When we decided to celebrate our first anniversary in St. Augustine, we didn’t make any solid plans. We wanted to enjoy the city, the scenery and of course, the food.

I’m pretty sure a chocolate store would have stopped us in our tracks no matter what, but it was a sign advertising chocolate factory tours that drew us to Whetstone Chocolates. We stepped inside, and the women at the counter said another tour would be starting soon. The tour cost $7, so I had pretty high expectations. I’ve been through Hershey’s Chocolate World tour several times, and it’s free, even if you don’t visit the park.

The first part of the tour was an introduction to the company and its history, as well as a video about cacao trees and harvesting the beans. I found the video boring and was beginning to wonder why we paid $14 plus tax to sit in a room with chocolate brown walls with strangers.

After that, though, we moved to the factory, where the chocolate products are made. Whetstone does not produce its own chocolate — they buy it from a producer who makes it to their specifications. However, our tour leader, Virginia, who is the daughter of the company’s founders, said they plan to produce their own chocolate on-site within six to eight months. I think that would make for a very interesting tour, once they are roasting and processing their own beans.

You had to wear hair nets to visit the food production area.

Really, this part of the tour was all about the melting, molding and packaging of their chocolates, and it didn’t hold my interest for long, especially since I wrote this Easter Sunday story about chocolate last year. But the Whestone folks were really friendly and knowledgeable, and there were some free samples. I loved the key lime pie chocolate sea shells. My opinion? Spend your $7 on their chocolates — the ones we tasted were excellent!

From there, it was on to the San Sebastian Winery for their free wine tasting. The wine tasting was a low-key affair. After they checked your ID, you were given a wine list and a small glass and made your way from station to station.

I’d like to pull up a seat at that table! My favorite wine by far was their vinter’s red, and I’m not usually a red wine fan.  It was really fruity, and that’s what I like.

So it should come as no surprise that I made a beeline for Vino del Grotto Winery on the main drag for tourists, St. George Street. This winery specialized in fruit wines — no grapes allowed. An employee met us at the door and gave a brief intro to their wines. She told us to walk around the store and choose two or three to sample.

I chose the Mango Mama wine, Cocoa Beach (orange and chocolate) and Hurricane Class 5, or Florida sangria. The Hurricane wine was a combination of several tropical fruits. I enjoyed every wine I sampled and really wished they gave tastings of the champagnes, too. Vino del Grotto does not allow photos to be taken inside their store, and the employee who served us was not very friendly, but I’d still take my chances there again. The wines were delicious!

And finally, one of my favorite places in the whole city was Pepper Palace on St. George Street. They had every kind of salsa, dip, barbecue sauce, jam, jelly and spread you could imagine, and there were samples of all the goods.

Love, love, love that blackberry wine barbecue sauce. I also really liked this pepper and onion relish that they mixed with cream cheese to make an absolutely amazing dip. I regret not buying a few jars of salsa, but we didn’t want to lug glass containers around for the rest of the day, and by the time we were ready to head home, Pepper Palace was too far out of the way to return.

I loved tasting our way through St. Augustine — and we only saw a fraction of what the city had to offer! Coming tomorrow: Sweet treats.

Do you like to plan trips around new and exciting places to eat? What was the best foodie destination you ever visited?

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