Warren was born in Chicago, Illinois. A true pioneer of Napa, Warren Winiarski arrived in the valley in 1964 set on becoming a winemaker. After initially studying agriculture he went on to study political theory which included a year in Naples. After his return he taught at the University of Chicago for six years.
Warren’s experience in Italy convinced him that he should be a winemaker and after working for, and learning from various wineries, including that of Robert Mondavi, he bought a carefully selected 50-acre (200,000 m2) ranch in 1970, which he turned into a vineyard. He planted Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot along with the existing Petite Sirah vines and began making wine as Stag's Leap Wine Cellars.
Six years later, a bottle of Winiarski's very first vintage was selected for competition in the historic Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, where it won first place among the ten French and California red wines. Winiarski discovered that the wine competition results provoked anger and animosity among some in France. "Afterwards I received several letters from members of the French wine industry saying that the queer results of the 1976 tasting were a fluke. In essence, their letters argued that 'everyone knows' French wines are better than California wines 'in principle' and always will be."
In August 2007, Stag's Leap Wine Cellars reached an agreement to be acquired by UST Inc. and Marchese Piero Antinori. Warren Winiarski was President of the International Wine & Spirit Competition in 2001 and continues to support the Competition today.