As San Antonio Winery prepares to celebrate its 100-year history, it’s also starting a new chapter in Paso Robles.
Founded in 1917 in downtown Los Angeles, where it still sits on its original plot, the family owned and operated business has built a new energy-efficient winemaking facility about a mile from its Paso Robles tasting room.
The Riboli family is unveiling the winery Thursday with a grand opening and celebration of patriarch Stefano Riboli’s 95th birthday.
“It was always his dream to have a winery in wine country,” fourth-generation vintner Anthony Riboli said.
When San Antonio got its start on Lamar Street, Los Angeles was the premier wine-growing and production region in the state, with more than 100 wineries, according to San Antonio’s website. By the end of Prohibition, which hit two years after San Antonio’s founding, nearly all were shuttered.
San Antonio — named for the patron Saint Anthony — survived by gaining permission from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to produce sacramental wines.
The company went on to become the leading producer of altar wines, which it still makes today, along with a full portfolio of red, white, sparkling and semisweet wines under more than a dozen labels, including Stella Rosa, San Simeon and Maddalena, named for the family’s 94-year-old matriarch.
As the wine industry moved north after World War II, the family sought out grapes from northern California, buying vineyards in Monterey County in the 1970s and Napa’s Rutherford appellation in the 1980s, according to the winery’s website.
Thirty years ago, Anthony Riboli said, the family began buying grapes from Paso, making the wine at custom crush facilities. In 2008, they opened a tasting room in the old Martin & Weyrich spot at 2610 Buena Vista Drive just off Highway 46 East near Highway 101, and five years ago purchased four vineyards in the El Pomar and Creston AVAs.
“As we developed a vision of what Paso can be, we began to invest in both vineyards and wineries, which are not inexpensive endeavors,” said Riboli, who declined to disclose the family’s investment or overall production. “They are long-term endeavors.”
The decision to build the winery, at 2017 Wisteria Lane, was prompted by a desire for better quality control and more flexibility to make reserve and specialty wines from the estate vineyards, Riboli said.
The winery — designed by Reiss Design Studio and built by J.W. Design & Construction, both based in San Luis Obispo — incorporates several water- and energy-saving features, including a wastewater reclamation and treatment system, air-cooled refrigeration and a night cooling system for the temperature-controlled barrel room.
“The goal is to be as environmentally conscious and water-friendly as we can,” Riboli said. “We are part of the area, and want to be a good neighbor.”
Under the guidance of Paso Robles winemaker Ben Mayo — a San Luis Obispo native who was brought on in May after a 15-year winemaking career at Eberle and Rotta wineries — red wines from Paso and Monterey counties will be fermented and barrel-aged on site. White grapes will be sent to the Los Angeles winery after an initial crush.
Joining the winemaking facility soon will be a hospitality center, now under construction, with a full commercial kitchen and room for large private events.
“We firmly believe that Paso is just growing more and more renowned as a wine destination,” Riboli said.
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