A four-generation California wine family continues to remain in urban Los Angeles despite challenges throughout the years—challenges like prohibition, changing community and technology.
Picture Los Angeles at the turn of the century. It was a vast open space, with a new railroad being built, thousands of immigrants from all over the world coming for work and a better way of life. In 1912, one of those many immigrants from Italy was bachelor, Santo Cambianica. Santo settled in the Italian-American community known as "Lincoln Heights" in Los Angeles and in 1917 decided to open his own little winery. A devout Catholic, Santo dedicated the winery to the patron saint, "Saint Anthony," in the hopes of finding good fortune in this new country. Thus, San Antonio Winery was born.
Santo faced many challenges including a big surprise that happened just three years after he opened his winery. In 1920, Prohibition was enacted, and completely changed the wine industry. While the majority of Los Angeles wineries closed down never to return, Santo made a very smart business move. He requested permission from the Catholic Church to make sacramental wines. The church granted his request and San Antonio Winery continued on. During the 13 years of Prohibition, San Antonio Winery grew steadily, and by 1933, it was producing 25,000 cases annually.
After getting over that hurdle, Santo the bachelor sent for his nephew Stefano Riboli in Italy to help with the business. The year was 1938 and Stefano was only 16. He turned out to be invaluable to his uncle’s business.
Because the land around Santo's winery was too valuable to developers, the vineyards were replaced with heavy industry and the family began to use vineyards in the surrounding areas like Burbank & Sierra Madre. In 1946 Stefano married Maddelena, another Italian immigrant with farming roots. They started a family and the business continued to thrive.
Maddalena’s creative visions helped the company thrive even more. In 1952, Maddalena decided to open one of the first tasting rooms in California. In the 60’s, as more and more wineries were moving up north and finding success, the family made a decision to stay in LA, where their roots were. In the early 1970’s, Maddalena wanted the European charm of family dining blended into the winery experience, so she opened the Maddalena Restaurant in one of the fermentation rooms.
Stefano & Maddalena’s three children Santo, Cathy and Steve own and operate the business now and say, "this isn’t a mom and pop shop." They are a force to be reckoned with in the wine industry. The Riboli family is one of California’s largest winemakers, producing more than 500,000 cases a year, and has eight different fine-wine labels, including Maddalena and San Simeon.
Beyond the success of the winery, it’s the family behind the company that makes this business a long lineage of success.
For the future, siblings Steve, Cathy, and Santo Riboli have 10 children between them and Steve says he hopes many of the kids will want to join the family business.
San Antonio Winery
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