Food & Drink Travel Wine & Cocktails

Visiting San Antonio Winery in Downtown Los Angeles

May 8, 2017

I recently had a chance to tour San Antonio Winery in Downtown Los Angeles for the first time.  I was amazed to see all their collection of wines that is produced in the heart of SoCal.  From a variety of red wines, white wines and even their popular Bodega Sangria, they had it all.  You could wine taste, eat and even have your own private parties. As an Angelino, I’ve probably driven by the winery off the 5 frwy gazillions of times and never actually thought of stopping by.  Who knew?!

Turns out the winery is the last remaining winery in Downtown Los Angeles, a hidden gem and historical landmark operating in the same location since 1917.  How is it possible that I lived in Los Angeles my whole life and not know about the beauty and history that this place has to offer?

When The Vines Arrived in Los Angeles

So how did Los Angeles end up with a winery?  Turns out the California wine tradition began with the Franciscan Fathers of the early Spanish Missions. In 1833, French winemaker Jean-Louis Vignes brought the first European vines from his native Bordeaux, where he planted them in Downtown Los Angeles and built a winery. Vignes, the founder of California’s wine industry, eventually had a street in Downtown named after him. I had no idea the name of the street had a meaning to it.  Makes you wonder about all the other street names, no?  Anyways, the wine industry quickly became one of Southern California’s most economically significant and popular industries. By 1880s end, Los Angeles was the premier appellation for grape growing and winemaking in all of California. By the early 1890s, the vineyards stretched to Orange County, San Bernardino, and Riverside too, as the area’s temperate Mediterranean climate made it an ideal location for growing fruity, lush, richly-colored grapes.

San Antonio Winery Saved by the Catholic Church

In 1910, Santo Cambianica left his home in northern Italian province of Lombardia. As many Italian immigrants did in those times, they set their journey to America and landed in New York.  But Santo continued his adventure to Downtown Los Angeles, where he was known to be as an honest, hard-working, and deeply devout Catholic. As every immigrant who comes to U.S., he worked hard, saved his money, built relationships, and lived as an Italian-American who wanted to fulfill the American Dream. In 1917, Santo founded the San Antonio Winery on Lamar Street, and dedicated it to his Patron Saint Anthony.

By 1919, Prohibition in America began and effected majority of the wineries in and around Los Angeles, but by a miracle, the San Antonio Winery survived. Blessed by his connections at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, he was granted permission to make wines for sacramental and ceremonial purposes; his strong relationship with the church saved his winery. By 1933, San Antonio survived the Prohibition era and was able to grow, becoming the number one provider of altar wines.

The Family Dream is Created

In 1936, Santo’s nephew, Stefano Riboli arrived in the United States from Italy.  Stefano immediately learned everything he needed to know to operate the winery; he proved himself invaluable as a partner to his uncle and to the winery. You could say the skills ran in the family.

The young Stefano married Maddalena Satragni in 1946.  It was then that Northern California was growing fast, eventually gaining much of the industry by the 1950s. Santo, Stefano, and Maddalena, thought it was best to keep the family in Los Angeles where they had been blessed by good fortune.

Unfortunately, Santo Cambianica passed away in 1956 and Stefano was granted full ownership of the San Antonio Winery. He and Maddalena had a powerful vision of their future and family.

Stefano Riboli, Original Founder

Today, they are blessed to have four generations of family contributing to their success. They have vineyards located in Paso Robles, Monterey, and Napa Valley and are proud to be one of the most-awarded wineries in California.

About Their Wine

All though they have contracted a few vineyards in Northern California, the family has focused on the Paso Robles region located along California’s Central Coast. Currently they have planted 2 estate vineyards within the El Pomar. They also own a modern winery facility and a beautiful tasting room in that area. Paso Robles is a popular wine region due to the excellent climate and high grape quality.

Arnaud Debons, Head Winemaker

Lucky for us who live in Los Angeles we don’t have to drive out to Paso Robles to enjoy their wine.  Anyone can visit their winery to enjoy their wine tasting service and get a tour of the historical facility.  The cost of their wine tasting service ranges from $10-$25, depending on your taste and tours range from 30-45 minutes.  In fact, you can make a day of it by starting off with a delicious Italian lunch and ending it with a flight of your favorite wines.  Make sure you ask for Jorge. He’ll take good care of you.

The winery in Downtown Los Angeles offers more than wine tasting and Italian cuisine, they also have special events and wine festivals throughout the year that you could enjoy.

Visit their events calendar here.

If you do pay a visit, tell Jorge I said hello and make sure to tag me on your photos.  Who knows, you may run into the owner, Stefano, like I did!

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