Tourism

Duplin Winery preparing for late spring opening in North Myrtle Beach

Wine drinkers are probably used to emptying bottles of Duplin Wine.

But this spring, they’ll get the chance to watch them being filled as the North Carolina-based winery expands outside the Tar Heel state for the first time with a bottling operation and wine tasting attraction in North Myrtle Beach.

“So the people can smell the wine, see the bottles moving, hear them clanking,” said Jonathan Fussell, president of Duplin Wine Family who has moved to North Myrtle Beach to open and operate the attraction.

The 15,000-square-foot wine hub, under construction off U.S. 17 at Barefoot Landing beside Alligator Adventure, will give drinkers the chance to see the bottling operation — one of the most popular features at the family’s sprawling winery in Rose Hill, N.C. — then sample some of the brand’s 42 labels at three tasting bars, mingle and snack on some of Duplin’s other products such as cheese dips and fudge.

Customers also will be able buy some of the wines or other products such as the company’s sweetzers that are added to bottles of wine, or hang out on the outdoor deck for live music.

“It’s meant to be more of a social experience,” Fussell said.

A small version of the Hatteras lighthouse, which is part of the Duplin wine logo, towers in the building as customers walk in. “We are hoping it will be a picture place,” Fussell said.

The $5 million attraction, which aims to open in late April or May, will be the largest addition this summer in the growing offerings in the North Myrtle Beach area, which debuted a sports complex last year and the Coastal North Town Center in the fall.

Though Duplin Winery is new to the area, wine attractions aren’t. Carolina Vineyards Winery has a store at Barefoot Landing (Duplin Winery, though right at Barefoot Landing isn’t part of the complex); Silver Coast Winery operates in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., and La Belle Amie Vineyard has been a popular attraction in Little River.

La Belle Amie owner Vicki Weigle said she doesn’t see Duplin as competition moving in, but another option for wine drinkers who tend to check out several brands, not just one. Just think of places such as Napa Valley in California where wineries feed off each other and help raise the profile of the overall industry, she said.

“Hopefully this will create some awareness,” Weigle said. “In the wine industry, it’s the more the merrier.”

Think of the new Duplin venue in North Myrtle Beach as a scaled-down version of the 90,000-square-foot production facility in North Carolina, which also boasts 1,600 acres of grapes, a restaurant, wedding chapel and spot for hosting 38 events each year, including an annual grape stomp — a tradition that will also occur in North Myrtle Beach in September. The Rose Hill operation produces 1.6 million gallons of wine a year.

“We wanted to take the very best aspects of Rose Hill and bring it here,” Fussell said.

This is the first expansion beyond Rose Hill for the family-owned company, which has experienced booming growth since the late 1990s when highly reported studies showed muscadine wines — the kind Duplin makes — has antioxidants that could have some health benefits.

Sales skyrocketed. Duplin’s sales jumped from 20,000 cases a year in 1996 to 365,000 cases in 2014, Fussell said, and visits to the winery jumped from 1,000 people a year to 100,000.

The wine bottled in North Myrtle Beach will be made in Rose Hill and trucked 108 miles here.

Duplin is sold in 13 states; it arrived in South Carolina in 2001. Drinkers can find it in a number of stores including Publix and Bi-Lo, with Wal-Mart being the biggest retailer.

An expansion into North Myrtle Beach had been part of the family’s vision for the company for years, but it took some time to find the right spot.

“Myrtle Beach just seemed like the right fit,” Fussell said. “We decided this is the place we wanted to call home.”

With Duplin luring about 90,000 into the tiny town of Rose Hill, it’s likely to be a hit along the Grand Strand, said Marc Jordan, president of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce.

“You got to want to go [there in Rose Hill]. If they can get 90,000 people to leave the interstate and go over there … I think it is going to be huge [in North Myrtle Beach],” Jordan said.

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