There are plenty of reasons aspirational wine drinkers might dismiss a lineup like Stella Rosa’s. Its wines are spritzy and sweet; some come in mini bottles; and they’re available in a variety of fruit flavors, from Pineapple to Ruby Rosé Grapefruit.
Before you dismiss Stella Rosa’s fun-loving sparklers in favor of a supple Nebbiolo, know this: Stella Rosa has over a century of winemaking history. This includes unexpected roots in California wine country — although it’s probably not where you think — as well as connections to Italy.
Here’s a baker’s dozen of things to know about Stella Rosa.
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Stella Rosa is California’s favorite wine.
Stella Rosa might not command such solemn respect as more “serious” wines, but its bottles are the best-selling wines in California. Which, considering Stella’s intentionally lighter style and some of the beefier output from the Napa Valley, is kind of like selling out of beef jerky in a steakhouse.
It’s also America’s favorite Italian wine import.
Stella Rosa’s popularity wins don’t stop in California. It’s also the No. 1 imported Italian wine brand in the U.S.
Stella Rosa is a family brand.
The Riboli family has been making wine for four generations (and somehow works together amicably enough to take pictures like this). Santo Cambianica came to America in 1910, and after founding the San Antonio Winery in 1917 (where Stella Rosa was born, see below), he eventually handed over the reins to his nephew and apprentice Stefano Riboli. With no major hiccups (or only the good, wine-related kind), the intergenerational winemaking harmony has persisted to this day.
Stella Rosa was born in Los Angeles Wine Country…
Before Los Angeles became the home of movie stars, pet psychics, and the TMZ tour bus, it was actually the seat, and indeed birthplace, of California wine country. The city of stars is also where Stella Rosa was born: The Riboli family founded the San Antonio Winery in L.A. in 1917.
We have thirsty Spaniards to thank for bringing grapevines to California in the late 18th century; by the 19th century, the area that is now Downtown L.A. was covered in grapevines. There are actually 150-year-old vines in L.A., and it was once even called the “City of Vines.” Take that, Napa.
…But its wines are produced in Piedmont, Italy.
The idea for Stella Rosa’s half-sparkling, half-sweet wines was born in the San Antonio Winery tasting room in Los Angeles, but the wines themselves are produced in the northern Piedmont region of Italy, incidentally home to an uber-expensive class of red Barolo wines. But while Barolos often clock in at or around $100 (and some reach as high as $7,885), Stella Rosa wines tend to top out at $20 or lower.
Stella Rosa was saved by the Church.
Like many savvy winemakers during the parched years of Prohibition, the Riboli family looked for any legitimate reason to make wine. Many wineries made sacramental wine to get through the dry years. The Riboli family followed suit, making legal wine for a nearby Catholic church until Prohibition ended in 1933. Stella Rosa would launch about 70 years later.
Its roots are old, but the wine is young.
Stella Rosa wines are kind of like the outcome of really attentive customer service: About 16 or 17 years ago, the Ribolis noticed customers in their San Antonio Winery kept requesting lighter and sweeter wines. Rather than shame them — after all, there is nothing wrong with liking sweet wine — they created their first Stella Rosa wine, the Moscato d’Asti. Stella Rosa Rosso (red) followed soon after, and the delicate sweetness and frizzante-bubbles have yet to stop frizzante-ing.
Stella Rosa gets its bubbles the same way Prosecco does.
Stella Rosa wines aren’t full-on bubbly like Champagne. They’re “frizzante,” or semi-sparkling, the result of arrested fermentation. And that fermentation is done by the Charmat method, a.k.a., the “tank method,” wherein wine undergoes fermentation en masse, as opposed to bottle by bottle. This results in cleaner, more fruit-forward wines (think brunch-friendly zesty sparklers).
Stella Rosa wines are more than “sweet.”
Granted, the Ribolis were answering a call for sweeter, friskier wines when they created the Stella Rosa lineup, but just because there’s sugar there doesn’t mean there aren’t other flavors. Among some of the more poetically descriptive tasting notes you’ll find about any of the Stella Rosa lineup: “brisk lime spritz,” “crème de cassis,” “chalk,” “peach pie crust,” “raspberry Pez,” “rose petals,” and “blackberry Italian soda.”
The original Stella Rosa was a half-sweet, half-sparkling Moscato d’Asti, followed by the Stella Rosa Rosso red, but over the years, the Riboli family has put together a rainbow of Stella Rosa wines — with a variety of styles (the classic Moscato, Rosso, Rosé, the luxury Platinum variety) and flavors (Pineapple, Red Apple, Ruby Rosé Grapefruit, Orange, Mango). There’s even an award-winning Brachetto d’Acqui from its full-sparkling “Imperiale” lineup. No word on where the rainbow ends.
Stella Rosa wins at promotional wordplay.
In an era of shrinking attention spans, marketing your brand with utmost economy is key. Use the fewest, catchiest words to encapsulate your brand message and you win. Other commodities do a fine job — “Finger-Lickin’ Good,” “Because You’re Worth It,” the timeless “Got Milk” — but Stella Rosa found a way to bottle the fun, celebratory vibe of its wines in just one made-up word: “Stellabrate.”
Stella Rosa creates a bridge between wine worlds.
Stella Rosa wines answer a pretty common and unfairly maligned call for sweeter, spritzier wines, but they do so without resorting to flagrant sugar-bombing or two-dimensionality. Thanks to its provenance in a four-generation Italian winemaking family, with vineyards in “real” California wine country like Napa and Paso Robles, sourcing (see Piedmont) and production (see “Charmat”) standards are higher than average, allowing Stella Rosa to bridge the gap between the bubbly feel of luxury and actual economic accessibility, i.e., the impossible dream most of us chase on a Friday or Saturday night.
Stella Rosa is ABV on-trend.
Millennials are trending toward low-alcohol options for a variety of reasons. Those looking for a lighter wine that has a bit more “oopmh” than 0.0 percent ABV should look to Stella Rosa. The wines generally clock in at a happy-buzz 5.5 ABV. Some get closer to the 10 percent ABV mark, but in general, Stella Rosa wines are specifically made to retain a bit more sugar and (wine 101!) produce a bit less alcohol than their boozier counterparts.
The grapes have 1,000 years on Cabernet.
Stella Rosa wines are meant to be easy-drinking, but that doesn’t mean they lack depth of character. For instance, Stella Rosa flagship wine Moscato d’Asti is made with Moscato grapes, a.k.a., Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, a grape varietal that’s actually more than a thousand years older than Cabernet Sauvignon. (So feel free to swirl your Moscato d’Asti or Stella Rosa Rosso and look off into the distance importantly.)