It’s hard to imagine a world without wine.
No full-bodied reds with holiday dinners, no bubbly whites for wedding toasts, and even no cooking wine for stews or desserts. As awful as it sounds, that was reality for the United States less than a century ago.
December 5th of this year marks the 85th anniversary of the final day of the Prohibition, during which the sale, manufacturing, and distribution of any and all alcohol was illegal in the US. It was a tough time for wine lovers, and an even tougher time for winemakers.
During the 13 years of prohibition, the majority of wineries in and around Los Angeles went through the ringer. Most were forced to close down or convert their facilities, but it was an entirely different story for The Riboli Family of San Antonio Winery.
Through a combination of grit, determination, and community leadership, San Antonio Winery was able to survive, and even thrive, building a legacy that has lasted through the ages.
With the passage of the Volstead Act in 1919, which effectively started Prohibition in the US, winery founder Santo Cambianica had to think on his feet. Known to be a hard-working, deeply devout Catholic, Santo was able to leverage his relationships within the church community to keep the winery afloat. After receiving special permission from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, he was allowed to make wines for sacramental and ceremonial purposes.
“Our family certainly is thankful every day for Uncle Santo’s relationship with the Catholic Church,” said 4th generation winemaker Anthony Riboli. “The idea of Prohibition was a completely foreign concept to Italian immigrants living in the United States. It was like taking away bread or pasta.”
By the time prohibition ended in 1933, the tough times were still far from over for US wineries. After the Wall Street Crash, the Great Depression devastated what little was left of the wine industry, and nearly all of Los Angeles’ 100 plus wineries were in dire straits.
However, thanks to Santo’s careful planning and continued presence in the Catholic community, The Riboli Family of San Antonio Winery flourished. Today the family’s 100 year legacy precedes itself, with San Antonio Winery holding the titles of ‘Oldest Winery in Los Angeles,’ and more recently, ‘The 2018 American Winery of the Year’ by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
With the 3rd and 4th generations of the Riboli Family now manning the helm, and Prohibition not coming back any time soon, San Antonio Winery will continue to provide the community with an esteemed selection of award-winning wines for years to come.