One of the very best guilty pleasures that we have found in St Augustine is the San Sebastian Winery! What does this have to do with family fun you say? It couldn’t possibly be frugal? It’s both actually! The wife and I have visited this winery on a prior occasion, but decided to take everyone when we went on a family trip. There is no admission charge, and the best part is that you also get to taste a variety of muscadine wines before you leave.
Located in yet another of Henry Flagler’s historic rail road buildings, the San Sebastian winery is quite a bit more than just a wine shop! Starting roughly every 20 minutes or so, the winery tours start with a brief video on the history of the San Sebastian Winery and tells of the relationship with its sister winery, Lakeridge. It’s OK if you’re not a wine expert, as the relaxed atmosphere at the San Sebastian Winery actually encourages folks to ask questions. The staff conducting the tours are very animated, and do a great job ensuring everyone has a good time by really drawing in group participation.
After the video you’ll be treated to a walk through the actual production line of the San Sebastian Winery. This facility is a fully working location, and they produce almost a million bottles of wine a year! Unfortunately you can’t get really up close and personal with the equipment (probably for safety reasons), but you do get to see a side of wine that you may not have ever known existed. Once you get to see how this modern wine is produced you get to move on to the tasting!
Wine tasting at the San Sebastian Winery is a bit of an educational experience as well as a great time. We did have the kids with us and they didn’t seem to mind that the adults were having a few sips here and there. They were pretty well behaved, probably because there were lots of things to help draw their attention. During the tasting, you get a short form that numbers the wines in order of sweetness. As you work your way down the list, the idea is that you will mark the wines you would actually like to purchase downstairs in the shop. Don’t worry, there is no pressure to actually sip a wine you don’t like and it’s not a high pressure sales pitch like a time share or anything. In fact if you really don’t like the wine provided, they also provide buckets for you to pour the left overs into.
My recommendation would be to visit this location during the week if you can. On the weekends, due to heavy visitor traffic, the San Sebastian Winery transforms into a self paced approach. You still get to watch the video, tour the winery and taste their amazing wines, but instead of a guided tour you go from station to station tasting and learning. In one regard it’s nice to get a different perspective from each staff member, but you lose the personal connection and education you would get from the guided tour. It’s still worth a visit even on the weekends, but we just felt as if we had a more exciting time with the guided tours. During the guided tours as well, the staff would actually serve muscadine grape juice to the kiddos in the group which helped engage them as well. Unfortunately we didn’t get offered any grape juice for the small ones on the weekend.
Just don’t over indulge! We thought it was a bit ironic that there was not only a police station right across the street, but an impound lot as well. So if you’re concerned about driving after your wine experience, you may want to take the Old Town Trolley to this location.
San Sebastian Winery Specifics:
157 King St., St Augustine Florida 32084
Stop # 10 on Old Town Trolley Tour
Phone # (904) 826-1594
San Sebastian Winery Hours of Operation: M-Sa 10am – 6pm, Sunday 11am-6pm
Last tour of San Sebastian Winery approximately 5pm