Q & A with Anthony Riboli
San Antonio Winery is one with a rich history and deep roots in the wine industry. They date back to the early 1900’s in the Los Angeles area and started getting involved in Paso Robles about 30 years ago by purchasing grapes from local growers. You can learn more about the history of this winery here as well as read the Q&A below to hear directly from the fourth generation of this family, Anthony Riboli.
Q&A with Anthony Riboli of San Antonio Winery
Clearly there is a ton of history with your family and wine, if you had to name a couple of standout points in your family’s history…what would they be?
Certainly, the 100-year anniversary in 2017 is the big daddy. We are all very excited, especially since my grandparents are here to share it!
A second standout would be on a local level in Paso. We have purchased grapes from local growers for 30 years. In the last few years, we have planted 4 estate vineyards in the El Pomar and Creston AVAs. And we will be completing our new state-of-the-art winery in Paso for the 2016 harvest.
What was it about the Los Angeles area that made for good wine grape growing?
I honestly have never made wine from LA grapes. They were really gone before I was born! I firmly believe that the Central Coast is a superior region to Los Angeles for grape growing. Los Angeles was probably just established for convenience with all the local Italian immigrants in the area.
How long have you been involved with wine as a career?
I started officially in 1998. I studied Biology at UC Santa Barbara and was on my way to medical school. Then, I really reconsidered and enrolled at UC Davis for my Master’s Degree in Viticulture. I also completed the winemaking courses. I also worked the 1997 harvest at Groth Vineyards in Napa Valley.
Did you have a specific wine moment that made it such a passion for you?
Once I arrived at UC Davis, I just realized that our family needed to make a lot of major changes in wine quality if we were to survive. Luckily, the family has been very supportive of all the changes.
Do you have a certain philosophy about wine? How about the overall family philosophy?
Wine is certainly an amazing combination of art and science. I always try not to create a wine style that doesn’t fit the region. For example, Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon shouldn’t try to emulate Bordeaux styles of winemaking. Let Paso Cab be its own animal: bright, bold fruit without green characters and the resulting alcohols over 14-percent. Why fight it?
The family philosophy has always been to work hard and never be afraid to take risks. My grandmother always said that our company must constantly evolve. She was the one that started our restaurant inside the downtown LA winery in 1972. She saw an opportunity and took it!
What made you want to go into the “family business”?
My father actually wanted a doctor, lawyer, or engineer. He didn’t push me into the business. Being at UC Davis really made me say “This is really interesting. I think that I can do this for the rest of my life.” I also really saw that the family needed to make better wine. Our quality needed to improve.
When did Paso Robles become a place for San Antonio Winery?
We began buying grapes 30 years ago. However, we didn’t have a true presence in Paso. The first step was buying our tasting room nearly 10 years ago. Of course, owning estate vineyards and the new winery have cemented our true commitment to the Paso Robles region. Many locals think we’re the new guys on the block, but we’re really not.
What was it about Paso Robles that made your family want to set up shop here?
Paso was the new frontier. It was a great adventure. Not as established and pretentious as Napa Valley. Our family has always wanted our customers to feel comfortable and unintimidated by wine. Paso has the same feel. Financially, Paso was also a great opportunity to buy land at reasonable prices.
What aspect of the wine business do you enjoy the most?
When a tasting room customer has a sip, and their face just says it all. “Wow, this is really great wine!”
Do you have a favorite variety to sip on or to play with in the winery?
That’s like asking which is your favorite child! However, Zinfandel has become a bit of an obsession lately. Finding balance with Zin is always a challenge. And I’m not talking about 13.5% alcohol!
How about a favorite food and wine pairing?
Another tough one! Our vineyard manager Lee Alegre raises his own local sheep in Paso. Grilled Alegre lamb chops with our new Stormwatch Bordeaux blend.
Do you have a favorite wine region other than the L.A. area or Paso Robles?
We own estate vineyards in Monterey as well. Santa Lucia Highlands is just awesome for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
What’s your favorite thing about Paso Robles?
The smell in the morning. Even in mid-August, the mornings are cool. That’s so unique for Paso. The smell is hard to describe, but something like cool hay and dusty soil in a good way!
If you’re not drinking wine you’re drinking?
I’m not a wine only guy. Occasional beer drinker, but I’m really into Japanese whisky right now. Also, Irish whiskey.
What do you do in your time away from work? Hobbies?
When you love what you do, working is constant. However, I enjoy traveling with my wife and daughters. Going to the beach, San Francisco, wherever. I enjoy cooking, especially BBQ. And I’m a big sports fan – football, basketball, and I love World Cup soccer.