By Ed Offley
After two years of construction, the Duplin Winery is open for business on its 70-acre site at 10101 Panama City Beach Parkway.
Located on the former grounds of the Hombre Golf Club, the 35,000-square-foot winery complex is presenting itself as both a significant PCB employer and a major family entertainment destination for tourists and residents alike, General Manager Morgan Jackson told PCB Life.
“We’re very much a family-oriented business,” Jackson said. “We wanted to find a place that fits our lifestyle and felt that we could make a positive impact here.” In searching for a new location, company officials were immediately attracted to the “coastal casual” atmosphere of Panama City Beach, she said.
“We are blessed and honored to welcome Florida into our Duplin Family,” said Jonathan Fussell, co-owner along with his brother, Dave Fussell Jr.
The winery specializes in sweet wines made from the muscadine grape. The company both grows its own grapes in North Carolina and buys grapes from over 60 grape farming families in five southern states. The company plans to plant an additional 100 acres of grapes in the Florida Panhandle.
Like its predecessors, the new PCB facility is far more than a bottling and retail sales outlet.
“Over these years, experience has helped us learn how to become more than just a winery. We’ve learned how to create a true entertainment destination,” Jonathan Fussell said. “It’s a place where people enjoy hanging out, can be comfortable bringing friends and family, and come to love the whole Duplin way of life,”
After a soft launch in May, the winery is now open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Guided wine tastings, costing $15 per person, are offered from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Visitors can tour the site, watch the bottling process, and even take a turn filling a bottle themselves, Jonathan Fussell said. There are five tasting bars where visitors can sample not only the wide selection of wines, but non-alcoholic beverages, and specialty snacks such as Duplin Gourmet Muscadine Pineapple Habenero Cheese Dip.
A 13,000-square-foot waterfront pavilion at the winery is available for visitors, including group events such as weddings and reunions.
A formal grand opening ceremony scheduled for August 19 sold out within days of the announced ticket sales, Jackson said.
Founded in the 1970s at Rose Hill in Duplin County, N.C. by D.J. Fussell, Sr., the family business expanded in recent years with a second winery complex that opened at Myrtle Beach, S.C., in 2015. The $20-million facility on Panama City Beach Parkway is the largest of the three.
Duplin Winery is currently ranked as the largest winery in the South and thirty-sixth nationwide, with a tank capacity of 2.1 million gallons.
Currently, there are 50 employees working at the PCB facility. That figure is projected to grow to a permanent workforce of 150 in the next few years, Jackson said.