San Simeon Winery
Central Coast AVA
Wines that express the terroir of Monterey County's prestigious Arroyo Seco appellation
San Simeon is an incredibly beautiful south central California town that is best known as the setting William Randolph Hearst’s palatial estate and castle that sits majestically on a hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is also the namesake for an emerging winery venture that has chosen to utilize the charming seaside village’s name.
The wines of San Simeon Winery are based on the specific premise that grapes grown from the very best vineyards are necessary to produce truly exceptional wines. The exact localities of the vineyards, Monterey and Paso Robles, are potentially two of the finest growing locales within the state of California. The Central Coast appellation is also arguably the most rapidly growing premium wine region in California, and an area whose wines are gaining critical acclaim throughout the country.
San Simeon Winery is another interesting project of the enterprising Riboli Family, whose roots are among the deepest in California. From their base in Los Angeles County, the Riboli’s San Antonio Winery has been responsible for a multitude of wines of varying levels for almost ten decades. The Riboli Family is a tight-knit group and the fourth generation of its offspring has produced the impetus for the wines that bear the name of San Simeon.
With nearly eighty-five years of relationships and personal involvement with a large number of Monterey’s eminent growers to draw from, San Simeon has at its availability, some of the finest grapes from the Central Coast’s premier vineyards. It was also with prudent foresight that the Riboli Family saw fit to purchase a good deal of acreage in the late 1980’s at varying locations along the Central Coast. The Riboli Family’s holdings today number over 500 acres and account for a major portion of their controlled production, small winery concept wines.
These decade old plantings also allow San Simeon to enjoy estate status for most of its wines, and that fact is not lost on knowledgeable consumers. When considering grape sources such as Arroyo Seco and the wholly owned Loma Vista Vineyard for example, it is quite easy to see the results of San Simeon’s earlier planning. It is also quite easy to envision the quality of wines that can be produced from such grapes.
When San Simeon Winery was first conceived over ten years ago, it was with the intent that it bring to the marketplace, superior, fairly priced wines that would compete favorably with trendy wines from small, independent producers. However, it wasn’t until about three years ago that San Simeon’s earlier strategy began to reach fruition.
When fourth generation winemaker Anthony Riboli joined the family team in 1999 (see Spotlight), the modern San Simeon Winery began to emerge from its latent existence. Anthony retooled the existing San Simeon label and set out to produce some wines that he hoped would prove expressive of the fruit and conditions of the Central Coast.
Anthony chose to keep the price of these wines consistent with the area’s perceived value thereby allowing him full access to restaurant wine lists while still making San Simeon’s wines affordable retail facings. He also made another important decision, one in which he limited San Simeon’s production of its varietals to around 2,000 cases each, thereby creating an immediate demand.
Thus far, time had proven Anthony’s initial assessments to be correct and San Simeon has risen in both statue and quality. The value of the estate plantings has continued to increase in value thereby assuring the project continued financial success.
As far as the youthful Anthony Riboli is concerned, he is the first fourth generation member of his Family to actively pursue a career in the wine industry. There are a number of siblings and relatives trailing behind him and some have already expressed an interest in the family business. Riboli assures that there will be no pressure placed on anyone to follow in his footsteps, but readily admits that he would enjoy having some of his younger relatives with him in his endeavors.
By the time this happens, we at Gold Medal are betting that San Simeon has attained even more plaudits and increased status. When a winery produces good wines, it is simply part of the natural process that follows.
The Riboli Family of Winemakers
Even the storied Gallo, Mondavi and Sebastiani wine clans would be hard pressed to consider themselves fourth generation wine descendents, but a little known Southern California family named Riboli (pronounced ree-bow-lee) is arguably one of the longest tenured families actively engaged in today's modern wine industry.
The Riboli Family's flagship winery is the respected San Antonio Winery, and a great deal of its current focus centers around 27-year-old Anthony Riboli, grandson of the winery's original founders. Anthony Riboli is a vital component of San Antonio's future planning, and an individual who comes complete with a masters degree in Enology from the University of California Davis that he earned in 1998.
To the youthful Riboli, the future of his family's business can be found in its history, and the actual spirit of togetherness his family has demonstrated over the past ten decades of its existence.
"Our family remains to this day an extremely tight unit,” Anthony Riboli explained. "Each of us lives within ten minutes of each other and we all live within ten minutes of the winery. There exists a commitment on each of our parts to see that we accomplish what we set out to do.”
Riboli pointed with pride to the fact that the original winery was founded in Los Angeles back in 1917 by Santo Cambianica, who immigrated to America from the Lombardy Region of Italy. From historical perspective, by 1920, over one hundred wineries existed in Los Angeles County. Even more incredibly, the San Antonio Winery is the sole surviving entity from that rather large number.
Santo Cambianica's nephew Stefano Riboli later joined the winery in the 1930's and is still active in various aspects of the business. Stefano's son, Santo, serves as the winery's president and other members of the family work in the multi-faceted company.
But a great deal of responsibility will be left to the youthful Anthony Riboli to continue the Riboli family's fortunes into the new millennium.
He must first convince everyone involved that his ideas are worth doing.
"I am fortunate that our family is cognizant to the changes that are occurring within the wine industry,” he explained further. "Individual estate vineyards such as the ones in Monterey that produce the San Simeon wines are necessary for our continued expansion and growth. My father Santo and our Family all consider Monterey one of the emerging wine production areas and these premier vineyards insure us the ultimate levels of grape quality. Each has a distinct personality and its up to us to bring that particular personality to the forefront.”
The San Simeon wines bear little comparison to their better known San Antonio generic and varietal cousins, and Anthony Riboli acknowledges his Family's awareness of the latest buzz and trend types that seem to proliferate wine shelves throughout California and elsewhere.
"As long as I am involved with San Simeon we will produce exemplary individualistic wines,” he added "Our family is incredibly proud of our history and what we have accomplished, but we are definitely not stuck in the past. Today's modern wine industry is evolving and we want to be part of that evolution.”
Was it easy convincing everyone in the family circle that a formula that has proven quite rewarding over the decades was in need of renaissance?
Riboli conceded that some family members were easier to convince than others but in the end, the consensus of the group was that new measures must be undertaken to continue the business's upward spiral. San Simeon is not the Riboli Family's only extra curricular activity. They have produced several critically acclaimed award-winning wines under the Riboli Family Vineyards, Aliento del Sol and Santo Stefano labels that all fall into the single vineyard or estate grown categories.
What's next on the agenda for Anthony Riboli? No new projects for the foreseeable future he readily informed. He is currently way too busy insuring that some of his pet projects reach the levels he has realistically set for them. After that, he grinned with an amused twinkle in his eye, indicating there might just be room for a new idea or two.