Duplin’s roots trace back to the 1970s when Muscadine grapes were considered a “wonder crop,” and a large winery out of New York was paying $350 per ton for North Carolina’s native grapes. D.J. Fussell, Sr. and his two sons, David and Dan, decided to grow grapes. Within three years, the price fell to $150 per ton and the Fussells were looking for a way to salvage their livelihoods.
In the early 1970s, the family decided to create a market for their grapes and started making wine. In-laws, grandchildren, aunts, and uncles all pitched in, helping to stomp grapes and bottle wine. While larger wineries flew their sales executives across the country in corporate jets, the Fussells traveled with their wines in a converted hog trailer. “We pulled up to this sophisticated wine distributor in Raleigh… It was the first time they had seen anyone bring them wine loaded in a hog trailer,” says David G. Fussell.
Duplin Winery grew rapidly. By 1983, production levels reached 200,000 gallons per year. However, the rest of the decade would prove disastrous for the winery. Changes in tax laws and new legislation resulted in plummeting sales, and the banks took everything but the winery itself. In order to meet payrolls, equipment was sold off and David Sr. took a full-time job teaching. He lost his house and admits that during these years he often thought about quitting. His wife, Ann, kept saying, “We make the best Muscadine wines in America. Let’s give it one more day and see what happens.” The Fussells’ resilience and commitment sustained Duplin Winery until customers across the state discovered its delicious Muscadine wines and spread the word.
In 2009, Duplin Winery proudly received honors normally reserved for the traditional West Coast wine belt. Duplin Winery received Impact’s Hot Brand Award and Beverage Information Group’s Fast Track Award. Both awards are given to a short list of wineries who have seen double-digit brand growth in the past 5 years. Duplin Winery’s success returned in 2010 and 2011, as they received both awards for a second year in a row.
The third generation took the helm at Duplin Winery in the early 2000s. Jonathan became head of retail operations at Duplin Winery and Dave assumed the position of president and CEO. Both brothers are extremely involved in the day-to-day operations of Duplin Winery, including leading tours and tastings, or having a hand in the wine making process. This visibility helps create a sense of family and commitment to excellence apparent to all the guests who enter the winery.
Dave and Jonathan dreamed of opening a location along the Grand Strand in Myrtle Beach since the 1990′s, so in 2015 a second location was opened in North Myrtle Beach, SC. A hand bottling line was installed so visitors can capture how Duplin used to bottle their wine, before they grew to be the largest winery in the south.
Today, Duplin winery has a tank capacity of over 1.7 million gallons and sells over 450,000 cases of wine annually. All Duplin wines are cold fermented to preserve the natural sweetness that only muscadine grapes can produce. Over 150,000 visitors are greeted with sweet, southern hospitality when they visit at either location. Duplin’s award-winning Carolina wines include Magnolia, featured in Martha Stewart Living as a favorite summertime wine, Hatteras Red, a North Carolina favorite enjoyed with good ‘ole southern barbecue, and Scuppernong, the oldest wine in America.
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