“Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects” by Richard Kurin, MA'74, PhD'81, includes wine by Warren Winiarski, AM’62

Zainab Imam
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Wikimedia Commons

A wine created by famous California winemaker Warren Winiarski, AM’62, has been selected as one of the most influencial items in American history in a new book titled “101 Objects That Made America,” authored by fellow UChicago alum Richard Kurin, AM’74, PhD’81.

Winiarski rose to prominence when one of the wines crafted by him, as part of the 1973 Vintage of California Wines, bested French wines in the 1976 Paris Tasting. That victory not only introduced to the world the high quality of wine made in California, but also created recognition for American wine in general.

Included in the items selected from among more than 137 million artifacts, works of art, and specimens in the collection, is the 1973 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which won first place in the 1976 “Judgment of Paris.” The book, which includes iconic American items such as Neil Armstrong's spacesuit, Abraham Lincoln’s top hat, Charles Lindberg’s Spirit of St. Louis, and Lewis and Clark’s compass, was written by Kurin for The Smithsonian Institution, where he is the Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture. A complete list of the objects included in the book can be found at http://smithsonian.com/101objects and a specimen of the wine is present at the Smithsonian Museum.

“It's an honor and a thrill to have a wine I made included among such historic and ground-breaking artifacts,” said Winiarski, founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars. “It clearly demonstrates how much of an impact California winemakers have on the world at large. Forty years ago, a small group of winemakers showed a passion to succeed and a drive for excellence, which helped prove that we could make wines as good as or better than anyone else. Today, the world holds California winemakers in high esteem, a reputation that is due, in part, to the 1973 vintage and the Paris tasting.”

Winiarski is now actively involved in preserving agricultural and open land in Napa Valley for future generations, something he has felt strongly about since the 1960s. Winiarski and his colleagues fought to have the historic 1968 Agricultural Preserve Act passed in Napa County.

Winiarski was inducted into the California Vintners Hall of Fame at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in 2009, and continues to explore his passion for greatness in grapes and wine at his Arcadia Vineyard in Napa Valley.

Winiarski attended The University of Chicago to conduct graduate work in political theory, as well as spending a year of study in Naples and Florence, where he gained an appreciation for wine. He taught at UChicago for six years while working on his PhD and received his master's from the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought in 1962. Although he was promising academic, he was lured to California in 1964 to embark upon his dream to make wine and began the apprenticeship with Robert Mondavi that ultimately launched the aspiring vintner. 

Kurin is a cultural anthropologist who received his MA in anthropology in 1974 and PhD from The University of Chicago in 1981 for a dissertation entitled Person, Family and Kin in Two Pakistani Communities. He was awarded a Fulbright-Hays doctoral dissertation fellowship and a Social Science Research Council fellowship for research in Pakistan.