by Donna Byrd
Clink. Clink. Cheers! I have a great idea for all of you wine enthusiasts who visit us here on Topsail Island and I know you will be delighted to hear that the South’s largest winery is located only fifty miles from Surf City! Yes! If you’d like to take a day trip to Duplin Winery, you can hop in the car and be there in an hour or so.
Located in Rose Hill, right off of Interstate 40, the Duplin Winery, owned and operated by the Fussell family, has been making sweet muscadine wines since the early 1970’s. Their story began with making wine the old fashioned way: the whole family would come together during the harvest season and stomp out the grapes, bottle the wine and load up the bottles on a hog trailer for distribution.
Times have changed a bit since then but not the secret family recipes! The sweet taste of the South is found in each and every bottle and its popularity has become renowned. Last year they sold over four million bottles of “cool, sweet and easy” Duplin wines!
Friday night, my husband and I were treated to a special dinner and country music show hosted by the winery. It was Bill’s birthday and we knew we were in for a treat the moment we walked onto the winery’s charming front porch with the beautiful autumn display by the door. If the porch was this inviting, the inside had to be captivating as well!
It was! We went through the door and right into the gift shop, filled with wine-themed gifts and pretty things inspired by the sea. There were also fine women’s accessories, boutique clothing and some gorgeous jewelry on display. Believe it or not, there was even a glass counter filled with all kinds of homemade fudge! It should be illegal to sell wine, fudge, cute things for the house and pretty clothes in the same store! What woman could resist the temptation to splurge on it all?
I especially liked the displays of Duplin wine inspired jellies and jams, barbecue sauces, muscadine salsas, relishes and dressings offered in the gift shop. The gourmet crackers, baked right there in the winery, were set out for sampling many of the tasty offerings. I felt like I was in a “Harry and David” gourmet store and I loved it!
After doing a bit of shopping, we met up with our hosts and friends. Eric, a Duplin Winery employee and his wife Luanne are close friends of ours from Bill’s high school days. They were at the beautiful bar where several patrons were engaged in a wine tasting. I watched as knowledgeable servers poured servings from an array of beautifully bottled reds, whites and blush wines, all the while telling funny stories and sharing a bit of the winery’s history. The whole vibe was fun and casual and we decided we’d have to come back for a proper tour of the winery to see how this delicious wine was made!
We could actually take a whole morning, tour the winery, have a wine tasting and then lunch at The Bistro, right there at the Duplin Winery in Rose Hill. This restaurant boasts of delicious local, North Carolina creative dishes mingled with the flavors of Duplin’s finest wines. It’s open for lunches from 11:00 – 3:00 p.m. They also do private affairs, such as birthday and anniversary parties – even family reunions. Eric told us that there was a beautiful wedding chapel on the property too. Couples can get married there or in the vineyards and the restaurant/winery can cater and host the festivities!
We were becoming more impressed with the winery as we watched a group come out of a wine tasting sitting. They were all in search of the wines they had preferred at the tasting. I noticed stacks of cases of wine lined against the wall and those in the group made a bee line towards their favorite choices. The cases of wine were disappearing fast! But, I’m sure there were plenty of cases in the warehouse to replace them!
It was time for our dinner show and we made our way to the large dining room. On the way, we walked out into a beautiful courtyard with a fountain. It was so lovely I could have spent my evening there, taking in the warm September night and the harvest moon that shone brightly overhead, but I knew we had a wonderful dinner and entertainment awaiting us.
We walked into a magical room, filled with beautifully laid tables and surrounded by thousands of twinkling lights. We sat at our table and a server took our drink order (wine of course was offered) and brought it out promptly. As we sipped our wine, lovely salads were brought to us, with dressings exotically flavored with Duplin wines. A lovely entree appeared directly before us as our salads were finished and taken away. I don’t know, or maybe I was just very hungry, but I think it was the best meal I had enjoyed in months! I ate everything on my plate, including the yeast roll! It was almost embarrassing! Bill ate everything on his plate too! It was THAT good!
Dessert was fabulous! They have an award winning dessert chef and we had a slice of her cheesecake drizzled in raspberry sauce. I think it had wine in it. As a matter of fact, I think wine was the secret ingredient in all the food that made it so magical! We were eating enchanted food and promised ourselves that we would come back another time if it meant we would get to eat the magic food at The Bistro, too!
The country music show was so much fun and professionally done as well! Wonderful singers along with great musicians (some of them Country Music Hall of Fame caliber) entertained us for at least an hour and a half. Top country hits from the 1950’s, ’60’s and 70’s tickled our ears and made us tap our feet. Some of the songs may have been sad, but everyone was smiling as we traveled down country music’s memory lane.
All too soon, the show was over. It was one of the most enjoyable nights that I had experienced in months. We were told that throughout the year there are other special events and shows, like Murder Mystery shows and The Country Christmas Show. Many of these dinner shows sell out fast, just as our country music show had sold out. I just looked up the dates for the Christmas Show. It’s offers several show times in November and December. By the way, the menu will be amazing – yes even magical!
You can find out everything you need to know about the Duplin Winery, the Bistro Restaurant and the fun dinner shows at https://www.duplinwinery.com/
The Fussell family and the staff would love to meet you! Come by and spend some time with them! It’s worth the drive over from Topsail!