Long known for its family-friendly reputation and sweet fruity wines, Duplin Winery got its start in Rose Hill, North Carolina before opening a second location in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Now, it’s moving into Florida, with the company’s leadership recently announcing that it has broken ground on a third location in Panama City Beach at a site that was previously a golf club.
Started by D.J. Fussell Sr., in the 1970s, Duplin Winery is now owned and managed by a third generation of Fussells. Dave Fussell Jr., serves as president and CEO of Duplin Winery, and Jonathan Fussell leads the Duplin Winery marketing division and serves as president of Duplin Wine Family.
Duplin General Manager Morgan Jackson talked with Vintner Magazine about why Duplin chose Florida for its third location and how it has turned an unconventional winery business model into multiple Southern tourist destinations.
VINTNER: It’s clear that Duplin has embraced the idea of being a family-friendly entertainment destination as well as a well-known southern wine brand. Tell me a little bit about how it pivoted its business model to include multiple locations across multiple states. It would seem that targeting vacation designations like Myrtle Beach and Panama City Beach has served things well?
JACKSON: Our humble beginnings started in Rose Hill, NC. Our home is a small farming community and the hometown of our owners, Dave Jr. and Jonathan Fussell. Years ago (back in the early 1990s), we knew that in order to attract people to come and see us, we needed to put on events and shows. Our festivals, Grape Stomp festivities, and dinner theatres began to grow, and we needed an additional outlet to continue to share our story. We are blessed to have families that grow grapes for us in the state of SC and it being our neighboring state, we felt North Myrtle Beach, SC would be a wonderful place to build a second home. This gave us the opportunity to meet people from all around the world. We love the laid-back lifestyle of the beach. It gives you a chance to sit back, relax, listen to a little live music and sip some of our delicious wines. For generations, our dream has been to continue to expand and share the love of Duplin with others. When visiting Panama City Beach, FL, we instantly fell in love. We could see ourselves relaxing with a chilled glass of wine on the beautiful decks we have designed, hosting festivals and events on the gorgeous grounds.
VINTNER: Clearly, the brand has some staying power after having been a name for 45 years. How does your audience differ from folks who may prefer a more traditional West Coast-style product, and how do you market and tell your story to cultivate that fan base?
JACKSON: In the 1970s, Dave and Jonathan’s grandfather, father and uncle decided to grow Muscadine grapes to sell to a winery in New York, but before they could sell, the grape market crashed, and they were left with their unsellable harvest. They quickly changed direction and began their own winery with the help of the entire Fussell family. Muscadines produce a delicious fruity wine. It is meant to be enjoyed chilled. We share our wines with our guests by inviting them to an entertaining and informative wine tasting. During the tasting, guests enjoy our homemade crackers (the recipe was born out of our restaurant in Rose Hill), our gourmet cheese dip and various samples of our Duplin wines.
VINTNER: What about Florida makes it the next logical destination for a location. Could future locations located further west be in the cards?
JACKSON: We feel humbled and blessed to make Florida our next home. Aside from the gorgeous beaches, we fell in love with the people of Panama City Beach.. Our business is about relationships and sharing our love of Duplin with them. When you enter our doors or pick up a bottle of your favorite Duplin wine from the grocery store, you immediately become part of our family. We are excited to grow our family with the fine people in Florida and we look forward to what the future holds.
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