Wine lovers know that a great wine requires a lot of heart and a lot of science. While many often think of Napa as the dominant wine region in America, Paso Robles has made a name for itself as a serious wine region with unique soil and flavor.
We attended a media dinner and wine tasting with Anthony Riboli of Riboli Family Wines—a known winery in Paso Robles. We had the chance to chat with him about the wines, his family and the namesake grandparents for which two of the wineries are named.
The History of Riboli Family Wines
The rich history of Riboli Family Wines dates back to 1910 when Santo Cambianica (Anthony Riboli’s great-great-uncle) came to Los Angeles. He founded San Antonio Winery on Lamar Street in 1917.
When Prohibition began in 1919, most wineries went out of business; however, San Antonio Winery powered through when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles gave the winery authorization to provide wines for sacramental and ceremonial purposes. The strong relationship between the winery and the church was once again vital during the Great Depression.
Anthony Riboli’s grandfather Stefano Riboli married Maddalena Satragni in 1946 and remained in Los Angeles throughout the 1950s, despite much of the wine trade taking over in Northern California. The couple took ownership of San Antonio Winery when Cambianica passed away and began searching for land north of Los Angeles. The family-owned business now has vineyard locations in Monterey, Napa Valley and Paso Robles (the company also has tasting rooms in Los Angeles, Ontario and Paso Robles).
Anthony Riboli and the Family Business
Can you tell us about the more recent developments at Riboli Family Wines?
Riboli: Most recently, our family has focused on the Paso Robles region located along California’s Central Coast. Since 2010, we have invested in eight different vineyards within Paso Robles (2 in Willow Creek, 4 in El Pomar and 2 in Creston Highlands District).
In addition, we built a state-of-the-art, 100% certified sustainable winery in Paso Robles and a beautiful tasting room. We feel honored that our third and fourth generations are carrying on the tradition of the company.
What do you think sets Riboli Family Wines apart from other winemakers in the region?
Riboli: Riboli Family Wines is focused on three key traits:
- Family-owned. We are one of the few that is still owned and run by the family.
- Estate-grown vineyards. All our wines are made from our estate vineyards.
- Sustainability. We are committed to not only having all of our vineyards be 100% sustainable but our Paso Robles winery as well (only 5% of all wineries in CA are certified sustainable).
As a fourth-generation winemaker, I am always mindful of our history and how to stay true to that. In contrast, sustainability is the future of winemaking, and we are dedicated to a legacy for the next generation.
My family believes great things come through hard work, innovation, and treating people and the environment with respect. Santo Cambianica and Stefano Riboli grew up tending crops and cattle in northern Italy like generations before them, and that family connection to the land has remained strong to this day. The third and fourth generations of Ribolis consider themselves stewards of the 1,800 acres of estate vineyard now under their care. Since 2019, Riboli Estate Group (REG) has maintained sustainability certifications from the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance for all of its estate vineyards, as well as the Paso Robles winery facility.
Why is Paso Robles such a fantastic location for wineries?
Riboli: Paso Robles is the fastest-growing wine region in California. It’s an exciting and important area due to the excellent climate and high grape quality.
How do you explain the differences between your five Paso Robles vineyards?
Riboli: REG owns eight prized sites within the Paso Robles wine growing region: Jada Vineyard, Live Oak Vineyard, Stefano Vineyard, Stefano II Vineyard, Maddalena Vineyard, Pretty Penny Vineyard, Riboli Creston Vineyard and Creston Highlands Vineyard.
Named for the family’s second-generation patriarch, Stefano Vineyard is an 83-acre site located in the prestigious El Pomar District AVA. This region exhibits warm daytime temperatures, but cool afternoon breezes from the Templeton Gap bring the temperature down each evening to preserve the natural freshness in the fruit. The Arbuckle-Positas soils on the property are filled with multicolored rocks of all shapes and sizes on steep hillsides ideal for the primarily Bordeaux and Rhône varieties planted here.
Fittingly situated just across the way from Stefano Vineyard is Maddalena Vineyard, named for my grandmother Maddalena, the trail-blazing family matriarch. This 72-acre site in the El Pomar District AVA enjoys the same dramatic diurnal shifts as Stefano Vineyard, but its steep hillsides are composed of Linne-Calodo calcareous soils derived from ancient seabeds. These challenging soils make the vines struggle to absorb water and essential nutrients, creating concentrated wines with a unique minerality.
Just a few minutes to the north of Stefano Vineyard, the 20-acre Pretty Penny Vineyard perches on steep, rocky hillsides that cost the family a tidy sum to develop. Today, the Arbuckle-Positas soils of this unique site in the acclaimed El Pomar District AVA produce highly concentrated fruit, supplying Cabernet Sauvignon clones 337 and 685 for the family’s finest bottlings.
East and south of El Pomar is the Creston District AVA, where we own two expansive vineyards planted to more than 13 different varieties. The rolling hills and bird sanctuary lake on the 320-acre Riboli Creston Vineyard create a truly breathtaking vineyard setting. Well-drained Arbuckle-Positas soils and pure water combine with the area’s warm days and cool nights to nurture an array of varietals, from Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc to Roussanne, Tannat, Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional.
Northeast of Riboli Creston is the family’s Creston Highlands Vineyard, located in an unusually steep, elevated portion of the Creston AVA. The fossilized shells found on this 250-acre property hint at the calcareous marine origins of the Nacimiento and Balcom soils in this area. Planted primarily to Cabernet Sauvignon with more than 12 different clones of the variety represented, this site also produces Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Petit Verdot.
If someone was visiting Paso Robles for the first time, where would you recommend they go—other than the Riboli Family Wines, of course!
Riboli: For a first-time visitor to Paso Robles, I would recommend going to the square in downtown Paso Robles for the shops and restaurants. Another unique experience would be horseback riding through the vineyards.