What's the first thing you think of when you think Downtown LA? It's probably not a winery, but it should be.
Los Angeles' historic San Antonio Winery has been producing and serving wine from its original Lincoln Heights location for the last 100 years. You read that right: 100 Years.
Before Napa and Sonoma Counties became synonymous with wine, Los Angeles was one of the biggest wine producing regions in the U.S., with more than 90 wineries spread across the city at the turn of the nineteenth century.
Prohibition drove most of those wineries out of business. San Antonio, however, survived, thanks to its quick-thinking founder, Santo Cambianica. An Italian immigrant and a deeply religious man, he began producing sacramental wines for the church. By 1933, when Prohibition was repealed, San Antonio was the leading producer of sacramental wines in the country.
Today, Santo's former three-room winery is one of the top 35 wineries in the world, with tasting rooms in Ontario and Paso Robles, and 85 wine labels made from grapes grown in Napa, Monterey, Paso Robles and Piedmont, Italy. It's even got a page in the Congressional Record.
Ask anybody who works at San Antonio for the company's secret sauce, and they'll tell you it's not just the grapes. Hard work is the key to the winery's success.
A bit of family lore: Stefano Riboli, the founder's nephew and the second of the winery's four generation lineage, met and proposed to his future wife Maddalena inside of two weeks. It was 1945 and Stefano caught a glimpse of Maddalena driving a tractor in a Chino vineyard. It was love at first sight; he knew she was tough enough to run a business. Their children - Santo, Cathy and Steve - worked in the winery's restaurant on weekends and after school. Santo is now San Antonio's president and Steve is vice president. Santo's son Anthony, the fourth generation, is the head of winemaking operations. Stefano and Maddalena, both in their nineties, are still at the winery almost every day.
"Genetics, hard work, and certainly wine have contributed to their longevity," says Anthony, noting that patrons love to meet his grandparents. "They're an inspiration to all, and a living symbol of the American dream.”
Their immigrant experience and the winery's location in Lincoln Heights, a historically Latino neighborhood, likely accounts for San Antonio's popularity among LA's Latino community.
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