This is definitely the oldest operating winery in Los Angeles – and now it is celebrating its 100th anniversary! Neek and I went to visit their beautiful location in downtown L.A. – they also have locations in Ontario and Paso Robles – to check out the tour that they offer the San Antonio Winery. We had tasted many of their wines before, including their famous line with the Stella Rosa label, and we wanted to learn more about their illustrious history and see their operations up close and personal.
The San Antonio Winery was founded in 1917 on Lamar Street in downtown Los Angeles by Italian immigrant Santo Cambianica. A devout Catholic, Cambianica named the winery after his Patron Saint Anthony. After Congress passed the Volstead Act in 1919, which started Prohibition, San Antonio Winery was able to survive because the Archdiocese of Los Angeles gave Cambianica permission to make sacramental wines for the Catholic Church. In 1936, Stefano Riboli began apprenticing under his Uncle Santo and when Cambianica passed away in 1956, he passed ownership on to Stefano and his wife Maddalena, whom one of their wines is named after.
The tour, which was conducted by our gracious host Arturo, did a wonderful job of conveying this history. The winery continues to thrive to this day with the help of vineyard purchases in Paso Robles, Monterey, and Napa Valley.
Neek and I were pretty impressed with the massive fermenting containers on the premises that Arturo showed us. We viewed the place where they label and cork the bottles, but because we went on a weekend we weren’t able to see it operating.
One piece of history that we found particularly fascinating is that in the mid-20th century, San Antonio actually used humongous containers made of California Redwood trees for both fermenting and aging! They don’t anymore, of course, because the trees are endangered and protected now. But they still have the huge containers on the premises that can be seen on the tour. I wonder what wine aged in Redwood tasted like!
After the tour was over, I decided to partake in a little wine tasting. They have a number of different options in various prices, but I decided to take the least expensive choice; four tastes for five dollars. I enjoyed all of them, but my favorite was the first, a Viognier that was lightly sweet with a smooth finish. While it was very busy, Neek and I certainly enjoyed our time there. It’s easy to see why they’ve been successful enough to last a century.