The Last Vestige of Winemaking in L.A.


California’s wine tradition began with the Franciscan fathers of the early Spanish missions. In 1833, French winemaker Jean-Louis Vignes brought the first European vines from his native Bordeaux, and planted them in downtown Los Angeles.

There, he also built a winery. By the end of the 1880s, Los Angeles had become the premier appellation for grape growing and winemaking in all of California, as the area’s temperate climate made it ideal for growing fruity, lush, richly-colored grapes. Vignes, considered by many to be the founder of California’s wine industry, eventually had a street in downtown L.A. named after him.

In 1910, Santo Cambianica left his home of Berzo San Fermo, in the northern Italian province of Lombardia. After registering at Ellis Island, he arrived in New York and then traveled across the country to Los Angeles. It took only a few years of saving money, building relationships, and planting his feet in the downtown Italian-American community to start his own company and begin living the American dream. Santo founded San Antonio Winery in 1917 on Lamar Street, dedicating it to his Patron Saint, Anthony.

In 1936, a young Stefano Riboli returned to the United States from Italy. With World War II on the horizon, Stefano’s parents knew it was the appropriate time to return their son to the U.S., where he was born 15 years earlier. Stefano began apprenticing under his Uncle Santo, learning the skills necessary to operate a winery.

When Stefano married Maddalena Satragni in 1946, San Antonio Winery already was an established institution in California’s wine community. During this time, Northern California was making fast strides in vineyard plantings, but Santo, Stefano and Maddalena decided to remain with their family in Los Angeles, where they’d been blessed by good fortune.

Santo Cambianica passed away in 1956, and wished that Stefano continue the business for the next generation. Stefano was granted full ownership of San Antonio Winery, and he and Maddalena had a powerful vision for the winery’s future.

In the 1950s and ’60s, Stefano and Maddalena began to look north for land and grape contracting, realizing that the quality of grapes produced in Northern California was surpassing that of Southern California. With the help of their children, they purchased vineyard properties in Monterey County in the 1970s, and in the Rutherford appellation of Napa Valley in the 1980s. They also forged relationships and business partnerships with grape growers throughout the state, many of which remain in place to this day.

Most recently, the family has focused on the Paso Robles region in California’s Central Coast. Two estate vineyards have been planted within the El Pomar AVA, and a modern winery and tasting room have been built.

But the original San Antonio Winery remains a fixture in downtown Los Angeles — the last producing winery in the city, with more than 97 years of winemaking under its belt. It is an essential component of the city’s cultural and historical landscape.

In fact, in the early 1960s, Los Angeles’ Cultural Heritage Board designated the winery “Cultural Monument Number 42.” Still sitting on its original location on Lamar Street, San Antonio Winery is the last vestige of the rich winemaking tradition of the City of Angels.

For hours of operation, driving directions and more information, click here.

Posted in Wineries of Distinction
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