San Antonio Winery celebrates 100 years of making fine wines

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

Savor premiere wines and fresh, local food offerings at Paso Robles tasting room and bistro

When it comes to making fine wine, the folks at San Antonio Winery are experts. It all started in 1917 with founder Santo Cambianica. Stefano Riboli, Santo’s nephew, learned the business from his uncle and eventually became the owner. Stefano married Maddalena Satragni and had three children: Santo, Cathy, and Steve.

Today, 100 years later, the family tradition of winemaking is stronger than ever. “It takes lots of passion, risk-taking, determination, and a bit of luck,” said Vice President Steve Riboli “We strive to constantly evolve and progress, always looking ahead to the next ten years of our family company.”

Three generations of the Riboli family currently oversee San Antonio Winery, one of the most highly-awarded wineries in California. The San Antonio winemaking team is made up of Santo’s son and fourth generation Winemaker Anthony Riboli, Head Winemaker Arnaud Debons, and Paso Robles Winemaker Ben Mayo.

“The partnership and spirit between our winemaking team is awesome as we strive to produce world-class wines,” said Steve.

A sweeping view of the Stefano Vineyard.

Vineyard properties

Over the years, the Ribolis purchased four vineyard properties in the Arroyo Seco and Santa Lucia Highlands AVAs of Monterey, where they focus on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Pinot Grigio. Their small vineyard in the prestigious Rutherford appellation of Napa Valley is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.

When the Ribolis decided to expand their business into the Paso Robles region, they understood it was an exciting and important area due to the excellent climate and high grape quality. In the past six years, they have planted three estate vineyards in the El Pomar district – Maddalena, Stefano, and Pretty Penny – and two in Creston –Riboli Creston and Creston Highlands.

“We only own hillside vineyards in Paso – we thought this was important for quality – and the microclimates are unique,” said Anthony. “We planted the Paso vineyards with the best clones, layout, drip irrigation, and a mix of different varietals.”

Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon is the top-selling red of San Antonio Winery, with Sauvignon Blanc hailing as the top-selling white. Additional varietals planted in their Paso Robles estate vineyards include Viognier, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.

When the family acquired the local tasting room property in 2007, they had been purchasing grapes from Paso Robles for 30 years, making the local connection a truly multi-decade story. Situated 200 miles north of where the original San Antonio Winery was established in downtown Los Angeles, visitors enjoy fine offerings inside the inviting Paso Robles tasting room. In 2016, the family built a state-of-the-art winery facility in Paso Robles and will soon complete construction on an elegant and versatile hospitality center.

“This is not a short-term investment for us,” said Anthony. “We’ve been investing in the Paso Robles area for three decades. As a company, we are always pushing forward to do a better job, whether in the vineyard, the winery, sales, and marketing – whatever it may take to stay ahead.”

Family history of making fine wines since 1917

The original San Antonio Winery was founded a century ago by Santo Cambianica and is the last remaining winery in downtown Los Angeles. Santo left his home in the northern Italian province of Lombardia, making his way to Los Angeles in 1912. He founded San Antonio Winery in 1917, dedicating it to his patron Saint Anthony.

Following the Wall Street Crash, Great Depression, and Prohibition, the wine industry suffered and most wineries were forced to close. But San Antonio Winery persevered, as the Los Angeles Archdiocese granted Santo permission to make sacramental wines. The business flourished and soon became the number one provider of altar wines.

When Prohibition ended, Stefano Riboli immigrated to the United States at the age of 15 to help his Uncle Santo with the winery. He began apprenticing under Santo, learning the skills necessary to operate a winery, and became an invaluable partner to his uncle. Stefano married Maddalena Satragni in 1946, and together they took over the family business after Santo passed away in 1956. Today, their children – Santo, Cathy, and Steve – operate the business, along with the fourth generation.

“Our family business has been successful because we don’t run it based on ego; we want people to enjoy our wines in a comfortable environment,” said Anthony. “Not everyone likes the same wine, and I think the secret to our success is that we make different types of wine – we have to make sure customers enjoy what they are drinking beyond that first glass.”

The outdoor patio at the Paso Robles tasting room.

Wine tasting, bistro, gift shop & special events

Enjoy a selection of San Antonio Winery offerings, from bold reds, flavorful whites, and sweet, delectable wines, to a range of sparkling wines and fine ports.

• Central Coast Flight – select a choice of three wine samplings for $5
• Artisan Flight – taste four of San Antonio’s finest, small production wines including crisp whites and intense reds for $12
• Elite/Reserve Flight – sample a unique collection of wines poured in a variety of tastings in side-by-side varietals of different vintages for $15-$35. Call for availability or for more information; groups of 8 or more require advance reservation.

The San Antonio Winery Bistro is the perfect spot to enjoy lunch or an early dinner inside the inviting Heritage Room, outside on the covered patio, or al fresco on the beautiful fountain patio. A wide selection of fresh, local food including appetizers, salads, pasta, sandwiches, and thin crust pizza is available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; take-out is available.

The San Antonio Winery Gift Shop is filled with everything from wine accessories and glassware to clothing, gourmet food items, and fine gifts. For those interested in holding a function or meeting onsite, General Manager Geof Fagan and his team of experts at San Antonio Winery will help plan and host a variety of events whether for business, family celebrations, class reunions, and more.

Visit San Antonio Winery’s Paso Robles location at 2610 Buena Vista Drive, just off Highway 46 East, daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call (805) 226-2600 or visit sanantoniowinery.com.

–Meagan Friberg

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