Founded in 1917, the family owned and operated San Antonio Winery survived Prohibition, planted estate vineyards, opened two additional destination wineries, and has become Los Angeles’ largest and longest-producing winery.
San Antonio Winery, named for the Patron Saint Anthony, persevered through many struggles and trying times, which began with Prohibition in 1920, says Anthony Riboli, fourth generation winemaker for San Antonio Winery.
“Just three years after the winery was founded, Prohibition hit,” Riboli says. “We were able to survive by making sacramental wine for the Catholic Church.”
Today, the historic winery in downtown Los Angeles offers free, personally guided tours; its Maddalena restaurant, named after matriarch Maddalena Riboli, now 95; a wine and spirits store; a bistro; and a gift shop. Due to the success of its original winery, San Antonio opened two more California wineries: the Ontario Wine & Event Center in Ontario, Calif., in the Inland Empire, and the Paso Robles Wine & Food Store in Paso Robles, Calif., located 200 miles north of Los Angeles.
As a fourth-generation winemaker, Riboli brings a century-long history of winemaking to the family’s portfolio of dry, semi-sweet and semi-sparkling Italian and California wines. The Los Angeles location includes reams of French oak barrels for aging, the Heritage Cellar and a bottling plant, which churn out 38,000 barrels of wine a week.
The company’s varietals are produced as part of four brands — Riboli Family, San Simeon, Opaque and Maddalena — from family owned estate vineyards in California’s Paso Robles, Monterey and Napa regions.
“We have our own estate vineyards, which allow us to control the entire winemaking process,” Riboli says. “Our different vineyards from Napa (Rutherford) to Monterey to Paso Robles, all enjoy different soil types and climates, which are ideal for each respective varietal. We are very unique as a family owned 100-year-old company making diverse wines of high quality at different price points. But we are still new for many across the country.”
Among the wide array of varietals produced by San Antonio Winery are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Chardonnay, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc as well as some red blends. Stella Rosa, which has grown in popularity to become a top-selling brand, has more than 17 SKUs in its portfolio, including the original Stella Rosa Rosso, Stella Black, Stella Red, Platinum, Moscato D’Asti, Imperiale Moscato Rosé, Imperiale Prosecco, and the newest members of the brand, Stella Black Lux and Rosso Lux.
“We produce more than 20 different brands, including Stella Rosa, our most popular brand, which is produced in Italy, but created by our family about 14 years ago,” Riboli explains. “It is now the No. 1 imported Italian wine in the country. Our original San Antonio brand is also quite popular. Our dry wine brands San Simeon and Maddalena are also gaining larger distribution and popularity across the U.S. We also export some of our brands.”
The winery also produces limited-edition, premium wines as well as red blends, which generally are well-received by wine-buying consumers, Riboli says.
“We have a fantastic Bordeaux blend called Stormwatch from our San Simeon brand, as well as a new San Simeon Sauvignon Blanc, both of which are of superb quality. Our centennial blend, made especially to commemorate our 100-year anniversary, is also a premium blend,” he says.
In honor of the winery’s 100th anniversary, it released a limited-edition SAW Centennial Blend 2014 from the estate vineyards in Paso Robles featuring 36 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 28 percent Malbec, 21 percent Petit Verdot, 11 percent Petite Sirah and 4 percent Syrah. The rich, complex wine features ripe flavors of dark cherry and blackberry and is barrel aged for 24 months in French oak, which adds notes of spice and vanilla, the company says.
“Our centennial blend is a hit,” Riboli says. “It really agrees with most every palate. It retails at a suggested $85, and can be purchased online, as it’s a limited-edition.”
To commemorate the 100th anniversary, the winery hosted a centennial celebration titled “Harvesting Our Roots in the City of Angels” on Oct. 14 as a way to thank its fans. The event featured live entertainment, food trucks, beer, wine and a grape stomp for charity.
Riboli highlights how “sweet it is” for the winery to be celebrating 100 years of winemaking. “This is an extremely proud moment for my family and I,” he says. “We are sincerely grateful for the city of Los Angeles and everyone from the community who has supported us throughout so many decades. It’s a testament to our hard work, but [is] also our dedication to always making sure our customers are happy.”
Stella Rosa and the winery is boosting its national reputation by embracing the past and celebrating the future. “Stella Rosa has been very popular continuously growing nationally, but it was created here by my family. All our brands are just beginning to receive the notoriety they deserve out of state, because until recently most had been sold directly here in Southern California.
“Five years ago, when we decided to develop our own estate vineyards and three years ago when we decided to build another winery in Paso Robles were A-ha moments because we realized that in order to create world-class wines, we have to control the process from the vineyards to the winemaking,” he continues.
Staying innovative with flavors and packaging also has contributed to the company’s growth. For example, this summer, the company released Stella Pink, Stella Black and Stella Platinum in 8.5-ounce, twist off aluminum bottles. For Halloween, it released limited-edition wines designed to “spook the senses” with customized art-designed sleeves for StellaWeen Black, StellaWeen Red, StellaWeen Peach and a special silkscreen for the StellaWeen Black Magnum.
“We like to create excitement for our customers who look for something new each year,” Riboli explains. “We like to surprise them. We also have a beautiful new silkscreen design on our Magnum Stella Rosa Black for Halloween. This time, we added some gorgeous color to make it pop.”
New flavors in the pipeline for the Stella Rosa brand include Tropical Mango and Green Apple. “We are also working on a sparkling sangria from Italy and an apéritif under our Stella Rosa band, called Rosa 22,” he adds.
In addition to adding new flavors to its growing wine portfolio, the winery is expanding its facility. “We’re building a hospitality center adjacent to our new winery in Paso Robles that will be opening in spring of 2018,” Riboli explains. “It’s going to be a gorgeous space where people can have business meetings, reunions, weddings, etc.”
As Riboli reflects back on his nearly 20 years as a San Antonio winemaker, he credits a team of nearly 200 employees and the lessons he learned from his grandmother for the winery’s ongoing success. “I learned to keep evolving and never be complacent,” he explains. “You have to understand what the consumer wants. They want change. We have to understand that and not be stagnant. My grandma taught us all that.
“As a family owned business, we are proud to be celebrating 100 years,” he continues. “Now our goal as a fourth-generation [company] is to have our winery continue to produce world-class wines, while remaining a place people could come to enjoy themselves and celebrate special occasions.” BI