Hidden in the confines of industrial Los Angeles lies the heart of Napa Valley.

Most wouldn’t realize when they look up at the towering skyscrapers that pepper downtown Los Angeles that the very ground they stand on was once covered by prospering vineyards.

It was in 1917 that San Antonio Winery founder Santo Cambianica left his home in Northern Italy and traveled to Los Angeles where he established a winery named after his patron saint, Saint Anthony, in a tiny boxcar on Lamar Street. At the time, the wine industry was immensely prosperous and competition was fierce.

In 1920, the Prohibition Act was passed and the wine business all but disappeared. The San Antonio Winery was only moving about 2,000 cases of wine per year, yet Cambianica found a way to flourish where others were failing. Based on his relationship with the Catholic Church, the winery stayed in business by producing sacramental wine and, in the process, went from moving 2,000 cases to 20,000 cases of wine per year.

In 1938, Cambianica’s nephew Stephano Riboli expanded on the tradition created by his uncle. Along with his wife Maddalena, he has run the San Antonio Winery for four generations.

Today, the winery is much bigger than the tiny boxcar Cambianica started with, although the boxcar is still used to house overstocks for the winery’s gift shop.

Wine grapes are no longer grown and harvested in the L.A. area; rather, the family owns vineyards in Napa Valley and ships the processed grape juice to the winery. Here, the juice is stored in large stainless steel vats, which replaced the giant redwood containers of old. After yeast is added, the wine is poured into oak casks and allowed to ferment in the winery’s storage rooms for years. In this way, wine is still made in the only producing winery in Los Angeles.

San Antonio Winery also houses a wine tasting area, gift and wine shop and restaurant. Although wine samples are limited to three per person, tasting gives wine aficionados and people who’ve never tasted wine before the chance to sample some excellent wines. Non-alcoholic juices are also available for kids to taste.

Maddalena Restaurant, the winery’s lunch-only restaurant, features reasonably priced Italian cuisine as well as standard salads and sandwiches in a romantic, rustic atmosphere.

The winery also offers daily tours that are not only educational, but also fun. An entire afternoon of drinking, eating and learning can be spent at the San Antonio Winery.

Still the prime producer of sacramental wines and a force to be reckoned with in the wine industry, it’s no wonder that the city of Los Angeles designated San Antonio Winery a Cultural Historical Landmark in 1966.

Hours: Open 7 days, except major holidays; Restaurant Sun.-Tues. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Wed.-Sat. 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Wine Shop Sun.-Tues. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Wed.-Sat. 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Winery tours Sat. and Sun. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on the hour, Mon.-Fri. noon-2 p.m. on the hour. For more information, visit www.sanantoniowinery.com.