The consultant winemaker has always been important. Many people have a vision and the means to start a winery, but not the winemaking skill. Perhaps the best example would be Robert Mondavi. Mondavi was not a winemaker. He always hired winemakers to make his wine. For many years, his sons were the chief winemakers. Many other now-famous winemakers have also passed through the doors at Mondavi.
However, the role of a consultant winemaker is not that of a person that oversees the day-to-day operations at a winery, but stops in a few times throughout the year to offer an outside perspective. Napa Valley and Bordeaux are two places where wineries heavily rely on the advice of consultants
In the 1990s, the idea of the consultant winemaker took on an even bigger role as more people got bitten by the vintners bug and established producers wanted to make a splash by adding a big name winemaker to the payroll. As certain winemakers' fame began to rise, the concept of the flying winemaker took shape. Flying around the world and consulting for dozens if not hundreds of wineries, the likes of Michel Rolland, Stéphane Derenoncourt, Paul Hobbs and Nick Goldschmidt, have developed a reputation for being a guarantee of producing high-quality, expensive wines. Rolland has become the poster child for the flying winemaker moniker, he has also been cited as a reason for the development of the international style of wine.
But Rolland wasn't the first winemaker to hop on a plane to go to work. Warren Winiarski, himself the son of a amateur winemaker (and for what it's worth, his surname literally means "son of a winemaker) was the first winemaker at the aforementioned Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa. He was also, perhaps, the first flying winemaker in the United States.