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Wine has entertained humans since 7000 BC. It has inspired murals and stories throughout the ages. Factory Tourists, though, want to know how vino is actually made - in a 100-year-old factory in Downtown Los Angeles.
Tour: San Antonio Winery
Address: 737 Lamar St, Los Angeles, CA 90031
For most aficionados, downtown Los Angeles isn't top of mind when it comes to wine. Yet, tucked away in the industrial Lincoln Heights district of Los Angeles you'll find one of the longest-operating wineries in Los Angeles: San Antonio Winery.
The tour is designed to step visitors through the wine making process starting from the grape to the finished bottled product. But, that's what makes this tour a little different from other winery tours we've seen. There's no farm and no grapes here. San Antonio grows its grapes in three other locations in Northern California and trucks them in. So the first part of the tour is dedicated to describing the process of getting grapes and juice back and forth from the factory.
The talk about trucks and freeways took away from our thought of wine a bit (we normally think of vines and grapes), but we did learn about the process. Fruit juice is put into fermenters where special yeast is poured in and heated. The higher the fermenter's temperature, the more the yeast spreads and the drier the wine becomes. The lower the temperature, the sweeter the wine.
San Antonio makes several times of wine - and the red varieties require an extra step. The red wine is then piped into barrels made from French White Oak. This process add flavor compounds and allows for the chemical processes to occur that makes red wine taste as you'd expect. After weeks of testing the wines in the barrels, the wine is then filtered, poured into sterilized bottles, wrapped up into giant pallets and sent to stores.
Conclusion: While this tour was informative about the wine-making process, we couldn't help but notice we didn't feel any emotional attachment at all. We saw massive stainless steel barrels and hoses and tubes snaking all over the place and heard about trucks and shipments, but there wasn't anything to smell, taste or see. It would have been nice to taste, say, grapes and even the grape juice at different parts of the process. Adults, though, can wine taste in the gift area (for a fee) and the pourers will let kids try non-alcoholic drinks (for free) ... but only if you ask and it's not part of the tour.
If you're in the Los Angeles area and want a cut-and-dried tour of how wine is make, this is a good stop. Keep in mind, thought, this is a highly mechanized winery - one that pumps out 124 bottles of wine ... a minute!
Pro tip: Our tour guide told us it's best to come in the fall when the factory is busy.