Warren Winiarski, one of Napa’s most famed winemakers and conservationists, will donate $3.3 million to the University of California, Davis to boost its celebrated library collection of works by wine writers.
Winiarski’s gift is his latest and largest donation to support the UC Davis Library’s wine writer collections, which he has backed for years. He had previously given close to $400,000 to the library, which houses more than 30,000 wine books and supporting documents from manuscripts to maps, some dating to the 13th century.
With his latest donation, Winiarski credited wine writers throughout the years for cultivating a lexicon for public understanding of his industry, shaping the course of winemaking in the process.
“They helped advance the conversation and inspired us to render grapes with more subtlety, refinement and knowledge,” he told the university. “That takes a vocabulary. You have to be able to take the senses of taste and smell, and the structural elements of wine, and reduce those elements into words. Wine writers did that for us.”
Over the years, seminal writers like Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson have lent their works and personal papers to the collection, with support from Winiarski along the way.
Those donations now make up the Jancis Robinson Papers on Wine Writing and Criticism and the Hugh Johnson Archives. The collection also holds works by the likes of Napa Valley vintner Robert Mondavi, wine writer Robert Thompson and many others.
In donating her works to the library in 2017, Robinson said, “I feel extremely honored that all my papers, notebooks, tasting notes and professional photographs have found a home in a part of the world that has been so important to me and my life’s work in wine.”
Offering up his works a year earlier, Johnson said, “UC Davis was my first choice of a permanent home for my work,” and lauded the collection as “the greatest wine library in the world.”
Winiarski said his vision transcended simply building out a record of how wine writers helped define and shape the drink today.
“It’s about helping to refine truth through history,” he said in the university’s news release. “It’s not just about preserving their work, but also building a home where something new can be created from the past. We need to continue to get more finesse in our wines and I’m hoping that this collection will help bring about those developmental benefits for the industry for many years to come.”
Winiarski has been a leading Napa Valley preservationist. He was an outspoken advocate for Napa County’s Agricultural Preserve of 1968 which made agriculture “the highest and best use of land” and staved off Bay Area development. The Ag Preserve is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Winiarski’s mark on Napa’s future was made years before the valley vaulted onto the world stage with his wine’s win at the 1976 Judgement of Paris.
Most recently, Winiarski was one of several prominent industry voices backing the Watershed and Oak Woodlands Initiative, or Measure C. The contentious measure, which would have curbed vineyard development in the county’s watershed, was defeated in the June 7 election.
His efforts have garnered him significant praise throughout the years, including a place in the California Hall of Fame. Prior to his induction last December, Winiarski told the Register he has hopes that his adopted home might one day become “another Bordeaux.”
He pictures a Napa Valley akin to the famed French wine region, “perpetuating itself on the beauty of its product,” while not overwhelming itself with tourism. But the latter, he cautions, is “a danger that the Ag Preserve may not be able to forestall.”