Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A Pair Of Wines From L.A.'s Oldest Winery

The California wine industry got its start in 1833 by Jean-Louis Vignes, a winemaker who brought vines from Bordeaux to downtown L.A.  Within 50 years, the beautiful climate helped produce a thriving wine industry, one that was bigger than any in the U.S.  Southern California was known then for grapes, not gridlock.

The oldest winemaking outfit in Los Angeles is San Antonio Winery.  They started downtown, but now they own vineyards in Paso Robles, Monterey, and Napa Valley.  They even have an Italian branch on the family tree, which produces Stella Rosa wines.  That winery is located in Piedmont, in the Asti region.

San Antonio Winery was founded in 1917 by Santo Cambianica, a young Italian immigrant who went straight from Ellis Island to L.A. to begin his foray into the American Dream.  In 1933, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles granted Cambianica permission to make sacramental wines.  That move spared San Antonio Winery the fate which befell the other hundred or so wineries in Southern California during Prohibition - a quick trip out of business.  Stefano Riboli soon came to work in the winery and the fourth generation of the family now operates the business.

San Simeon Pinot Noir Estate Reserve Monterey 2018

The Riboli family's Monterey vineyards - Loma Vista and Sarmento - overlook the Santa Lucia Highlands.  The family also has estate vineyards in the Arroyo Seco appellation.  This Pinot Noir has alcohol at 14.9% abv and a retail price of $19.

This wine is medium dark in the glass and gives up the telltale Pinot Noir aromas of black tea and cola.  There are also blackberry notes in the nose.  The palate comes on strong, with dark fruit, cola and a nice acidity.  The tannins are on the gentle side of firm.  It is a bit riper and brawnier than I like Pinot to be, but that's how it is so often in California wine.  

Stella Rosa Golden Honey Peach Il Conte

Although they don't get too specific on the label, this wine was made from Italian grapes, likely from Piedmont's Asti region.  It's a semi-sweet style, leaning more towards the sweet than the semi.  Alcohol is quite low, at 5% abv, and the wine sells for $13.

This fun wine is not to be overthought.  It smells like stone fruit and honey, so it was aptly named.  Rather tastes like that, too, with some light effervescence on the pour.  While it is not a wine that shows much complexity, it is an affable quaff, one that could be welcome in a number of casual scenarios.  5% abv.

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