Took a vacation day from the earth job on Friday, and headed downtown to the San Antonio Winery for lunch and wine tasting. The San Antonio Winery is the oldest winery in the greater Los Angeles area - established 1917, and the only one actually making wine in the heart of the city.
As the wine industry of California moved from Southern to Central and Northern California in the mid 1900’s, founder Santo Riboli and his nephew Stefano Riboli had no intention of leaving their home in LA. While Santo and Stefano lived and developed their business in Los Angeles, they kept their focus on the burgeoning wine regions in the North and over time acquired vineyard properties in some of the most prestigious areas.
We had a pleasant lunch in the Maddalena Restaurant - a kind of cafeteria, but with food made fresh. John had spaghetti with Italian sausage; I had penne and chicken Alfredo. Both lunches came with fresh green salad and Italian bread, and we shared an appetizer plate of artichoke hearts, dry salami chunks, marinated mushrooms, mozzarella cheese. We paired the meal with a bottle of Maddalena Cabernet Sauvignon ($18), and sat without being rushed while listening to a solo saxophonist play to a karaoke soundtrack. The food was hearty, if uninspired, and certainly filled us up.
We took the short walk to the tasting room/wine store, and serendipity occurred. In the middle of a very busy Friday, our barista turned out to be Santo Riboli, the 3rd generation owner/winery manager of San Antonio Winery! He is the son of Maddalena Riboli, who is still serving wine in her namesake restaurant at age 83 (I think he said 83)! We started chatting with Santo, pulled out my business card, and found ourselves in the middle of a private tour of the winery, getting the history of the Riboli family - their trials and tribulations of immigrating to a new country, starting a winery, dealing with Prohibition (sacramental wines saved them), and moving along with technology. Santo graciously allowed me to take photos as we walked thru the winery, and I'll have them on my Facebook page later today.
Back to the tasting room, where we tasted the following wines made by winemakers Anthony Riboli (family!) and Armand Debons:
2007 Maddalena Pinot Grigio - Monterey. Very clear, bright, straw-colored. The nose was faintly floral. In the mouth, very tart and acidic, but the finish was smooth with a lemony finish.
2008 San Antonio Heritage White - Santa Lucia Highlands/Monterey. A very interesting blend of Viognier, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris. Pretty pale gold color, not much nose, but very fruity and nicely balanced acidity. No wood, all stainless steel aging. A bit spicy on the end. We bought a bottle. $18.95
2006 Windbreak Chardonnay - Santa Lucia Highlands. A very oaky nose, nice mouth feel, but as I continued to sip (while we walked thru the winery), the oak really got to be too much for my taste. If you like oak, this is your Chardonnay. $18.95
2007 Windbreak Pinot Noir - Santa Lucia Highlands. Deep red with a clear edge. The nose was surprisingly Burgundian - mushrooms, earth. Tasted of black fruit. Really tannic - good structure for aging. I'd leave it in the bottle for another 3 - 5 years. $29.95
2006 Heritage Rhone Blend - Paso Robles Estate. Syrah, Petit Sirah, Mourvedre, Grenache come together for a deep red blend. $24.95
Santo then poured a dessert wine for us - Moscato D'Asti - Il Duca Imperiale. A very extravagant name for a pale gold honeyed wine that retails for $8.35. They make 30,000 cases/year. Delicious!
We finished the tasting with the Stella Rose Il Conte D'Alba from Asti. It's a pretty pink, smells and tastes of fresh raspberry. It's partially fermented grape must. A very big seller for San Antonio for very little money - $8.35
San Antonio makes a lot of different wines, some local to California, some from the old homestead in Italy. They also have a large selection of wines and spirits from all over the world, as well as gift baskets, and special events at the winery.
We made our goodbyes to Santo, carrying out a few bottles of the wines we liked best. It was wonderful spending time in one of LA's true historic spaces, and we will definitely go back!