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Colorado wine industry attracts support from winemaking legend Warren Winiarski

Napa Valley winemaking legend Warren Winiarski invests in the Colorado wine and grape industries through a grant to CMU/WCCC Viticulture and Enology program

Warren Winiarski is a man who tends to see the world as a place of unfulfilled future potential, and his ability to turn potential into reality is reflected in the many accomplishments of his life. Before his world-renown success in the wine business, Winiarski pursued a career in academia — first through his studies at St John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland and later as a lecturer of liberal arts at the University of Chicago. The call of California’s young and exciting wine renaissance eventually lured Winiarski away from scholarly pursuits, but his academic training, combined with this ability to see abstract potential where others did not, helped guide him on the road to the events that secured California’s reputation in the world of wine.

Now, Mr. Winiarski’s vision will benefit the Colorado wine industry and students at Western Colorado Community College (WCCC) and Colorado Mesa University through a $150,000 grant from Winiarski Family Foundation, the charitable foundation established by Winiarski and his wife, Barbara. The grant will benefit the WCCC Viticulture and Enology program. Fifty-thousand dollars of the gift is offered in the form of a matching fund challenge to other donors who share Winiarski’s vision of wine in Colorado. Once fully matched, the total support will amount to $200,000.

Winiarski’s track record in recognizing potential is solid. With this grant, the college and the industry are receiving backing from the man who saw a prune orchard and believed that the land would be better suited to vines capable of producing world-class Cabernet Sauvignon wines. At that time, most viticulture experts believed that the prune orchard’s locale was too cool to ripen Cabernet grapes. But in 1976, Winiarski proved the sceptics wrong at the now infamous Judgment of Paris blind tasting. Winiarski’s 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon swept some of France’s most prestigious first growth Cabernet Sauvignon wines and put California on a quality par in the world of wine.

Warren Winiarski

Winiarski sees a bright future for Colorado’s young wine business. The Winiarski Family Foundation’s grant will assist the industry in fulfilling its potential through an endowed scholarship, as well as academic and infrastructure support to WCCC’s Viticulture and Enology program — the first and only program of its type in Colorado. The gift also establishes the Warren Winiarski, Gerald Ivancie Institute of Viticulture and Enology, whose name recognizes and honors Gerald Ivancie’s early contributions to the state’s wine industry. The institute aims to advance the Colorado wine industry through applied research projects to help deal with Colorado’s special growing conditions with the goal of advancing Colorado wines from vine to glass. These efforts will eventually benefit all the industry’s diverse constituencies, including growers, producers, the trade and consumers.

Jenne Baldwin-Eaton, WCCC’s Viticulture and Enology program director, is enthusiastic about what the funding will do for the program and for the state’s wine industry.

“Mr. Winiarski has set an example of what can be achieved through collaboration, clear vision, hard work and tenacity. As he said at the VinCO event, ‘All ships rise with the rising tide.’ It’s a reminder that working together will bring benefits to all of us in the Colorado wine industry.”

It is fitting that the Viticulture and Enology program and the new institute established through Winiarski’s generosity should reside in Mesa County’s Palisade region. The area has long enjoyed a worldwide reputation for its peaches, but over the years the growers expanded to grapes, and Palisade is currently equally well known as one Colorado’s premier wine growing regions. The Grand Valley is the venue for Colorado Mountain Wine Festival, the largest annual celebration of Colorado wines. Now, the institute will reside in the same community, but its mission is to serve the entire state.

Winiarski’s long-term vision for the institute, beyond research, is also the mentoring of young people. His own story is one of mentors aiding his knowledge about growing grapes and making wine. The many articles written about his life reveal a person who is reverent about the people who helped him, and he believes that supporting CMU and WCCC will provide the means for future mentorships.

He also sees the value in locating the institute within an institution of higher learning. As a former academic, he knows that the transfer of knowledge is the mission of universities and colleges, and as such, can serve as a catalyst for future achievements.

“Support of a world-renown figure like Mr. Winiarski doesn’t happen every day and I congratulate the instructors, students and graduates of our program for earning his belief in our program and community,” said CMU President Tim Foster. “The family’s financial generosity will help us significantly, but Mr. Winiarski’s reputation will help us immeasurably.”

“We are going to find creative ways to reach out to all those in western Colorado and beyond who love wine and care about its future,” said CMU Foundation CEO Liz Meyer. “They can make an additional investment knowing that this institute is a tangible way to help improve the wine business in Colorado for generations of winemakers.”

To contribute to the $50,000 matching fund program for the Warren Winiarski, Gerald Ivancie Institute of Viticulture and Enology, please visit or contact Rick Adleman at [email protected]. .


Written by David Ludlam