The San Antonio winery was established in 1917 by the Riboli Family. Once part of the rich winery district in Los Angeles, it is the only one that remains. The family has been making wines there for four generations. They have two other retail locations; a winery in Paso Robles and a tasting room in Ontario.
Their wines are produced with grapes from vineyards along the California coast. Over the years they have farmed grapes from estates in Monterey, Napa and most the most recent addition in Paso Robles.
Various labels are used for their wines, they list 15 including Maddalena, Stella Rosa, San Simeon and the Riboli Family label. They have a lengthy awards list, which is expected from a winery established nearly 100 years ago and producing under so many labels. The bulk of awards and recognition come from international wine competitions and county fairs throughout California. Some of the more recent accolades are from “Wine Enthusiast” and “Wine Spectator”.
The LA location is a few quick turns off the 5 freeway near downtown. They offer free parking and it’s easy for any Los Angeles resident to make a quick trip. However, the restaurant and wine store can get crowded during weekday lunch hours by surrounding area workers.
They house a producing winery, the wine store with a tasting counter, the Maddalena restaurant, a gift shop and banquet facilities for up to 300 guests. They host tours of their LA cellars daily; 12-4 p.m. on the hour during the week and 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. on the hour over the weekend.
There is a large counter area spanning the length of the tasting room. They offer free tastings daily with three samples per person, which may explain the draw from local lunch crowds. There is an additional tasting of three to four wines for $12 that features their limited reserve wines as well as wines from around the world.
They have a large variety of wines to choose from and it seems unlikely you won’t find something to your taste. From their sweeter Stella Rosa label to a dryer red from Monterey or Paso Robles. Whatever you choose you will definitely get the opportunity to broaden your palate with the variety of wines they offer.
A recent tasting included the following wines.
Free tasting (selected three tastes/person)
- Maddalena Pinot Grigio, Monterey 2010
- San Simeon Pinot Noir, Monterey 2010
- San Simeon Petite Sirah, Paso Robles 2008
- San Simeon Syrah, Paso Robles, Pretty Penny Vineyard 2008
- Maddalena Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles 2009
- Maddalena Merlot, Paso Robles 2008
- San Antonio Heritage Blanc, White Blend 2010
- Les Rocailles Rose Gamay, Vin De Savoie, 2012
- Sera Ambra Moscato Orange, Paso Robles, 2010/2011
Pours are based on a premeasured glass and are generous.
The Petite Sirah, Syrah and Heritage Blanc were particularly well received. The Rose Gamay lacked flavor and didn’t leave much of an impression but it is not from one of their labels but instead from and estate in France.
They offer a discount on the purchase of a case and it’s not hard to find a few bottles to take home.
This particular tasting occurred during the week, after the lunch rush in the afternoon. It took about ten minutes to get anyone’s attention. There was more than one server behind the counter who wasn’t attending to a customer but was instead shuffling about. Richard, a seemingly newer addition to the staff was freed up from his last tasting and made his way over. He was personable and friendly throughout. Unfortunately, he was not the only staff member to interact during the tasting, although it would have been better if he had been. A co-worker interrupted him twice to scold Richard on the proper way to open and mark bottles; definitely awkward and uncomfortable for those within earshot.
To the right of the tasting room is the newly-remodeled gift boutique containing miscellaneous knick knacks, food, tequila, clothes and so much more. It is utterly overcrowded with these items, several of which have nothing to do with wine. It feels more like a tourist trap or a last minute airport gift shop and less like a quality winery in this area. Having never been to the winery prior to the remodel there is no comparison to the prior design but that section could definitely be thinned out dramatically.
Around the corner from the gift boutique is a waiting area for the tour. There are pictures and information on the history of the winery to review while you wait. Waiting 15 minutes past the hour to find the tour began and ended with no one coming to the waiting area, a tour fail. It was a disappointment to those that were waiting.
The last of the guest areas is the Maddalena restaurant, a walk-up counter service with a variety of dishes. They have sample plates on tables for you to make your selection and they offer wines to accompany your meal. It is a casual dining area with reasonably priced food and is a good compliment to the wine shop. The days sampling of food included a sandwich with soup, pesto pasta and a trio of desserts.
The winery has a strong social media presence and they offer online discounts. A recent Facebook and Twitter offer was in honor of father’s day with 15% off your purchase in June. They also have recipes, pairings suggestions and notifications of special events. They have a weekly contest for the best Instagram picture with a $25 gift card to the winner. It’s definitely worth snapping a few shots on your visit for submission.
There are many good qualities to the San Antonio Winery including easy access for LA residents, free tastings daily of their vast selection of wines and the Maddalena restaurant with a wide variety of items to choose from.
There are also some things that could be reworked to improve the flow throughout the winery. The staff could use a bit of a makeover to be more patient with co-workers and better attentive to guests in the tasting room as well as implementing a better system for initiating tours of the facility. Another area worthy of revision is the gift boutique which could stand to be toned down; an overwhelming disarray of souvenirs you can’t avoid.
The San Antonio Winery is definitely worth a visit for any native Angelino or your wino aficionado guests from out of town. There is little chance you won’t find something that interests you but don’t get lost in a sea of souvenirs trying to find the restaurant.