The wine industry has gone through huge changes in the last twenty years as lots of tech billionaires have decided that having a vineyard is a nice hobby project. Consolidation has hit too, so there are some really big beverage conglomerates that own dozens of different labels. Even a single winery might now have multiple labels for their different target demographics or beverage price points. Agricultural science has offered a different energy too, as more and more regions are able to sustain vineyards, or wineries outsource grape production, offering instead their custom blends and packaging.
Which is why it’s a rare treat to meet a winery that’s been in the business for over a century. And when that same winery is awarded the prestigious American Winery of the Year from Wine Enthusiast magazine. When Riboli Family of San Antonio Winery invited me to a tasting at the swanky Denver 1515 Restaurant, I jumped at the chance to meet some members of the Riboli family and enjoy some excellent wine.
Having said that, I will candidly admit that I’m not a big wine drinker and don’t know much about the differences in grapes and processing, how a Cabernet and a Merlot differ, etc. Still, wine expertise wasn’t a requirement – fortunately – and a few evenings ago I headed into Denver to meet up with the group and a number of local bloggers in the speakeasy-esque basement of 1515 Restaurant.
They had three wines identified for us to sample, one from each of the three labels under which Riboli operates:
In the order we sampled them, they were a 2018 Maddalena Rosé, a 2014 San Simeon Cabernet Sauvignon, and a 2016 Opaque Darkness.
1515 Restaurant supplied us with some delicious appetizers to help cleanse the palette too:
The standout was in the foreground, a meat strudel with bacon and a brush of sour cherry. Rather ridiculously good, actually!
But back to the wine. Anthony Riboli, a third generation member of the family and winery, talked to us about the company history and the back story on each of the wines we tasted:
Super interesting, actually. During Prohibition, for example, the winery managed to stay open by cutting a deal with the local Catholic churches to be the exclusive supplier of communion wines. He also talked about how many of the wines are blends: The rosé was a blend of six different wines. As someone not familiar with wine-making, I’ve always assumed that it was all about the right grape but it’s a lot more complicated than that!
Consider our third taste, the Opaque Darkness, a wine name that every heavy metal fan likely adores:
This was the last wine we tasted, the 2016 Opaque Darkness, and it turns out to be a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Petit Verdot and Petite Sirah grapes. It’s aged for 14 months in French and American wood barrels (that cost $600-$1000/barrel and have a lifespan of about a year before they have to be replaced. That’s a surprising additional expense in the production sequence) and then sits for another few months after being bottled “to let the wine settle down from the shock”. The end result is a mighty dark wine, as you can see above, that’s full of depth and body.
All in all, a fun evening learning about this storied and historic winery, meeting two members of the Riboli family, and getting a good sense of how they won Winery of the Year against hundreds of competitors. Well done, Riboli family, and I look forward to our next meeting, whether it’s in person at one of your wineries in Paso Robles, Monterey, outside San Simeon or in Los Angeles, or just a meeting in a glass, as it were.
You can learn more about Riboli and its many wines on their Web site: RiboliWines.com
Disclosure: Riboli supplied me with food and some very good wines in return for this writeup. Thanks!