About The Author:

"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.

Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: rogerthewineguy@gmail.com.

(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Last Winery in Los Angeles!

Regular readers know by now that I am fond of exploring wine history and am fascinated by the influence of the Italians on the development of good winemaking here in the Americas. In my blog of 1/14/10, “Two American Wine Pioneers” I talked about the Guasti Family who built the Italian Vineyard Company of Southern California into the world’s largest vineyard and winery prior to prohibition. Southern California was THE area for wine production back then and the Los Angeles River basin was home to over 100 wineries. Then came prohibition, which most wineries didn’t survive. Some turned to sacramental wine production to carry them through. The J. Fillipi Winery in Rancho Cucamonga, another example of the Italian influence, still bottles the Guasti sacramental wine. The subject of my blog today, however, is yet another great southern California Italian winemaking family, the Ribolis, and their San Antonio Winery . It is the only winery still operating today within the city limits of Los Angeles.

San Antonio Winery was one of the most successful survivors of prohibition utilizing the sacramental wine strategy. They remain dedicated to that segment of their customer base today, producing over 60,000 cases of sacramental wine per year. But they also do a whole lot more.

The winery, named for Saint Anthony, was actually founded by a native Lombardian, Santo Cambianica in the Lincoln Heights district of L.A. (northeast of downtown) in 1917. He later brought over his Italian nephew Stefano Riboli and Stefano's wife, Maddalena, to assist in the operation of the facility. Together Santo and Stefano made a conscious decision to remain in Los Angeles when the California wine industry migrated. They did, however, invest in vineyards. They were early purchasers of vineyard land in Napa County’s Rutherford appellation. They also have vineyards in such prestigious wine areas as Alexander Valley in Sonoma, the Santa Maria Valley, Santa Lucia Highlands, Arroyo Secco, Soledad and in Paso Robles. A secondary production facility (and tasting center) has since developed in the L.A. metro area in the suburban city of Ontario. In addition to the San Antonio label, they produce wines under 8 different labels. They also serve as importers for about 200 brands of wine from Italy, France, Chile, Austria and Spain. They appear to be involved in, and dedicated to all types of wine.

Two of their most popular choices with consumers reflect that diversity. One is San Antonio Cardinale American, a classic non-vintage concord grape based table wine. Another is San Antonio Hermitage, a classic aged Rhone blend of Syrah, Petit Syrah, Mourvedre and Grenache. There’s a good two dozen and more choices in between, not counting the other wines they import and/or offer. All this occurs at their well appointed tasting room and retail center that operates alongside the Maddalena Cuccina restaurant at the winery’s home on Lamar street in L.A. (see photos above). It all makes for an enjoyable visit, though sometimes it can become quite crowed. It’s history, touring opportunities, tasting options, as well as the good food in Maddalena's has made San Antonio Winery a popular tourist destination. It hosts nearly 200,000 visitors a year.

The fetching Mrs. Wine Guy and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit (and lunch) there. We hope to enjoy a return visit the next time we’re in the area. A tip from the Wine Guy if you plan to visit as well: the tasting selections available in the tasting room will vary. If some of the wines aren’t being poured, they may be available by the glass in Maddalena’s if you plan on eating there.

My favorite of the red wine selections was the aforementioned San Antonio Heritage which I thought was much superior to the also prestigious San Antonio Cask 520, A Bordeaux style blend aged in both French and American oak.

One of the better choices in the whites is the Maddalena Pinot Grigio, produced on the premises with juice sourced from Monterey. This crisp white with green apple overtones got a Double Gold and best of class at the California State Fair.

When you're at San Antonio Winery, don’t forget a visit to the trophy case. It's worth taking time to absorb some of the great historical significance of this unique winery, the last one standing in the City of Angels. It’s a fun visit and a slightly different kind of winery experience. Enjoy!

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