It was a Saturday morning and I was just waking up at a hotel in Ontario, CA after a fun evening and Heart concert at the LA County Fair, and as usual, I was searching for local adventure. The hotel guidebook mentioned the San Antonio winery and I thought to myself, “wine tasting at 11am on a Saturday? Sure!! Why not?” So off I went to check out one of LA’s oldest wineries.
I lucked out and was assisted by such a sweet, helpful and knowledgable girl (wish I knew her name!) who was so great to talk to. She filled me in on some of the incredibly robust history of the San Antonio Winery and the part it played in Los Angeles history.
Founded in 1917 by a hard working Northern Italian immigrant, Santo Cambianica who made his way to Los Angeles to discover the American Dream. While most all other area wineries were forced to close as a result of Prohibition and the Great Depression, thanks to his strong ties to the Catholic Church, Santo’s winery actually flourished as it was granted permission to make wines for the Catholic Church (sacramental purposes only of course! Ha!) See? It really does pay to be a good Catholic!
After Santo passed away in 1956, his nephew Stefano and wife Maddalena carried on the San Antonio Winery tradition and even expanded their ownership of vineyard lands. Fast forward to today, and this winery is still standing in the original location on Lamar Street in downtown LA as well as locations in Ontario and Paso Robles. Note to self: get downtown to see the original winery!
The Ontario location, however, is a BUSTLING business with wine tastings, wine retail store and gift shop. A plethora of historical photos line the walls and their personable staff is there to help guide you through the decision making process of which wine(s) to take home with you that day.
I love the history and passion behind the making of wine. It’s so much more than a glass of crushed grapes. Although, if done right, those crushed grapes do taste oh so yummy! What a great place to visit any time you are in the area!