Checking out Wine & Spirits of St. Augustine

Day one in St. Augustine was all about relaxation, scenery and food, but on day two I had to get down to official business. In my case, that means hunting down the wine and spirits

When talking about St. Augustine, I have to clarify “spirits.” Ghosts are said to be haunting this town and tracking down their history and whereabouts is a big attraction. In my case, however, I was interested in the spirits that fill my glass and those were even easier to find around here than the ghosts!

Our first stop in the morning was San Sebastian Winery. This was my very first Florida winery and I really didn’t know what to expect. San Sebastian and its sister winery Lakeridge are the largest in the state. The Lakeridge Winery & Vineyard came first in 1988 and St. Augustine’s San Sebastian followed in 1996. It’s a great location in town, offering free tours and tastings, as well as a Wine & Jazz Bar upstairs that opens in the afternoon and continues through the evening. I didn’t get to go, but it was recommended by quite a few people in town.

San Sebastian currently has 10 wines on their menu. I was pleasantly surprised by the assortment created from the native Muscadine grape, which grows in red and white varietals. The Rosa is very berry-like, a semi-dry that would complement a summer barbecue, while the Vintners White was actually not very fruity, with hints of vanilla. My friend Lynn liked the Castillo Red, a full bodied red wine without h sweetness of the Vintners Red, the top seller. I was a bit disappointed in the Reserva, which was not overly flavorful, but loved the Proprietor’s Lakeridge Cream Sherry and Blanc Du Fleur, a sparkling wine produced Methode Champenoise.

After the winery it was a bit of exploration of downtown St. Augustine by foot and by trolley (the best way to see the most, I wish I had more time to explore on it). We also had chicken and avocado sandwiches (tender and tasty) at A1A brewery and enjoyed visiting at Claude’s Chocolate, where Nicole let me sample the Absinthe Truffle husband Claude makes. Then it was off to the next spirited adventure – the St. Augustine Pub Crawl.

For anyone who hasn’t done a Pub Crawl, it’s a lot of fun and this one was in the perfect place. As the streets mixed with old and new, Mia guided our group of six through a great assortment of stops, beginning with Anne O’Malley’s for the first Irish beer experience. While the rugby lit up the television screens, owners John and Sherri Cunningham poured Yuengling drafts. It was a great start and soon we were on our way down the hot and steamy streets of St. Augustine to Taberna del Gallo.

Things were quite different here in the city’s Spanish section, where they dressed in 18th century garb. The refreshment at Taberna del Gallo was Sangria, the best I’ve had in a long time. I enjoyed the Red, but heard the Pink Grapefruit was wonderful. One member of our group also imbibed with a Snake Bite – beer and cider.

Pub crawl stop number three was a cigar bar appropriately named Stogies. Here it was back to the beer with eight different drafts pouring everything from Stout to Tangerine. We lingered upstairs (shhh… only the locals are supposed to know about the upstairs) for awhile sipping the ale before heading to Meehan’s Irish Pub. Owner John Meehan joined us to talk a bit about his gastro pub – where the food does not take a back seat to the extensive (50 variety) beer collection or Jameson shots. The specialty here is Oyster Florentine Soup, which is enhanced with artichokes.

The final stop on the St. Augustine Pub Crawl was J.P. Henley’s where I was a bit disappointed that the Chocovine Wine was not offered, but it was a great time to recap the tour with our final drinks before some of us headed over to
The Tasting Room
for Tapas and music.

Unfortunately, my stay at the St. Francis Inn and St. Augustine adventure is over for now, but there’s just too much more to see, do – and drink – for me not to be back.


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