is still in operation. Some of its 
original structure is still useful, but the actual lifting 
mechanism we have replaced and that sort of thing. Even the 
tanks- -you know, the famous "Cask 23" that we sell? We got 
this wooden cask from Inglenook. They were disposing of some 
casks, and we renovated them inside and out. Guy Kay, who was 
at Beringer, helped us move some of the casks one afternoon. A 
forklift from Beringer was brought down-- 

Teiser: What kind of tanks were they? 

Winiarski: Wooden. They were wooden ovals, and they have been replaced. 

But the original Cask 23, the inspiration for the name, came 

from the fact that in the lineup of tanks that we had, that was 
number 23. 

It was very cooperative; it wasn't as competitive in those 
days. People helped each other quite a lot. They had the time 
to do that. You remember that there may have been twenty or 
thirty wineries in the valley. Freemark Abbey was to a large 
extent a model for a four-hundred- ton crushing operation. 
Chuck [Charles S.] Carpy was of assistance. We visited other 
wineries to see what they were doing. We had a very generous 
outlay of time and consideration from other winemakers. All of 
these things were very helpful. It could not have been done 
without it. I think we visited almost every small winery to 



58 



see exactly how arrangements, dispositions- -when you have to do 
it for yourself, you take a very careful look. Even though I 
had been a consultant, I had never built a winery before. I 
had never arranged flow of material for maximum efficiency on 
my own, and this was all important to see what other people had 
done, how they had solved these very basic problems. This was 
very helpful. 

Teiser: You were speaking earlier about a sense of community in your 
childhood home. Did you find a similar sense of community 
here? 

Winiarski: Right, restricted not to social aspects but simply the 

willingness to share experiences and thoughts about how one did 
things. That community spirit was there; people were very 
willing and anxious, excited even, not for their own behalf but 
on your behalf. They were excited for the things that you were 
doing, so they very freely shared their experiences and their 
own thoughts with me. So that sense of community in that 
respect was there. 

Teiser: Chuck Carpy, I gather, has been an important part of this 
valley in his influence. Is that right? 

Winiarski: I remember that when I was still at Mondavi, Mondavi had some 
wines that they stored at Freemark Abbey. Going over to work 
on these wines gave me the opportunity to become better 
acquainted with Chuck. We had also struck up an acquaintance 
because we both were part of the drive to introduce the 
agricultural preserve ordinance in the valley back in 1968. 
When I would go over there, we would have a chance to chat 
about this and that kind of thing. Since he had overseen in 
large part the refurbishing, the reestablishment of Freemark 
Abbey, his experiences were very valuable as examples of kinds 
of things to think about and do. Chuck is the kind of man who 
thinks a great deal about what he does, and his grasp of detail 
was very strong. His knowledge of why things were done the way 
they were done was very useful and helpful. If the world is 
divided into two kinds of people, those who think about 
everything and those who think about nothing, he was the kind 
of person who thought about everything. [laughter] 

So that would take us up to 1973, when we built the 
winery. 

Teiser: Had you been making wine in someone else's premises? 

Winiarski: We made it in '72 at Oakville, at the old [Wilfred] van Loben 
Sels operation at that time. We crushed the grapes there, and 



59 



we brought them back, I think, before the end of the year and 
put them in our barrels in the ground floor of the house , and 
we aged the wine there. So they were all here. We had bonded 
that premise; part of that house was a bonded winery at one 
time. The use we made of the house for these purposes probably 
repaid a good portion of the partners' original investment. 

Teiser: What was your first production in your own winery? 

Winiarski: That was in 1973. The 1972 crop from the vineyard was the 

first crop. It wasn't commercially very significant, and the 
second crop, 1973, was the wine that went to the Paris tasting 
in 1976. 

Teiser: Oh, really? First time around! 

Winiarski: Yes, first time around. That dedicated the building, you might 
say; that was the first crush of the building. 

Teiser: That certainly got it off to a good start. 
Winiarski: Couldn't have been better, could it? 

Teiser: The wines that you were concentrating upon then were Cabernet 
and- - 

Winiarski: Cabernet and Merlot here. We very generously got some help 
from Robert Mondavi in Riesling that year. In 1974 we did 
start to crush our own Riesling. We were able to buy some 
crushed juice, unfermented juice, from Robert Mondavi that year 
to add to it. So this was a help to be able to do that, to be 
able to get somewhat larger production. Seventy- four, if you 
recall, was a very warm harvest, and the grapes tended to come 
in all at once. So it was very good that we could expand the 
capacity of our own operation by Robert Mondavi giving access 
to some of the fruit from his own harvest for us to take over 
as juice and to ferment here. 



Winiarski: I think it's an interesting point that the composition of the 
farming, the type of farming that was being done by the Heids 
before we pulled out--. They were not bound to a single crop 
when they farmed that land. I guess that was important, that 
they not only had the grapes, but they had prunes, apples, and 
cherries in this small acreage. While they were not quite 
subsistence farmers--! mean, they obviously didn't subsist on 
those prunes and the cherries- -they wanted to make cash. But I 
think a characteristic of quite a few of the lands that are now 



60 



in vineyards in this valley were before not mono -cultured; they 
were not single -crop enterprises. 

Teiser: There were a lot of prunes and apples planted at Prohibition. 

Winiarski: Correct. And even the olives were put in the hills, not during 
Prohibition but when phylloxera began to devastate the 
vineyards. This was when the olives were put in, because no 
one was certain, I believe, at that time that rootstock would 
not eventually itself also succumb to phylloxera. This was an 
element of uncertainty, and olives were seen as an alternate to 
grapes because of the phylloxera. 

In any case, most of the smaller properties, and even some 
of the larger, like the Trefethen property, which was 
considerably larger, were not single-crop enterprises. They 
had a number of different crops that they relied on for sales. 
So it was a little bit different. Prunes may have been 
dominant, and I think that wasn't always so; they became 
dominant simply because there was more security about having 
some cash return from that. In general, I think people spread 
the risk and did not have a single crop that they relied on. 
It was not until grapes became such a powerful dominant 
economic factor that such single -purpose agriculture took the 
place of a more variegated agricultural endeavor. 

I think that's an important point. It may also have had 
something to do with the way this valley developed. The 
successive waves of immigrants from different kinds of 
backgrounds might have contributed to that to some extent. The 
Italians didn't come in until later. The first people the 
Beringers , the Younts , the Krugs , the Carpys , Schram- -were more 
or less the first wave of people. There may have been even a 
wave earlier than that --ranching, grazing, and that sort of 
thing- -when agriculture became dominant. It was not the 
Italians; they came in later. 

So first of all you had the Germans, then the Italians, 
and then there was Prohibition. Then you have this recent wave 
of people who come from all over. There are even some Polish 
people in this group. [laughter] People like Jack Davies and 
the Carpys take over an earlier tradition. But if the new 
people were not part of that continuity of that old Italian 
tradition- -Martinis , Mondavis, and so on- -you have people who 
come in whose families have been in this country for some time 
and are relocating themselves. 



Teiser: 



Winiarski: 



Teiser: 



Winiarski: 



Teiser: 



61 



Sometime, Ruth, you are going to write another book, which 
will have to do with the motivations and the thoughts of the 
people who came in here in this valley and succeeded each 
other. I think you will find that those motivations were quite 
different. They were not refugees, so to speak. There may 
have been a different kind of aspiration that guided all of the 
different kinds of people who came here at different times. It 
might be something interesting. 

Anyway, I think the observation is at least of more than 
passing interest that the successive waves were differently 
structured in terms of their backgrounds and their national 
origin. They contributed in different ways and were guided by 

different stars. I think one could say that. 

V 

There was the gentleman farmer and the gentleman vintner 
tradition, and it's longstanding in Europe, too. Does that fit 
into what you are just saying? 

I look over this list, and I think of when the Heid brothers 
came here, and I don't see any gentlemen farmers until very 
recently- -people whose wealth originated elsewhere who wanted 
to establish themselves in grape growing and winemaking. 
Looking at this list: Krug, Beringer, Yount, Schram, the 
Italians who came in- -all of these were people who were active 
either in grape growing or winemaking or in other professions. 1 

Ernest Wente told me that the Wentes complained because they 
were in one of the few businesses that had amateurs as 
competitors, because there were a number in the Livermore area. 

I think that's certainly true today, if by amateurs one means a 
person whose motivating aspirations come not from merely 
professional discipline but from the heart (which is the 
original meaning of the term) . The acquisition of the 
professional skills might even be secondary to supply a means 
of supporting that aspiration. 



You mentioned Trefethen, for instance, 
think. 



He was typical, I 



Winiarski: Yes, whose background was not professional in any way. 



1 Schram was a barber, Beringer an experienced winemaker, Yount a 
wo rkman- of -all- trades , Krug a political activist and journalist who did a 
number of other things before he became a winemaker. 



62 



Today I think it's even more difficult- -it's very 
difficult for someone to duplicate what I did, to start from 
scratch with the investors. I think that would be really tough 
to duplicate. 

Teiser: Chappelet was in the food vending business. 

Winiarski: Business success elsewhere in another kind of business. This 
kind of resource-rich endeavor I don't think is characteristic 
of any of the people that we talked about before historically. 

Teiser: You were lucky. 

Winiarski: No question. That's why I want to point out these things. So 
much depended on chance circumstances. The availability, the 
putting together of various things depended so much on things 
that you could not have ever calculated would be there as 
opportunities even. 

Teiser: Well, you recognized them. 
Winiarski: Maybe there's something to that. 

Sam Aaron [distinguished wine merchant and connoisseur of 
New York City] once told me, after the Paris tasting, that in 
the Paris tasting we were struck by lightning. That's 
certainly true. This was a tremendously energizing event, 
circumstance, and happening. However, we did climb to the top 
of the tree, or the top of the hill, in order to be exposed to 
the possibility of being struck by lightning. One could also 
say that. 

Teiser: Was it Grgich who also scored well in that Paris tasting? 

Winiarski: Yes. 

Teiser: That's helped him, too. 

Winiarski: It certainly has. 

Teiser: We're back at your first fermentation. 

Winiarski: I also wanted to mention about Merlot, because one sort of 

assumes Merlot is also always around, and one should not take 
that for granted, either. Outside of Sterling and I think 
Martini, I don't know another grower in the valley who chose to 
put in Merlot at the time that we did, back in 1970. I chose 
our bud wood with very great care. I went out to the Delta to 
get it on a planting that doesn't exist any more. It's been 



63 



very good. As a matter of fact, when the success of this 
Merlot was recognized because it cropped well, was free of 
virus, and produced outstanding fruit, we probably realized 
more from selling cuttings than we did from the grapes 
themselves. [laughs] 

So the Merlot was a matter of choice, as I said, but there 
were chance elements as well. I was looking to restrict the 
vegetative aspects of it and to make it less vigorous --to find 
a less vigorous site. The fact that it turned out so very well 
there, that it produced and had a good crop very consistently 
from year to year, and that it turned out to make very good 
wine was an important step in the development of the use of 
Merlot in this valley. 

Teiser: Were you your own winemaker? 

Winiarski: Yes. That's interesting. Why did you ask that question? 

Teiser: Most entrepreneurs quickly get themselves a winemaker. 

Winiarski: No, this was my skill and my love, so I combined the expert and 
the amateur. I came to the whole thing through production, 
which is a little bit different from the way of coming to it 
which others followed. Learning, having undergone this 
apprenticeship- - 

Teiser: I suppose some people expect to be their own winemakers but 
find the other aspects of the business absorb them too much. 

Winiarski: I think this may be a little bit more true when you get larger, 
then you get a conflict for your time. Winemaking could be 
considered the head part and the hand part, and gradually you 
have to do more of the head part- -thinking through the steps 
and developing the means to achieve the ends that you wish for 
the wines that you are looking to produce. Then someone else 
could actually do the body parts. So as a winemaker you could 
become somewhat disembodied. That is, you don't actually use 
your muscles to move those barrels, but you decide what barrels 
you want to use, when you want to fill the barrels, how long 
the wine will remain in the barrels, and somebody else does the 
body part of it. Maybe it's still important that you smell 
quite a few of the bungs, but maybe not every bung. Maybe you 
don't do all the topping; someone else does. All of this is 
winemaking, and somehow the head part of it or the thinking 
part of it gets severed from the body part. So here we are 
walking around like heads without bodies. [laughter] 



64 



Teiser: As your winery developed, did you relinquish some of the duties 
to others? 

Winiarski: Yes. The executing functions are now delegated. So long as I 
have complete confidence that goals I am looking to achieve are 
very well understood by someone else, I can even leave some of 
the means to accomplish those goals. I don't have to be 
present at every day-by-moment decision. Someone else can do 
those things, so long as they're clear about the objectives. 
So it's very important that we get the confidence, the tasting: 
What would you do? How much of this would you put in to make 
it get like that? It's important that I know this, and it's 
important that I have confidence that someone who is making 
those decisions knows where I want to go also. That part of 
winemaking- - the understanding of how to get to where you want 
the wine to be, what you want it to be, how you want to give it 
its opportunity to express to the fullest its nature of that 
year- -the means to do that: How much do you squeeze it? How 
much do you not squeeze it? How much do you let it alone? 
When do you let it alone? All these things you have to know or 
someone has to know. You can't make wine without knowing those 
things, but eventually someone else could actually do it, as 
long as they know what has to be done. 

Teiser: Who tastes here? 

Winiarski: We all taste. The most important tools in this winery are the 
palate and the nose. Everything else is subordinate to that. 
So we're always tasting, and I'm always part of the tasting. 
How much oak, how little oak, rackings- -all these sort of 
things we're tasting, and everyone tastes together. As a 
matter of fact, when we taste in company for purposes of 
deciding on where we stand with respect to the rest of the 
industry and with people we consider our peers, we try to get 
someone else in so that we are not too much bound by our own 
ingrown preferences. This is very good, to get the shock of 
someone who might not experience the same qualities as you do; 
so this corrective is very important, and we try to do that. 

Teiser: I'm always interested when I'm in a winemaker's office, and I 
look at what wines they are tasting against. I see that you 
have Joseph Heitz's Cabernet over there. Who shops for wines 
to taste against? 

Winiarski: Well, it's done in different ways. Sometimes people say we 

ought to be tasting these wines with ours, that we ought to be 
tasting what's new. So we put together tastings, and sometimes 
they originate them. Sometimes I say, "We have to taste so- 
and-so. I've heard about this, or I've tasted that." That's 




Warren Winiarski delivering remarks on wine at an international meeting at the House 
of Commons, 1978. 



65 



Teiser: 



Winiarski: 



very important to continually do so that these little shifts in 
stylistic objectives are sensed. Sometimes the tools are 
elaborated so that you can achieve an objective which the 
technology of yesterday didn't allow you to achieve. It's 
important that this sense of movement and opportunity is not 
ignored. 

I just came back, Ruth, from tasting seventy-six-odd 1970 
vintage of Bordeaux in Florida. It was a very valuable 
tasting. Robert Paul, a collector and connoisseur in Florida, 
put on this tasting for a number of us. They had some of the 
French producers of the wines there and English tasters -- 
Michael Broadbent, Clive Coates , and people like that. The 
winemaker and owner of the Chateau Pichon-Longueville was 
there, also from Figeac and Pavie. There was a wide variety of 
people who are talking about the wines and appreciating the 
wines , and this is very important also to get the sense of the 
long term, what's happening to the wines after twenty years. 

Some wines are merely recollections of what they were in 
the past. They're not even pleasant. The English tend to like 
some of these wines with more aged characteristics more than we 
do. We tend to like the fruitier, more robust wines, and they 
tend to like the more attenuated wines, so it is a difference 
of opinion. 

We are able to taste wines of that age and with that range 
from different regions- -from Pommerol, Saint- Estephe , Pauillac, 
and other different regions --to see how they age, knowing 
something about the technology that produced them and having 
the producers there to speak about all these issues, each one 
liberated from what might be an excessive preoccupation with 
one's own kind of endeavor. It's important also to have a 
sense not only of where you are going and what you'd like to 
accomplish but what others are doing and how this fits into a 
wider horizon of wine. Your own preoccupations might give you 
the temptation to suspect that you are only concerned with your 
own, and therefore you don't see that larger context. Since 
we're interested in producing world-class wines, it's important 
to see what is that whole class out there; what is that larger 
class, and what happens to those wines after twenty years. 

Do you consider California wines to be on what they call these 
days "a level playing field" with French wines? 

Some of this I address in that article, "The Hierarchy of Wine 
Quality." I try to make a distinction there between regional 
wines and classical wines or wines that transcend merely 
regional excellence. I think we have the opportunity in 



66 



California to achieve, and I think in that Paris tasting (we 
can talk about that later a little more schematically) we 
showed that we were capable of transcending our regional 
limitations, and we could produce wines that are good any place 
and every place, any time and every time, simply because they 
embody these classical characteristics and are not simply good 
because they represent a region. 



The Paris Tasting. 1976M 



Teiser : 

Winiarski: 

Teiser: 

Winiarski: 



Is this a good time to talk about the Paris tasting? 
This is a perfect time to talk about it. 

The Paris tasting was developed by Steven Spurrier, 
you get into it? 



How did 



Steven had a restaurant and a school--! think it was primarily 
a school, but he also had a restaurant- -in Paris. The 
objective of the school was to train people in the trade about 
the wines of France primarily. He had a staff of people, one 
of whom was an American named Patricia Gallagher. For some 
reason she was given the job of coming to California and seeing 
what we were up to for a purpose that I think Steven originally 
conceived would be some kind of celebration of the 
Bicentennial- -some kind of recognition, some kind of event 
which would embody a recognition of the fact that the French 
had helped us in our revolutionary war, and we wanted to 
express our gratitude or recognition of that by some kind of 
event that he would participate in. I think he had in mind 
that it would give the French a sense of what we, borrowing the 
grape types and some of the technology, had brought to the New 
World from Europe and from France in particular. 

That was the kind of idea, I think, in the beginning. 
Then it modified itself over the course of time to become a 
little bit different. I don't think it was ever conceived as a 
beauty contest as such, where there was one winner and all the 
rest were losers. It was a comparison and meant for 
observation and to show some of the wines of the New World. 
Patricia came over to find out whose wines they might be. She 
was helped in this I think a little bit by Bob [Robert] 
Finigan, who pointed her in certain directions and said, "You 
might be interested in these wines and those wines," and she 




In cellar, barrels of wine that won Paris Tasting of 1976. 



67 



Teiser : 
Winiarski: 



came around and visited the wineries that he indicated might be 
of interest. 

She visited here, tasted our wines, and she tasted the 
wines of others. She must have said back- -I'm just guessing 
about this- -"Steven, you have to come out here yourself, 
because some of these wines are of great interest. You should 
come out and make your evaluations." In any case, he did come 
out after she did. She made a certain preliminary list of 
wines to be taken over for this event, and he came out then and 
also did the same thing. 

Our wines were among those chosen to be in this 
demonstration, and they were carried over as hand luggage by a 
group that was going over to visit the chateaux in France, to 
make a visit throughout the French vineyards. The wines were 
deposited with Steven in his school and were then placed in the 
Hotel Intercontinental for that particular day that the tasting 
was to take place. They were tasted blind, and they were 
judged by the assembled persons, whose skill was very great in 
discriminating between wines. They were all French and were 
among the very top people whose abilities in tasting wines were 
equalled by few others. They had recognition and reputations 
to match their powers. They tasted and compared California 
Cabernets and Bordeaux wines of classified, even first growth 
origins. They also tasted and compared California Chardonnays 
and the white wines of Burgundy. It was later reported that 
several of them had felt it would be very easy to distinguish 
between the French and the California wines. 

As a result of the tasting, our Cabernet of 1973 and the 
1973 Chardonnay of Chateau Montelena were found to be worthy of 
comparison with those outstanding wines --not only worthy to be 
compared but, on that particular occasion, preferred. 

Yes, I was astounded when I read of it. 

It certainly had far-reaching implications for us personally, 
for our endeavor, and I think it had certain implications for 
California and for the Napa Valley. It was a kind of 
consummation for my notion that the California grapes had 
potential which was not being expressed or was not being 
exploited; we were not doing the best we could with California 
fruit. 

I think if you look at the results and try to understand 
what was really important, it was not that our wine or 
Montelena 's wine was chosen above some French wines. That was 
very gratifying, pleasant, competitively significant, and all 



68 



these things, but the fact that the tasters could not 
systematically separate our wines from their wines meant that 
we had achieved a certain classic character. Our wines were 
not good because they were ours ; they were good because they 
could stand in the company of wines which had come to be 
identified with those that embodied characteristics good every 
place and always, not only because they represented this region 
but because they had these characteristic virtues that lifted 
them in category, in type, in being. They were styled in a 
classic way. From this point of view, it is of the utmost 
significance and also, by the way, deliciously ironic, that the 
French tasters thought, when making their judgments known, that 
they were tasting and preferring their own French wines; i.e., 
they thought our '73 Cabernet and the Chardonnay from Montelena 
were from France! This was reported by various people who were 
there and who overheard the comments which were made . 



Classic Criteria 



Winiarski: That's the point I guess I try to make in this article ["The 

Hierarchy of Wine Quality"], that there are certain wines which 
are regional, and their excellence is understood as an 
expression of the region, and that would have been the wines 
that many people in California were trying to make then which 
were wines that had very rich, very powerful, very ripe fruit 
characteristics, and possessed great abundance of varietal 
character. There are also some others that we didn't often 
make then, which possessed the characteristic of "restraint," 
which I call the third "r." There are two "r's," "richness" 
and "ripeness," and there's another one which might be called 
"restraint" or moderation, and my goal with the 1973 fruit was 
to give it this quality of moderation. The Paris Tasting 
showed what California grapes, with all their richness and 
ripeness, could attain if the wines also were styled to embody 
a certain restraint. These would not be wines noted for the 
most massive expression of ripe fruit but would be wines 
expressing our regional abundance, balanced by moderation and 
restraint. That is to say that the level of fruit character 
would be moderated to the point required for a wine to qualify 
for the name "classic." 

Teiser: It's interesting that there was a consensus among the tasters. 
How does it happen that such a thing exists, that some kind of 
ideal is understood by a number of different people? 



69 



Winiarski: When you get to these very fine points, I don't think there's 
very much disagreement about what is superior. I mean, there 
might be preferential differences, but if you look at the 
judging that takes place at some of these Olympic contests, you 
don't find one judge who gives a 2 and another one who gives a 
9.5; they are within a narrow band of disagreement. I think 
when you get to such embodiments of excellence, even though 
there might be certain conventional aspects to what you judge 
as good and not good, there is less of a disagreement among 
people who are competent about what constitutes excellence in 
any given field. There was a range, surely, and accident and 
chance play a part, and preference plays a part, but within 
that range I think there is less difference. People generally 
have a band within which they judge what is excellent and what 
is not. 

I think the fact that they didn't throw the wines out on 
the first go, that they couldn't systematically tell the 
difference, means that the standards or the criteria of 
excellence are those by which those wines could be judged all 
together. I think that's the important part of the Paris 
tasting that doesn't get very much expressed. That's the 
implication, that we had achieved the quality level, and it was 
almost universally recognized within this group. In addition, 
it also recognized enough so that one could throw out as 
idiosyncratic those judgments in that group of judges which 
were not in accordance with that, that there is a standard for 
wines of this character, universal, classic, international 
standards, and that these standards can be used as guidance. 
For the most part, we were not merely regional wines; we were 
wines that embodied certain trans -regional characteristics, you 
might say "transcendent" characteristics- -balance , harmony, 
euphonic relationship between the parts: the soft, smooth, 
fruity parts and the tannic, hard parts; there was a certain 
balance there. No predominance, no excessively forceful 
elements, a certain highlighting that takes place in the fruit, 
a certain complexity, a depth, a length, a persistence of 
flavors, no shortness, no interruptions, continuity between 
what you smell and what you taste- -all these things are 
characteristics of wines that have these universal, or 
regional -transcending characteristics. I think for people who 
are experienced, these are not hard things to identify, and I 
think most of the California wines in that tasting were seen in 
that context. 

I think this insight is very important, and I think our 
contribution to its illuminating power has been significant. I 
think it's important to recognize exactly what it was that 
happened there. It wasn't just a contest, it wasn't just 



70 



walking away with first prize; it was more than that. It 
implied something deeper, and I think that is a lesson that 
should be well understood. 

I think that should guide us in the future also. To a 
certain extent we were dazzled by our own potential. The 
richness that our fruit was capable of was simply dazzling- -the 
high alcohol, the powerful extractives, the tannin, the rich 
and powerful fruit, the heady aromas. All of these things are 
impressive in themselves, but they do tend to fatigue. You 
cannot have a wonderful aesthetic experience where you are at 
the edge of fatigue every moment, engrossed. So I think that 
element of restraint was very important, and it still is 
important . 

These elements- -the richness, the ripe fruit, the power, 
the expressive fruit, the opulence- -are all means; they're not 
ends in themselves. We were preoccupied with the means and 
took them to be the end, and they never should have been the 
end. You had all these 14-percent-alcohol and highly extracted 
wines, these late-harvest Zinfandels, the Cabernets to end all 
Cabernets, the Chardonnays to end all Chardonnays . The most 
powerful, authoritative statement seemed to many to be a 
statement of beauty, but beauty doesn't need excess. On the 
contrary. 

Look at this head [refers to picture of a sculpture of a 
Cycladic head from a human figure]. It refers to humanity in 
an abstract way. It's from the twenty- fourth century B.C. It 
is rather a minimal statement, a statement which still allows 
the engagement of the mind to take place, where the sensor or 
the experiencer is engaged in that. It doesn't have everything 
done; the sensual experience does not do everything in itself. 
I think that's a point we could start with next time, because I 
think I have a little elaboration on that point. 



Winiarski: [In response to a question about the name Stag's Leap, which 
became the name for the viticultural region] So there was no 
forethought to distinguish ourselves from anyone else. We knew 
there had been a Stag's Leap resort- -Stag' s Leap Manor, I think 
it was called- -when we chose the name, but we didn't do it with 
any reference to what was to become a drawn-out legal conflict 
over the use of the name [first over the proprietary use of the 
name with the owner of Stag's Leap manor and later joined with 
that same owner over the form of the name to be used to 
designate a viticultural area] . 



71 



Teiser: Has the name created any problems? 

Winiarski: There is some consumer confusion. There still is, and there 

always will be, I expect, when two wineries use a name which is 
so uncommon. People think there is only one, and we still have 
the problem of separating our proprietary usage from the other 
proprietary usage. It might have been a problem with the 
appellation, the American viticulture area, I didn't approve 
of that effort and wasn't on board, so to speak, in the efforts 
to get this viticultural area until there was a clear 
understanding that we would try to separate proprietary use of 
the name from the geographic or viticultural use of the name. 
That came about when the application was modified so that it 
was for Stag's Leap District. The name was not simply the two 
words, "Stag's Leap," but "Stag's Leap District." I think that 
was a clear recognition that the effort should be made to apply 
for a name which would be clearly geographic in character and 
not proprietary. 



"Wines of Moderation and Restraint" 



Winiarski: I wonder whether we should see if we have everything stated 
about the last point, which I think is so important for 
California's future and mission, so to speak, and certainly how 
we perceived our effort in having a part in defining the fine 
winemakers' mission in California. I would state that as 
follows: we are trying to raise the aspiration of those people 
who are producing fine wines so that they would be concerned 
with identifying their own wines with what I called before the 
classic wines- -the wines of the classic tradition, which means 
wines which do not simply express the regional excellence. 
What I thought we had to do was rise above our concern with 
expressing the power and the richness of our fruit and employ 
the virtues of moderation and restraint for expressing the 
fruit. 

That's primarily what my objective was. I'll tell you a 
little story about that. It was never so clear to me that what 
we wanted to do was right as when I was at a marketing dinner 
early in our history; it may have been in '74 or so when we 
were first releasing our wines. I was down in southern 
California. We had an agent at that time in southern 
California who invited me to a dinner. At this dinner the wine 
that was served was a Late Harvest Zinfandel. Mind you, this 
wasn't a dessert course; this was a food course. Even today I 
remember the feeling: the first sip was okay, and I got the 



72 



sense of this huge, powerful wine that was with the food. Each 
sip afterward was like the anticipation of dread for what was 
going to happen to the mouth and what was going to happen to 
the food that I had just swallowed a little bit of. 

The sense of "anticipating with dread" was like a 
revelation. I was thinking, "This is not what we should be 
doing with California grapes. We should not be making wines 
like this or anything near it for food." This was an assault 
on one's senses; this wine obliterated any sense of the food 
and was not in any way its companion. It demanded one's 
exclusive attention; it wiped out everything else. Such 
experiences were not what I thought was appropriate for dining. 
It was strongly reinforced for me that we were going in an 
entirely different and better direction. 

Eventually, I think what the Paris tasting showed was that 
wines that aspired to be of classical character had to learn 
restraint and moderation, which is the major idea, I think, in 
what I brought to the Cabernet varietal at that time. I think 
the Paris tasting sort of sealed that. No longer were we 
interested in- -the winemakers of California had the possibility 
of a new kind of goal, because they saw it was successful. 

So I think the Paris Tasting was a kind of affirmation for 
us, and it was a big lesson to be learned for California from 
those tastings. 



Growth and Special Programs 



Teiser : 



Winiarski: 



You have told of building your first winery, 
the growth of the business since then? 



Can you sketch 



A good bit of that was made far easier by the fact that the 
Paris tasting occurred. The partners were very satisfied, 
naturally. The telephone was a constant reminder that wines 
that we had difficulty placing before were now sought after. 
There was a good reason why people wanted to buy our wines, 
where we might have had difficulty persuading them before. 
Things became a bit easier, and that made the development of 
the winery and continued investment a far more reasonable 
prospect than before. 

At some point, Ruth, the family enterprise- -what was to be 
a more limited scope- -shifted its focus, and we were no longer 
focused on a family enterprise at a lower level of economic 



73 



return, as we had been in the beginning. It became more 
businesslike, you might say; it became less personal and more 
rational, if that makes sense. 

Teiser: What has Mrs. Winiarski's function been in the winery? 

Winiarski: She has always concerned herself with the public aspect of it 
and the food aspect and with engaging the attention of those 
people who were important to the winery on a personal basis. 
She has written the release letters sometimes, and she has 
thought about how we were presenting words to the public. She 
has in all ways been my helper and comfort. What has been 
achieved over the years would not have been possible without 
her. 

As I say, the buildings proceeded, and our overall 
economic goals changed. Eventually we bought out the partners' 
interest, so it became a completely family enterprise at a 
somewhat higher level of economic activity than we originally 
thought. We're finished with that development now. We have 
three children. If they wish to continue this, there is an 
opportunity. The basis is laid; it's large enough to occupy 
all of them. We are no longer dependent simply on the grapes 
from our own vineyard: we buy grapes from others. All of our 
white grapes from others. 

In 1976 we started our Chardonnay program. It was small 
then but has developed much more extensively recently. We were 
pleased to be first among 350-some-odd white wines in a recent 
Beverage Tasting Institute competition with our '90 Chardonnay 
Reserve. So now we are about as well known for our Chardonnays 
and their stylistic character as well. 

Teiser: You buy Chardonnay grapes, but your vinification is all here? 

Winiarski: Yes, vinification is all here. Actually, the last building 
that we built [constructed in 1990] was for the purpose of 
improving the character of the Chardonnay wines in particular. 
We can ferment at cold temperatures in barrels, and we couldn't 
do that to any large extent in the existing buildings. That's 
one of the primary reasons for that last building, to give us 
the room to do that. Our Reserve Chardonnay program has 
received as many accolades as our Cask 23 [program] . We've 
certainly developed a technique. Starting in 1980, it took us 
about six years to develop the technique for Chardonnay, and we 
think we are, again, focusing on a restrained elegance while 
still being loyal to the regional characteristics. We don't 
see any reason why our Napa Valley regional characteristics for 
the wine should not establish a new kind of worldwide standard. 




White wine production building completed in 1991 . 



74 



For the type of regional characteristics we have, we think we 
can establish a model, classic type wine, still loyal to the 
regional characteristics but expressing classic character at 
the world-class level. 

Teiser: What is your Cask 23 program? 

Winiarski: Yes, you are right; we didn't talk about that. We take the 

most distinctive part of, up to now, the SLV vineyards, and we 
segregate that early in view of its excellence and its 
distinctive ness for a special bottling of the Cabernet, which 
we call Cask 23. 1 That wine is not made in every year; it's 
got to be a year of exceptional character. Eventually that 
finds its way to the market as a proprietary blend, Cask 23, 
under that name, which is then our reserve bottling of the 
Cabernet for that particular year. 

There have been a number of years together where we 
haven't made it, in the early eighties, for example, but 
roughly every two and a half years we come out with a cask 
bottling. That usually is an immediate sellout. It's at 
roughly the same price level as the very finest California 
offerings of that varietal. It's sought after because it 
represents an exceptional blend from an exceptional year. 
Sometimes people ask us whether the year (or the vintage) is a 
Cask 23 year. They judge the quality of the whole vintage by 
whether or not we will be making a Cask 23. That is flattering 
but somewhat exaggerated. 



The Vineyards 



Teiser: Is it a single vineyard? 

Winiarski: Up till now it has been a single vineyard. It has come from 
the Stag's Leap [SLV] vineyards. Since we bought the Fay 
vineyard adjoining, which is twice the size, we will have the 
opportunity, as that vineyard is replanted and comes into 
production, to source our material from a pool which is now two 
times larger than it was before. So we should have more supply 
and more opportunity, but it's still going to have the same 



Hfe started this proprietary blend, which was new for California, in 
1974. I think it was the same year that Phelps made its first Insignia, 
also a proprietary blend. I can't remember if there were any others that 
early. 



75 



principle of exceptional quality from any given exceptional 
year. 

Did we talk about the Fay vineyard? I think when you were 
up at the house last, you looked out over it. 

Teiser: Yes, I think you spoke of it. 

Winiarski: And the circumstances of how we came to that vineyard? 

Teiser: Will you tell about it now? 

Winiarski: I went down to Nathan about 1968, about this irrigation 
problem. 

Teiser: Yes, you talked about that. 

Winiarski: That's why we bought SLV, because I tasted Nathan's homemade 
wine. So that part of the story we know about. However, 
twenty years later we finally were able to buy that vineyard, 
which was the origin of the whole story, so to speak. Now it's 
being replanted, and the first vintage that uses grapes from 
the newly-planted vineyard will be '89. Thereafter we should 
have progressively more fruit from that vineyard. 

Teiser: How many acres do you have all together planted now? 

Winiarski: We have 35 and 70, so it's roughly 115 acres, 105 acres under 
cultivation in various stages. 

Teiser: Do you have any plans for other varieties? 

Winiarski: We have planted Petit Verdot in the Fay vineyard (also a first 
for our district and area) , but our estate vineyards are meant 
to be just that; the grapes go into the SLV and the Fay and the 
Cask 23. We think that land is an exceptional place for a 
Cabernet vineyard or Cabernet type. I haven't really found 
Cabernet Franc which I like, so we have not put in any of that, 
but we might try a bit of it. The Fay vineyard is under a 
replanting program, and we have started now in SLV to pull out 
the first block we planted in '70, the first ten acres or so. 

Teiser: Why are you pulling them out? 

Winiarski: The vines in that block are a bit tired, and they've been 

cropping in an eight-by-twelve spacing, which was the original 
spacing. We're going to change that. It's not because of 
phylloxera, but we think we will improve the quality with this 
next generation. 



76 



Teiser: What spacing are you going to have? 

Winiarski : We will probably put in a seven-by-five. That's roughly a 

third of the space per vine. We will make smaller vines, we 
will change the trellis, and we will put in a rootstock which 
will not give us the difficulty that we have had recently 
controlling the amount of vegetative vigor there is. We will 
concentrate more- -and this is the last thing I actually wanted 
to talk to you about. But you had some other concerns--. 



Consistent Goals 



Teiser: I was going to ask you if your winemaking has been changed in 
any way or affected by consultants. 

Winiarski: I would say it has not. This goal, this introduction of the 
classical considerations, has not been affected; I've kept to 
that goal. I've had people in to help me achieve it, but the 
goal itself has not changed. We're still looking to produce a 
wine that has these classical characteristics and at the same 
time is loyal to the soil and to the climate where these grapes 
are grown. So we want to express both of those things. That 
goal hasn't changed; that goal hasn't been modified. 

Andre Tchelistchef f , whom I mentioned in our first 
meeting, was here for a while and was very helpful, very 
significant in helping us to flesh out those goals and to 
articulate those kinds of things I had to be thinking about in 
order to achieve those goals. It would be interesting to put 
all that together from your various interviews with people who 
have been influenced by his insights and experience. 

Teiser: It would be interesting, yes. I don't think I have ever 

interviewed anyone specifically on that subject, so I'd have to 
sort of start afresh. Certainly his influence is mentioned 
frequently. 

Winiarski: He was a unique combination. He provided, in his own soul, 

this extraordinary combination of science and poetry. That's 
what it takes in this kind of thing. He was uniquely and 
surpassingly, perhaps, gifted with this combination of those 
two aspects at a very high level. 

Teiser: Yes, and I suppose his experience in Europe and here helped 
give him a perspective on the Napa Valley. 



77 



Winiarski : Yes , that few others would possess . I never worked for Andr6 , 
but Mike Grgich worked for him. The two Paris tasting prize 
holders --we both worked for Lee Stewart and Robert Mondavi, and 
we both had an association with Andr, another circumstantial 
combination that bears some reflection. 

Teiser: It comes back to that community of interest that you mentioned. 
I think you and Mike Grgich have added greatly in your own 
selves, of course, to all that. 

Winiarski: Well, it's a continuing thing, isn't it? We are nourished, and 
we go on to continue the nourishment. We enrich and we are 
enriched. There is a lot to do. 



Changes in Grape Growing Considerations 



Winiarski: Refinement is now taking place in the vineyard. Everyone talks 
about the new things that are happening in the vineyard, and 
they are rather extraordinary. They're far- reaching. Before, 
we were talking about winemaking and grape growing as 
agriculture. Well, yes and no. Agriculture in the strict 
sense, as the term "agri" implies, is a field crop; you don't 
concern yourself with individual plants. That's the province 
of horticulture- -hortus , meaning garden, and it's in the garden 
setting that most of the strong developments have actually 
taken place. 1 When you begin to deal with plants on an 
individual level, you're dealing with something that's more 
appropriate to garden techniques. Field techniques, as they 
are applied when you plant corn, barley, rye, or wheat, are not 
applied to individuals. There you sow the whole field, and 
you're not concerned with individual plants anymore; you're 
concerned with the whole field of plants and the crop that 
comes from it. 

That was the way our so-called "agricultural endeavor" 
with grapevines was before. We were mainly thinking about the 
vineyard as a field of plants, as I can see it, thinking about 
the way I learned, using the standard textbooks before, which I 
read all the time. True, we were pruning individual vines, but 
we were not thinking about the vines as leading to wine at the 
level that we have been talking about most recently- -that 
moderation and restraint consideration, for example. 

U 

Winiarski: We weren't thinking about particular vines leading to 

particular styles of wine. We were thinking about quality, no 



1 This distinction was suggested to me by my perceptive friend George 
C. Ball, President and Chairman of the Board of Burpee Seed Co. For some 
time, he was also president of the American Horticultural Society. 



78 



question about that, but in a very generalized level. We 
didn't have very specific, stylistic criteria wherein to judge 
the objectives of what we were trying to do in our vineyards. 
I think all that has changed. We are now very much concerned 
with the individual vine and how to manage it, not to produce a 
crop of very generalized excellence but very specific, down to 
the stylistic considerations of what that vine and its grapes 
should produce by way of wine. So that is not treating vines 
as a field any more but treating them as though they were in a 
garden, as individuals. 

That's what we're doing now with the SLV replanting 
program. That's the reason we're replanting, to get to this 
kind of consideration sooner rather than later. That's . 
certainly what we have been doing since 1986 in our Fay ^ 
vineyard. Even before that, thinking about purchasing that 
vineyard, the question was: what happened with those vines? 
Why did the quality of the fruit that they were producing 
decline? Why was it that Joe Heitz was making those wines 
before and then was not too keen on them? Something was 
happening in the vineyard. We knew that in the beginning it 
produced outstanding fruit. After fifteen or sixteen years, 
the quality of the fruit that it was producing had changed. 
Why couldn't they hold to those original quality parameters? 
Why was the style changing? 

All those questions were in my mind, and we were thinking 
about that. When I went to Australia in 1986, we were in the 
final stages of our reflections. I had, I thought, formulated 
all the questions. I had already bought the Fay vineyard, 
actually. But before we began any work in that spring- -that 
was the spring of the great floods--! was invited to Sydney by 
Len Evans to judge at the Sydney Wine Show as their 
international judge. The function I served there was (to go 
off the track for a minute) the same function as when we try to 
get someone from the outside to share in our tastings at our 
winery- -to give someone with an outside perspective the ability 
to judge with people who are very used to their own wines. We 
arrange this so that we can get a kind of fresh perspective and 
fresh insight into the kinds of things that need to be 
considered. 

I met there Danny Schuster, whose ideas about vineyard 
management and principles of growing answered my questions about 
the Fay vineyard. We bring him over a number of times a year, 
and we have worked together now for the last six years to develop 
the principles to apply to our own vineyard from his experience 
in New Zealand and Australia. He's done a great deal of profound 
study on what might be called the non-agrinomic way to 



79 



Teiser: 
Winiarski : 



agricultural economics way to approach a vineyard, with a view 
to producing high-quality fruit. For example, to take what has 
now become an easy to understand and almost "classic" example, 
your vine spacing- -how closely should your vines be spaced? 
The agricultural economics answer would be, "What's the size of 
your tractor?" If your tractor is five feet wide, then you 
should have a vineyard with rows at least wide enough to 
accommodate the tractor. It's not a consideration that has 
anything to do with wine quality. But maybe if you put your 
rows apart as far as they have to be for your widest tractor, 
you won't make good wine. That's the non-economic caveat. The 
fact that you don't want to buy a new tractor has nothing to do 
with wine quality. Maybe closer spacing, with a narrower 
tractor, might have something to do with wine quality. This is 
not to say that the economic considerations are irrelevant. On 
the contrary, they are very important but also secondary and 
subordinate . 1 

Those kinds of decisions are of a different weight and a 
different bearing for what you should do in a vineyard- -how 
high your canopy should be, how much fruit each vine should be 
allowed to bear, not how much it costs to plant a vineyard or 
that wider spacing is more economic than narrower spacing. 
What we should be thinking about is, "What is your objective 
for wine quality? What kind of style do you want these grapes 
to produce?" Maybe that should be the most important thing. 
That's the kind of thing we're thinking about now that we 
weren't thinking about in precisely those terms back in 1970. 

Have there been changes in availability of rootstock, too? 

This whole thing about phylloxera has now forced us to rethink 
the alternatives. As a matter of fact, they call them now the 
"alternative" rootstocks, by which they mean alternative to 
AxR#l and alternative to St. George. St. George, being 
completely rupestris in its origin- -in other words, one of the 
native Americans- -is immune to phylloxera. I'm not sure immune 
is the correct term. It tolerates; it does not succumb to 
phylloxera. AxR#l, having a vinifera parent in its origin, is 
susceptible to phylloxera. 

So AxR#l is out, and St. George is still in. But the 
question is whether St. George is the best rootstock for the 



1 Cf. the discussion of the relationships between "way of life" and the 
"economically sustainable way of life" highlighted on p. [23 1 and 
adumbrated in earlier discussions when reflecting on the sustainability of 
the new career. WW 



80 



kind of farming, the kind of viticulture that I was talking 
about just a second ago, the kind of viticulture that has to do 
with the ultimate objective of wine quality. Maybe it's not, 
and I think it is not. It's resistant, but there are other 
resistant rootstocks which might serve our purpose better- -for 
example, rootstocks which have a shorter vegetative cycle, 
which means, say, Cabernet ripens earlier because the 
vegetative part of the vine stops earlier, and the reproductive 
phase of the vine begins. The reproductive phase is the one 
that has to do with seeds and fruit. If we can get the vine to 
focus its attention on the reproduction, namely on the seeds 
and fruit and stop thinking about making leaves --if we can get 
the vine to stop "thinking" about making leaves earlier in the 
season- -we might have better fruit. We might have fruit that 
we don't have to wait until the end of October to get ripe. 

Teiser: Are there new varieties or variations of other varieties? 

Winiarski: New to us. They've had European experience. There are 

different crosses and different types of rootstock which have 
been used in Europe and elsewhere more than they have been used 
in California. AxR//! and St. George have really dominated the 
scene for a long time here. 

Teiser: How about the grapes themselves? 

Winiarski: The fruiting varieties? Well, people are talking about some of 
the Italian varieties now for novelty, because so much 
attention is given to Chardonnay and to Cabernet. I think 
Petit Verdot, that we are using, is one of the new varieties 
that has not been much used in the past. 

Teiser: Have any of the varieties that you have been using been 
improved within themselves? 

Winiarski: I can't say that they have, unless there's some clonal 

selection. To the extent that anybody has been doing that, 
there has been improvement. For example, we have twenty -two 
years experience now with our own clonal selection. We made 
this selection from two different sources. Essentially it all 
goes back to what is called the Oakville clone of Cabernet. In 
the twenty years, we have developed technique for judging the 
final suitability for picking of our different blocks at SLV. 
After we get to a certain sugar, we no longer rely on sugar 
tests. Rather, what we do is go through the field and taste 
the individual vines for the quality that we're looking for. 
We mark the vines that we like, and we do not mark the vines 
that we don't like. Over a period of years, if some of those 



81 



Teiser : 



Winiarski 



Teiser: 
Winiarski: 

Teiser: 



vines turn out fruit that we are not happy with for taste, they 
are eliminated from those which are marked. 

In the beginning we had quite a few. After a number of 
years, the large number is now a smaller number of vines that 
consistently, year after year, produce the quality, the taste, 
that we're looking for near the time of picking. Those are the 
ones that we will propagate from for our next vineyard. We'll 
use those as scion wood to multiply in our next vineyard. Now, 
you might ask if that is an improvement of the variety. I 
think so. 

Of course we're looking for disease resistance. If there 
is a sign of disease or virus in those vines, we don't use 
them. We're looking for a fair degree of crop per vine, so we 
don't mark vines that are not good bearers. Those are the 
first things: disease free, good-sized crop- -not excessive, 
but good- -and how they taste at the end of the season. If they 
taste good, that's the final consideration. Vines that don't 
satisfy all three of these requirements are left aside. We 
don't multiply from those vines. I don't know whether by this 
process we have a selection or a clone. Maybe there's no 
genetic difference between one and the other, but we know those 
vines always produce similar characteristics. They're 
scattered throughout the vineyard, so I don't think it's a soil 
consideration, and they're always producing better fruit. 

You say you don't have any phylloxera here, but you'll be 
planting resistant stock. Have you had Pierce 's disease or any 
other problems? 

Yes. This is a little problem that maybe you were aware of. 
The Pierce disease seems to be related to the vigor of the 
rootstock. St. George and AxR#l did not show the results of 
Pierce disease as rapidly; they were able, it seems to me, to 
live around the fact that they had some infestation, some 
presence of the disease. It's like having a cold. St. George 
had this Pierce disease, and I'm sure there were vines that 
eventually succumbed, but we've got St. George in the vineyard 
that has lived with Pierce disease for twenty years, and it 
still produces a crop. It's not as strong, but there's still 
some crop out there. 

Do you know what the vector is? 

Yes, it's a leafhopper which picks up a bacterium, which is 
then transferred into the grapevine. 

Nobody's been able to find a predator that kills it, I suppose? 



82 



Winiarski: No. An antagonistic bacterium might be the way to solve that. 
But there's not enough biological control within our capability 
yet. If one could implant in the vine an antagonistic 
bacterium, that would work- -something like immunology. If we 
could find some way to do that, I think it would be an 
extraordinary manipulation of this disease and its vector. 

Teiser: Are there other problems that are coming up that haven't been 
apparent before? 

Winiarski: Yes, naturally. When you deal with a less vigorous plant, as 
some of these newer rootstocks are (which is the reason we are 
looking for them) . The way of training and developing them in 
the beginning is much more critical. They don't have capacity 
to forgive your mistakes to the extent that St. George and 
AxRy/1 did because of their vigor. That's why they were 
preferred, because they forgave all those mistakes and still 
performed wonderfully in their youth and their adolescence. If 
you didn't water them the way they should be watered, they 
didn't much care and got along without it, and they did all 
right and recovered. But some of these newer rootstocks 
require far more attention and will tolerate fewer mistakes on 
your part. So these are little problems that we are learning 
as we begin to use these less vigorous stocks- -their greater 
sensitivity and their greater reliance on you to make fewer 
mistakes. We're learning that. 



83 



IV NAPA COUNT? AGRICULTURAL PRESERVE 1968. 



Teiser: What haven't we discussed? 

Winiarski: The ag preserve- -Napa County land use. 

Teiser: Where do you stand on it? 

Winiarski: You know, Ruth, in 1968, as I said about my beginning 

acquaintance with Chuck Carpy, we both, among others, were very 
interested in getting that land regulation at the county level 
established. That was a highly controversial, highly divisive 
issue at that time. It was first a twenty-acre lot split 
limitation as a means of preserving the agricultural potential 
of this central zone here in Napa County- -the Napa Valley 
proper. Although now, technically, from a viticultural 
standpoint, almost the whole county is called the Napa Valley. 
It's not only the watershed, but Napa County is almost 
coextensive with Napa Valley; Napa Valley, Napa County- -it's 
almost the same thing. 

Teiser: What nomenclature is that, then? 

Winiarski: That's the American viticultural area regulations [AVA] . 

Teiser: The appellation? 

Winiarski: Yes. BATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms] is 

charged with establishing the boundaries of a viticultural 
area. They hear from various people, and there were quite a 
few very insistent voices when the viticultural area was being 
established who wanted to be included, because their grapes 
(for example from Wooden Valley) had always been used by the 
Napa Valley vintners. So there's very little land that's 
wasn't recognized by the BATF as being included in the 
viticultural area as having a Napa Valley character. 

Now, that was just an aside, to talk about the 
viticultural appellation of the Napa Valley. To get back to 



84 



Teiser: 
Winiarski: 



Teiser: 



the protection of agricultural land, that has been done in many 
steps to safeguard agriculture. As I said, in 1968 the Board 
of Supervisors established the 20-acre lot size minimum in the 
Agricultural Preserve --roughly 30,000 acres on the valley 
floor, and in later years it was increased to a 40- acre minimum 
in the Ag Preserve and 40-160 acres in the rest of the county 
designated as Ag Watershed. (Before '68, it was a one-acre 
minimum in all those lands.) 

Well, of course there were still ways to get around that, 
to create new commercial and residential areas on rural land. 
So in 1980 the voters passed an initiative, Measure A, limiting 
the growth of county housing to 1 percent a year. And in 1990 
they passed another initiative, Measure J, saying that any 
change in zoning of county agricultural and agricultural 
watershed lands required a voter approval. 

There was still the question, apart from the size of 
parcels, of what kinds of uses were compatible with 
agriculture. So in the early nineties the Board of Supervisors 
worked out the Winery Definition Ordinance and the Hillside 
Development Ordinance, two things that many people thought we 
needed to enable the county to prevent proliferation of uses 
which would undermine the ability of the ag preserve to sustain 
itself. If one began to use the land for purposes which were 
fundamentally subordinate to agriculture, eventually you could 
force the end of agriculture in this valley. This again, 
however, was a highly controversial, highly divisive issue. 
Eventually things that one could do at wineries in 
subordination to the fundamental thing that they were meant to 
do was extended somewhat, but it was defined for the first 
time: what a winery was, and therefore what it could do in 
conjunction with its primary job of crushing grapes and 
processing fruit was defined for the first time. That was 
something that I had something to do with also. I thought it 
was very necessary to accomplish these things if grape growing 
in this valley were to survive. 

That was a question of retail sales and that sort of thing? 

Right, and all the other so-called marketing endeavors that 
took place in conjunction with the primary use of the winery- - 
dinners, kitchens, entertainment of various kinds, and so on. 
People were thinking about having elephant tours through the 
vineyards- -bringing in elephants and selling tours. That's a 
little bit of an exaggeration, but it was an actual proposal 
that came into the Napa Valley Vintners' Association. 

Where did you stand on it? 



85 



Winiarski : I was very strongly in support of the need for a certain amount 
of restraint, because without that it is clear to me that 
agriculture would eventually become secondary and that, for 
example, the valley could fill up with grape -processing 
operations whose grapes didn't even come from the valley. All 
of these pose very serious problems to the ongoing agricultural 
endeavor. This land is unique; it can't be duplicated any 
place else in the world, and it needs to be thought about. 
What is it that protects it? 

On the other hand, people said that without the marketing 
endeavor the wineries can't survive; and if the wineries can't 
survive, then the vineyards can't survive. That point of view 
had to be made, it had to be listened to, and it had to be 
taken into account . 



Teiser: I think people kept holding up Carmel as an example of what 
might happen. 

Winiarski: "The Carmelization of the Napa Valley," is that it? [laughs] 
Well, it's surely a possibility. The Napa Valley has a 
wonderful name, it has vast consumer acceptance. It sets a 
standard for so much of what the consumer thinks about the best 
California wines, and that, unfortunately, has a danger. It 
lends itself, therefore, to the danger of being exploited 
without any connection to reality. People talked about the 
danger of "zip-code" wineries; they would use a Napa Valley 
address and process out-of -county fruit in an activity which 
depleted the limited county resources of water, space, air, 
transportation access, and all of these things, and had nothing 
to do with the Napa Valley. That was surely something that we 
had to address. 

Teiser: Are you fairly well protected now? 

Winiarski: One could say that we defined the issue, and it's there for 

people to have another look at. If it's not enough, then maybe 
we have to do more. I don't hear anyone saying that it's too 
much. The case is similar to what we had when the first 
agricultural preserve ordinance was put into effect. 
Eventually we had to extend that. We came in with twenty 
acres, and eventually we went to forty acres as a minimum lot 
size. If there is a general sense that we have to revisit 
those issues in light of our experience as to how well it's 
doing, then we have laid the basis for it in the first effort. 



86 



Teiser: 



Winlarski: 



What about the hillside erosion? 
control? 



Has that been kept under 



Again, there's very little you can do with land use that 
doesn't create a controversy. People rightly feel that the 
land they own is castle -like. Your rights to use land are very 
important, and the Constitution provides for that kind of 
property. The regulations have to be clearly for a public 
purpose, and they can't take it from you in the guise of using 
it for public purposes. All those issues are very present. I 
think there is a division of opinion of whether that has gone 
too far. Some people cannot develop the hillsides because it 
is too difficult, too expensive, and the erosion control is too 
demanding. On the other hand, if they don't control the 
erosion, the vineyards that they put in would only be there for 
a short time anyway. So maybe some of those things have to be 
resolved in the same way. You have to look to the long-term 
use of the land, and long-term use does not mean five or six 
years of excessive erosion which eventually makes the land not 
usable for anything as well as coming into a condition which 
made it detrimental to one's neighbors. For example, if the 
erosion causes your neighbor's land to end up damming your part 
of a stream or silting up everything downstream from the 
erosion. 

All these issues were explored. Where we ended up is 
always a compromise. Some people are unhappy. The net result 
I think is constructive. That might take revisiting also. 
Look, if we didn't have an extraordinarily precious resource, 
the issues would be very simple. They could be solved by 
moving on. The little village that sat beside the San 
Francisco Bay in its first days --there were probably some 
people who were nostalgic because that little village was going 
to disappear, and it became a thriving metropolis, a commercial 
and industrial metropolis. I don't think it's the same 
situation here. We have something that's got to be used for 
what it is, or else it's lost. Its identity, its destiny is 
not to become a metropolis or a housing tract. Its best and 
highest use is to grow this quality fruit which represents this 
national treasure to such a large extent. This is a national 
treasure. If we lose it, it's gone, and we can't produce those 
grapes and those wines any more. 

If all of that is valuable, and I think it is, then we 
have to think of preserving this in its identity as it exists. 
That takes, unfortunately, restraints on what all of us can do. 




Warren Winiarski, right, receiving award from writer Harry Waugh for Stag's Leap 
Chardonnay, 1991. 



87 



V VITICULTURAL AREA DESIGNATIONS 



Teiser: Does the designation of the viticultural areas help the 
preservation idea? 

Winiarski: That's a very interesting question, to come at it from that 
perspective. In a way, it seems that it helps. You have 
official, governmental recognition of this land as a 
viticulture area. There is therefore with this recognition a 
public sensitivity or public acknowledgement of something 
important. Maybe the subdivisions of that viticultural area 
will have a similar value- -because now we have Rutherford, we 
probably have Oakville, we have Howell Mountain, Stag's Leap 
District, and maybe we'll have a Yountville. At least public 
attention is focused on something, an official recognition. 

It may be quite important, therefore, to be sure we get 
these viticultural areas as right as we can; namely they should 
be reflections as much as possible of the viticultural reality. 
If there's really a difference between the Cabernet grown here 
and the Cabernet grown there, maybe we should draw the line 
between the two and not extend it for the sake of the 
convenience of individuals. There's always somebody on the 
outside of a boundary who would like to be included, and that 
sometimes doesn't necessarily work to the benefit of the 
reality. The reality is maybe extended a bit too much, so you 
have these little boundary extensions that might dilute the 
viticultural truth. 

Of course, having said that, the tendency to do that on a 
more political basis is always very strong. That's why I said 
"as much as possible." It may not in every case be possible to 
reflect those realities as truly as you would like them to be 
reflected. 

I guess I have a sense that all of this has to be done in 
steps, and maybe at some future time we'll redraw some of the 
lines as we get more sophisticated, as we get more consumer 
interest in doing that. There might be some greater demand for 



88 



that. The French system was not conceived overnight. There 
were at least three major layers of regulation which changed 
the former ones, extended, and refined and so on. Sometimes 
when I'm on marketing trips it's difficult to make people 
understand the Napa Valley- -that Sonoma, for instance, is not 
part of the Napa Valley or vice versa. That might be the level 
of distinctiveness that people can handle at this time. Maybe 
these finer subdivisions get additional refinement only later. 
When you have one horizon, you are familiar with it, and then 
you go to smaller horizons within the larger one . That might 
take a little more time and interest and experience. 

Teiser: There was an effort being made to have a viticultural 

designation called San Francisco. 1 think it was made for 
marketing purposes, despite the fact that San Francisco never 
grew any appreciable number of grapes; but it did store 
tremendous amounts of wine at one time. That seems to me a 
very strange use of the concept. 

Winiarski: I'm sure that's not the way it was presented by the proponents. 
They didn't say it was marketng; they said it was viticultural 
primarily. Well, they have the burden of proof: what's the 
viticultural evidence for the distinctiveness? I 
BATF's mandate is fairly clear along those lines: 
good evidence for viticultural distinctiveness? 



think the 
what's the 



Where is that project right now? 
Teiser: I don't know. 

Winiarski: I forget who proposed it, but I remember talk about it some 
time ago, and then I've never heard anything about it since. 

Well, the "burden of proof" is I think a beneficial part 
of the BATF's mandate in looking at these kinds of proposals. 



89 



VI OUTLOOK 



Teiser: The last question on my outline was about changes in the 
California wine industry since 1964 in your judgment and 
observation, and what the outlook is. 

Winiarski: I think we've covered some major ones since 1964--the 

agricultural, the winemaking style, the regional and classic 
aspirations- -as they were tangent on our own activities. The 
outlook now is whether some of these aspirations will succeed 
in being embodied, whether the competition that has developed 
over the last years gives us still the opportunity- -doesn' t 
make us so competitive that we lose sight of our long-range 
goals because of the short-range pressures. I think that would 
be unfortunate. I think it's important to keep those long-term 
objectives. Ultimately, all we have is our distinctiveness and 
our quality. If we put aside those objectives or lose the 
ability to achieve them because, for example, of competition- - 
because we're selling our wines under the prices that we 
should, and the economic resource is not there to support the 
pursuit of excellence- -that would be unfortunate. Maybe there 
would be an ongoing shift of winery capacity from weaker hands 
to stronger hands. By stronger I mean the economic. That 
surely has to be there. The long-term objectives can't be 
accomplished without a certain amount of resource to do that. 
That could be a problem in the present situation. 

Teiser: One of the problems connected with that is the growth of large 
organizations which take over small wineries. They seem 
sometimes to be ruthless about not maintaining quality 
standards. It's frequently said that when a large winery buys 
a small winery, its quality will go down, and I suppose it 
often happens. Are there enough small ones coming up to fill 
that loss over the long haul? 

Winiarski: I can easily see considerations where a small winery could not 
continue to do what they set out to do because of competitive 
pressures and because it lacks economic resources. It's 
possible also that a larger winery not only has the resources 



90 



but the will to achieve the quality goals that a smaller winery 
for one reason or another is no longer able to achieve. 

So maybe the thing to be concerned about in reality is not 
the size but the will and the application. In other words, in 
principle, there's no reason why a larger winery couldn't 
organize itself to achieve the goals of smallness, namely 
complete dedication to quality. The temptation as a practical 
matter is probably strong not to do that. But maybe the 
division between large and small is more accidental, and the 
real thing is the distinction in the will to achieve quality, 
the aspiration to do that. 

I can see small wineries not being able to achieve those 
aspirations by not having the resources, by not having the 
talent, and not generating the continuity of ability. That's 
certainly possible also. I can see a larger winery organizing 
itself to achieve the goals that normally are associated with 
smallness. If you can take that normal association of 
quality- -namely dedication, preserving the distinctive, not 
treating wine as a commodity- -then in principle you could do 
that at a larger scale. So the real thing is the quality 
versus commodity distinction: what are you striving to achieve 
with this organization? 

In other words, the larger- -I'm not sure about the 
largest, because at some point the goals have to shift simply 
with the size; they become different. I think you have to look 
at what it is devoted to. Let's say a larger winery, instead 
of having one f if ty- ton-an-hour crusher, had ten five-ton-an- 
hour crushers. If the way the grapes were crushed made a big 
difference to preserving, enhancing, capturing the quality, it 
could be done. They could have a lot of small gondolas in the 
field. They wouldn't necessarily have to treat grapes as so 
many tons, not thinking about the fruit but thinking about how 
many tons. In principle, it's not impossible. Therefore you 
could say that if they had the resources they could do what a 
small winery is normally believed to be able to do simply 
because its scale is at a level where the human- scale and 
quality-detail levels predominate and not where the mass aspect 
comes into play. As I said, in principle it's not impossible, 
but in practice--. 

Teiser: Thank you very much. We have covered a tremendous lot of 
information, and I have enjoyed listening to you. 



Transcribed by Judy Smith 



91 



TAPE GUIDE- -Warren Winiarsky 



rview 1: July 24, 
tape 1, side a 
tape 1, side b 
tape 2, side a 
tape 2, side b 
tape 3, side a 


1991 



Interview 2: July 25, 1991 
tape 3, side b 
tape 4, side a 
tape 4, side b not recorded 

Interview 3: March 24, 1993 



tape 5 
tape 5 
tape 6 
tape 6 
tape 7 
tape 7 



side a 
side b 
side a 
side b 
side a 
side b 



tape 8, side a 

tape 8, side b not recorded 



1 
1 

10 
13 
19 
24 

27 
31 
37 



45 
45 
53 
58 
64 
69 
7o 
82 



92 



INDEX- -Warren Winiarskl 

agricultural land, protection of, 

83-86 

Amerine, Maynard A. , 8, 23, 24 
appellations, viticultural, 83- 

88 

Backus, David, 55 
Backus, Marian, 54 
Ball, George C., Jr., 77 
Bank of America, 51-53 
Beaulieu Vineyard, 29 
Bonetti, Bill, 29 

Carpy, Charles S. (Chuck), 57, 

58, 83 

"Cask 23" designation, 57, 75 
Charles Krug winery, 29, 45 
Chateau Montelena, 67 
clonal selection, 80-81 
Conaway, James, 11 

Denver, Colorado, winemaking in, 
32-34 

Ellsworth, Robert and Phoebe, 20 
erosion control, 86 

Fay, Nathan, 42, 43, 45, 49, 50, 

74 
Freemark Abbey, 57, 58 

Gallagher, Patricia, 66 
Grgich, Miljenko (Mike), 31, 77 

Healdsburg Machine Company, 32 
Heid, Fred, 47, 49, 59 
Heitz, Joseph E. , 23 
"Hierarchy of Wine Quality, The", 

15, 65, 68 

Holmes, Fred, 3, 31 
Hutchins, Robert M. , 5-6 

irrigation techniques, 41-42 
Ivancie, Gerald, 32-34 



Martini, Louis P. , 29 

Mayacamas, 19-20 

mead, 2 

Mondavi, Michael, 28, 30, 31 

Mondavi, Peter, 21 

Mondavi, Robert, 59 

Mondavi, Robert, Winery, 28-31, 

35 
Mount Eden. See Ray, Martin. 

Nurenberger ranch, 39, 40 

'*- 

Parducci Winery, 35 

Paris tasting of 1976, 52, 59- 

70, 72 

Parker , Tommy , 54 
Pedroncelli Winery, 35 
phylloxera, 50, 59, 79 
Pierce' s disease, 81-82 
Polish community in Chicago, 2-3 

Rafanelli, Art, 32 
Ray, Martin, 12-19, 21, 23 
Ray, Peter Martin, 13-17 
rootstocks, 78-80 

AXR#1, 78-80, 82 

St. George, 50, 79-80, 81 

Schoch, Ivan, 28, 31 
Schoonmaker, Frank, 12 
Schuster, Danny, 78-79 
SLV. See Stag's Leap Wine 

Cellars "Sense of community", 

2-3, 24, 45, 58, passim. 
Souverain Winery, 20-22 
Spurrier, Steven, 66-67 
Stag's Leap vineyards, 75-76, 78 

name, 70-71 
Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, 29, 

34, 40-41, 43, 45-90 passim 
Stern, Lewis, 21, 22 
Stewart, J. Leland (Lee), 19-23, 

25, 26, 27 
Storm, John, 12 



malolactic fermentation, 24-25 



tasting, 64-65, 78 



93 



Tchelistchef, Andre, 22, 25, 28, 

76-77 

Trefethen property, 60 
Turnbull, Tom, 45 

University of California, Davis, 
35-38 

van Loben Sels, Wilfred, winery, 

58 
vine spacing, 76, 79 

Wagner, Philip, 8, 10. 12 
Winiarski, Barbara, (Mrs. 
Warren) , 73 and passim 
Winiarski, Lottie (mother of 

Warren) , 46 
Winiarski, Stephen (father of 

Warren), 1-2, 4, 9 
Winiarski, Warren, passim 
education, 2-7 

St. John's College, 
Annapolis, 5, 8; University 
of California, Davis, 35- 
37; University of Chicago, 
3, 5, 10; University of 
Colorado, 3, 5; University 
of Florence, 6 
University College, lecturer, 

6 
wine, earliest recollection, 

1-2 
winemaking, earlist, 8-9 



Grape Varieties Mentioned in the 

Interview 

Alicante Bouschet, 47-48 
Cabernet Sauvignon, 39, 40, 

42, 45, 80, passim 
Merlot, 49, 62-63 
Petit Verdot, 75 
Petite Sirah, 47-48 
"standard" varieties, 52 

Wines Mentioned in the Interview 
Cabernet Sauvignon, 59 
Chardonnay, 67, 68, 73-74 
Green Hungarian, 21 
Merlot, 59 
Riesling, 59 

Zinfandel, late harvest, 71- 
72 



Ruth Teiser 



Born in Portland, Oregon; came to the Bay Area 

in 1932. 
Stanford University, B.A., M.A. in English; 

further graduate work in Western history. 
Newspaper and magazine writer in San Francisco 

since 1943, writing on local history, 

business and social life of the Bay Area, 

and the wine industry of California and Italy. 
Book reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle . 

1943-1974 
Co-author of Winemaking in California, a history, 

1982. 
An interviewer-editor in the Regional Oral 

History Office 1965-1994. 



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