We haven’t been to St. Augustine in years, so this past Saturday was as good a time as any I suppose. Ideally we would have made this a weekend overnight trip as it’s a couple hour’s drive from Orlando, but with our Africa trip coming up in May, we needed to make the most of the weekend to get ready.
St. Augustine is billed as the oldest city in the U.S., dating back to 1865, and while parts of it can be a tacky tourist trap, I found the city to be charming and fun. No, we didn’t go in search of the ‘Fountain of Youth’; at 54 years old I gave up on that long ago (LOL!), but we did go in search of a wine barrel for our rapidly growing wine collection at home, including this Raymond 40th anniversary shipment we just got delivered. I thought we could turn part of the kitchen into a mini-tasting room, and the wine barrel could serve as a counter for tastings, which will be located next to our Eurocave wine cooler. I didn’t think Steve (DOS) would go along with the barrel ideal, but he actually thought it would be fun!
We found this site called ExoticBarrels.com on the internet, and they specialize in wine (and whiskey) barrel decor and custom furniture. While we won’t need or want a new barrel, they had very reasonably priced used barrels which should work nicely. We had hoped to pick up our barrel the day we drove up, so we made a quick stop at Sanford Airport and rented probably the biggest SUV I’ve ever driven; a GMC Yukon. I had several free rental days from National Car rental, so the $116 a day charge came to only $5.16 which was the airport fee or tax – quite a bargain! The SUV was very nice, but it would be way too big for me to drive around all the time if I owned one. But we were on a barrel quest so we needed a big trunk/storage area to transport it in!
Steve (DOS) and I had a leisurely drive to St. Augustine, parking my personal car at the airport and driving off in the rented Yukon around 10:30am for our day journey. We made a stop along the way north of Daytona Beach at the Tanger Outlet Mall for some ‘safari clothing’. DOS wanted to get some lightweight travel clothes from the Columbia outlet store for our Africa trip. We love the loose fit of Columbia’s pants and wanted to have a couple extra pairs of tan and/or gray for our trip, the colors were recommended by our tour company AMA Waterways, supposedly to not attract insects. We’ll use insect repellant for sure, but still like the comfort of these pants – they’re awesome to travel in, and even convert to shorts by unzipping them. Just don’t forget and lose the bottom half of your pants like I’ve done before – one of the reasons I need new pants!
The Tanger Mall Outlet Daytona is new and very nice, and not overly crowded like the Orlando outlet malls, making shopping much more pleasant. The whole area is still under development, and a large track of land adjacent is being developed into Tomoka Town Center.
The barrel store is s a rustic-looking place occupying a converted house, with saws, wood-working equipment, handmade signs and memorabilia made there, and a backyard full of barrels. We spoke with Chris, a friendly young man working there, and he showed us around the facility. Unfortunately they only had whiskey barrels in stock, but he said they would be getting a shipment of used wine barrels from Napa Valley next week.
We definitely wanted a large 59 gallon wine barrel, and went ahead and ordered a customized barrel, with a door opening and storage rack inside it. He also said he would sand and stain it for a nice finish. While we were hoping to get this before our Africa trip, we both agreed it will be worth the wait, and for only $50, they would deliver it to our home in Orlando – no more rental cars for the day trip! The barrel also weighs nearly 100 pounds empty, so home delivery is really a bargain – they will even leave it by the pool area if we are out of town.
After leaving the barrel shop, we drove around the old part of the city a bit, and made an unscheduled and fun stop at San Sebastian winery. St. Sebastian is also owned Lakeridge Winery, which is located in Clermont, a short drive from Orlando. I’ve been to Lakeridge Winery before, but this was a first for us at San Sebastian Winery. The wine tasting room and facility was packed on Saturday afternoon, and once inside we saw why. While the tasting room and gift shop are on the main floor, we took an elevator to the 3rd floor where there is a huge roof top terrace wine bar/restaurant. Complete with live entertainment; i.e. a man and a guitar, we spent a fun hour there sampling vino and a cheese platter. DOS just had a sip of vino before giving it to me, and he became the designated driver home. I ended up having a couple very generous pours of vino, and the cheese and meat platter was great with the vinos. We had a great view from our third floor terrace, and saw several St. Augustine trams come and go by the winery. The trams gave the feel a Key West type look and feel to the city.
After our wine and cheese platter, we went down to the gift shop and tasting room. I did the complimentary tour while DOS followed along. The tour is setup in a series of four or five stations, where they give you a couple tiny and different samples at each one. It actually starts on the main level, and meanders thru the second floor level of the building. It was a good idea as it kept the busy crowd flow moving, without feeling crammed in like at a typical tasting room.
The final tasting was optional and a $5 charge. We opted to keep the glass which was also $5, but the tasting included a half glass each of their Pinot Noir and Port. Fortunately DOS was driving and not drinking the last two wines – the Port especially was a bit high in alcohol!
Back down at the main level, we bought a couple glasses, and a set of four mini Port glasses, plus a bottle of Pino and Port to take home. DOS drove back to Orlando, and I took a nap; i.e. (slept off some of the Port) while he drove. We turned in the rental SUV, and were home by 7pm.
Our St. Augustine barrel trek ended up with a bit of serendipity along the way. It truly was a fun day adventure, and we look forward to getting our barrel delivered soon! Hopefully we will have something to display like this! But too bad we don’t have our own winery! LOL!