In 1917, San Antonio Winery started making their Heritage red wine in Los Angeles. Today, they make red wines, as well as white, bubbly and rosé. Recently they opened a new wine and dine tasting concept, The 1917 Wine Bar & Bistro, named after the founding year the Riboli family established their wine company. It’s located at the San Antonio Wine Tasting Room in Downtown Los Angeles. General Manager Dominic Menton welcomed us and talked about the winery’s history.
“The Riboli family is grateful for the first 100 years and will continually improve their wineries and dining venues for the next 100 years,” Menton said. San Antonio Winery is a sustainable winery, seeking to be better stewards of the land they use. “Sustainability is our top priority. Both our Paso Robles and Monterey vineyards are certified sustainable,” Menton said. Solar panels installed at the Paso Robles winery provide 100% of the electricity.
We tasted a selection of the wines San Antonio makes, starting with an Italian bubbly, a 2018 Cuvage Brut made in the Metodo Classico, the oldest and most prestigious method for producing sparkling wine is based on the second fermentation in the bottle.“The Cuvage Winery in Alexandria, Piemonte, uses Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes called Alta Lange,” Menton said.
We sipped from tall flutes while exploring the savory flavors from a charcuterie plate of fennel salami and brick red N’duja – a crumbly and spicy, spreadable pork sausage from the region of Calabria in Southern Italy. Thin slices of 24-month aged Prosciutto di San Daniela, a wedge of semi-soft and flavorful Talleggio, a wedge of sheep’s milk Pecorino di Montacino al Tartufo with flecks of truffles and a flavorful and velvety wedge of Rabiola Capra rounded out the plate. Warm olives, sliced piquilo peppers and pickled gherkins offered a briny crunch.
The next wine we tasted was a Stella Rosa Gold V.S. Prosecco DOC Treviso to enjoy with different burrata bites. Stella Rosa Gold Prosecco DOC is obtained from selected small batches of Chardonnay Veneto grapes in an area that has a very special microclimate. The temperature variations in the summer are crucial for ripening grapes and giving them structure and harmony to produce a balance of acidity and minerality. This Prosecco was aged in oak for three months, and the blend undergoes a very long fermentation to yield a richer elegance. Of the three burrata crostinis on the plate, I really enjoyed the burrata with English pea salad, and burrata with artichoke and crunchy pine nuts.
We ordered a few dishes to enjoy with our wine flight. The quintessential brunch fare, avocado toast, is prepared with thick toast with a fried organic brown egg on top with avocado, pickled Fresno chilies and chopped pistachios for texture, flavor and a pleasing crunch. It’s served with a green salad that is dressed lightly and topped with a generous amount of cheese shavings. We enjoyed each bite with a taste of Maddalena 2021 Pinot Grigio Estate Reserve from Monterey. Each bottle named after founder Maddalena Riboli, is a nod to her foresight and passion that shaped the San Antonio Winery legacy.
“It was Maddalena’s vision to expand the family’s winery with vineyard holdings in Monterey County and Paso Robles. It was also her vision to open the popular Maddalena restaurant inside the winery,” Menton said. “This Pinot Grigio is crafted in an Italian style, cold-fermented in stainless steel tanks to preserve the natural fruit characters of the grape.”
With each sip, we tasted hints of citrus and floral notes, along with melon and green apple. A bright acidity and some minerality balances the wine.
Melton brought a bottle of 2019 Opaque Malbec as a funghi pizza arrived. Made in Paso Robles, the climate and soil is ideal for growing grapes to make this type of red wine. “After aging in French and American barrels for 24 months, this wine offers rich flavors of ripe black plum and currant on the tongue with accents of vanilla and dark chocolate on the finish. It’s a big red wine combining Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot,” he said.
The wine paired beautifully with the pizza topped with cremini, oyster and shiitake mushrooms and covered with melted smoked mozzarella. The truffle sauce and heart shaped microgreens enhanced the earthiness of this dish. Bringing two bottles of San Simeon Paso Robles wines to the table, Menton first poured the Viognier 2021, and explained how this terroir-driven wine is shaped by the soil and the Pacific Ocean’s influence. “The air cools the vineyards at night to give these wines their distinct freshness,” Menton said. “The key notes you get are pear, melon and lemongrass. I love this Viognier, because it is less acidic and more fruit forward. The acid on this finish is crisp and solid.”
The Viognier best pairs with sea bass, he said, and when the perfectly cooked Chilean seabass arrived, I noticed a pop of color from tomato gratin on top of a velvety celery purée. A swirl of lemon thyme beurre blanc sauce was at the base of the dish, and a crown of Sicilian pine nut relish topped the fish. It was delicious and the wine enhanced this culinary experience.
As the flagship wine of the Riboli Family, San Simeon wines are 100% estate-grown. The white label on the Viognier honors the heritage of the region by featuring the historic San Piedras lighthouse. A similar San Simeon label is on bottles of Stormwatch 2017, yet in black. “This is a classic Bordeaux-style blend made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec grapes,” Menton said. This big red wine was paired with tender braised and smoked short ribs and pork belly that were served with carrots, fingerling potatoes and beets in red wine braising jus. With each sip of Stormwatch, we tasted ripe blackberry and a touch of vanilla and spice.
We finished with a blueberry brioche bread pudding that was presented in a shallow bowl. The sauce on the bottom looked like an iconic black and white cookie, one side was crème anglaise and the other had a delicious Valrhona chocolate sauce. On top was the bread pudding with a sweet blueberry coulis. Two scoops of pistachio gelato arrived in a large martini glass with two Italian butter cookies and chopped pistachio crumble on top. Delicious!
I told my husband that when we want to enjoy elegant wine country cuisine paired perfectly with a variety of wonderful wines, there is no need to drive or fly to Santa Ynez, Napa or Sonoma. Downtown Los Angeles’ historic San Antonio Winery and 1917 Wine Bar & Bistro is a fabulous venue to satisfy and enlighten your palate.
During Dine LA Restaurant Week, The 1917 Wine Bar + Bar is participating for the first time for the Spring 2023 season. Some of the menu items include a Little Gem Salad, Faroe Island Salmon, Iberia Pork Chop and my favorite – Aretsano Pistachio Gelato. This three-course lunch or early dinner is $55 per person from April 28 to May 7. Reserve at Dine LA
Open Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Parking is free in the lot at the winery. $$$ 737 Lamar St., (323)330-8700.
This review was also featured in the Beverly Press – April 20, 2023.