I recently returned from a vacation in Southern California, where I mixed in some work between Disneyland, whale watching and playing in the Pacific Ocean. After watching my 19-year-old son and the rest of Chicago Danube Swabians — a German folk-dancing group — participate in a Landerstrachtenfest in Anaheim, we got the chance to explore California and sample a few beverages, too.
At a Vietnamese restaurant in Little Saigon, I sampled a Vietnamese iced coffee with condensed milk, Thai iced tea and sparkling fresh squeezed limeade. A sparkling pickled plum juice also was on the menu.
On a tour of the San Antonio Winery in downtown Los Angeles, I saw reams of aging French oak barrels, as well as the Heritage cellar and the bottling plant, which churn out 38,000 barrels of wine a week. Founded in 1917, the winery is Los Angeles’ largest and longest-producing winery in the city and continues to be run by four generations of the Riboli family. I had the pleasure of meeting its patriarch, 93-year-old Stefano, along with his wife, Maddalena, 92. Stefano noted that even during Prohibition, his winery remained open — producing altar wines for the Catholic Church.
After much contemplation, I brought home several wines including Stella Rosa Black, a semi-sweet red wine infused with black cherry and wild berry notes, the Stella Rosa Platinum, which comes from vineyards in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, and my personal favorite, the Stella Rosa Imperiale Moscato Rosé, a semi-sweet, semi-sparkling wine that is lightly effervescent and refreshing.
So, whether you’re on vacation or just wanting to try something new, there’s still time to find your neighborhood’s own hidden beverage gems.