Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Last month, I was invited by San Antonio Winery to attend their Boutique Beer Tasting and Food Pairing, but before I talk further about what was a really fun event, I'd love to give you some history first on San Antonio Winery, which is a Los Angeles Cultural Historical Landmark.
In 1910, Santo Cambianica left Italy and eventually settled within an active Italian-American community in Los Angeles, CA. Seven years later, in 1917, Santo founded San Antonio Winery, still at its current location on Lamar Street, in the downtown LA area. At the time, Santo's winery was just one of nearly a hundred make shift wineries located along the LA River basin. His winery was so named due to Santo being a devoted Catholic and wishing to honor his Patron Saint Anthony. It was this strong relationship to the church that actually saved his business three years later when Prohibition was passed. While other Los Angeles wineries were being permanently closed, the San Antonio Winery was given permission by the Archdiocese of LA to make sacramental wines for ceremonial purposes. Over 65 years after the repeal of Prohibition, San Antonio Winery continues to produce altar wines for religious services.
As a young man, Santo’s nephew, Stefano Riboli, learned the wine business under Santo’s tutelage and when Santo passed away in 1956, Stefano took over the business. In the 50s and 60s, there was a shift up North in regards to the growing of the grapes since the quality was deemed better the grapes produced down South. Finally, in the 70s and 80s, the Riboli purchased vineyards in Monterey and Napa Valley. Today, all their white wines are fermented on premises in steel containers, while their red wines are produced in Paso Robles, and bottled there at the winery in their bottling room.
Today, San Antonio Winery is the only producing winery in Los Angeles, still on Lamar Street and still carrying Santo’s tradition of hand crafting quality wines and all under the watchful eye of Stefano, his wife, Maddalena, children, Santo, Steven and Catherine and grandchildren. In recognition, the city of Los Angeles designated San Antonio Winery a Cultural Historical Landmark.
Now that you know a little more about the history, let's talk beer and food or more specifically, the Boutique Beer Tasting and Food Pairing Event that I was lucky enough to attend last August. First, I should mention that this event was part of San Antonio Winery's 2009 Festival program. There are actually still two more to come, but I'll give more info about those at the end of this post.
When my guest and I arrived, the first thing that caught our attention was the smell of the tri-tip and sausages being grilled in the parking lot. If I thought I could be quick enough or sneaky enough, I would have grabbed some of that meat and got out of Dodge. Thankfully, my friend reminded me we were going to get that and more inside.
After checking in, I took my friend on a little tour. First, we went into the Maddalena Restaurant, so named after the owner's wife. What's nice is that there are samples of the various dishes on tables in front of the counters. Though the food is served cafeteria-style, I've eaten there before to know that the dishes are top-notch, both delicious and affordable. The dining area is large and can accommodate small to large groups and I like the wine barrel motif that is prevalent throughout the space.
Then we walked over to the tasting room and wine shop which was a busy hive of activity. We wandered around and took a look at the wine selections. At the time, we decided not to do any wine sampling yet since we knew beer was awaiting us in a few minutes. Amazingly, we did have room afterwards and were quite happy with the generous pours. In the end, both my friend and I definitely left with lighter pocket books in exchange for both beers and wines that sampled inside the Beer Festival.
Now for the highlights of the Boutique Beer Tasting and Food Pairing. One thing I should mention is that it wasn't really a structured event where you sat down and someone told you which beer is supposed to pair well with a particular food. Instead, the beer and wine stations and food stations were separate from each other, which made it a more casual affair. I actually kind of liked that because it allowed attendees the freedom to do what they wanted.
For me, it's generally all about the food first and my favorite station was the sausage station. There were 5 different kinds, from Argentine Sausage to Polish Sausage to Mexican Chorizo and with the sausages came 5 different mustards with my favorite being the Chipotle Mustard. I could have stayed there all night.
If you're a taco lover, there were carne asada tacos and chicken tacos to be had along with rice and beans.
Different tamales were also served, including chicken, pork or just straight cheese along with a variety of different salads like corn salad, coleslaw, etc.
Between two beer stations, one wine station and one agua fresca station, libations were always available. What was nice about the wine table in particular is that you got to sample 6 of the wines from San Antonio Winery which really gave you a good sense of what they offer.
All the eating and drinking took place inside areas of the winery that are usually only seen during their tours so we got to snack beside large holding tanks or dine below stacked wine barrels. We were even treated to some live music. Yes, people were even swaying while holding cups of wine. One or two may have even tapped their feet.
Overall, it was a fun few hours spent. Until this event, it had been a few years since I've been to the San Antonio Winery, so it's a good reminder not to wait so long until my next visit. For those of you haven't visited in awhile, there are two more festivals coming up that you may want to check out On Sunday, September 20, from 2 pm to 5 pm, there is the "Taste of the Americas" Wine and Food Festival and on Sunday, October 18, from 2 pm to 5 pm is the "Taste of Italy" Wine and Food Festival. Both cost $50.00 per person. For reservations, call (323) 330-8745.
Click here to see all the photos!
San Antonio Winery
737 Lamar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90031