This article originally appeared in Star News Online.
by Judy Roy
“A wide sign hanging over the entrance to Duplin Winery speaks particularly to older visitors: “For health, for friends, for good food & wine, for the ability to stay young while growing old, we give thee thanks.” Another at Bill’s Bar, one of the tasting areas, reads: “God only made a few perfect heads. The rest he put hair on.”
It’s no wonder the 50+ crowd flocks to this Rose Hill attraction, just off exit 380 on I-40 about 50 miles north of Wilmington. The world’s largest muscadine winery, and the largest winery in the South, offers a tasty and educational way to spend a day when you’re looking for a quick getaway. And aside from a meal or any wine or gifts you want to take home, it won’t cost you a dime (unless of course you want to tip the tasting host or hostess).
The winery is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and twice per hour is one of the most popular reasons to visit: a free tasting of its wines and other beverage products, including Sweetzer mixes. A recent visit offered 16 samples ranging from the drier Carlos to the many fruity and sweet varieties such as Scuppernong Blush and Black River Red.
You’ll learn quite a bit as you go, too, and you can take notes and even devise your own scoring system on a card given to all participants. The tasting comes with crackers to nibble on in between sips, and you can add a cheese plate for $5.
Get a free, behind-the-scenes look at the processes that take grape to bottle during production tours, which begin at the top of the hour 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday (there is no noon tour on weekdays). The group meets at the main building at 505 N. Sycamore St., but then everyone gets in their cars to head over to the manufacturing facility about a half-mile away on Yellow Cut Road.
Begin at the crushing pad where the grapes start their journey and end with the labeling machine that marks 4,500 bottles per hour.
A word of warning: Most of this building has no climate control, so a mild fall day would be perfect for this tour.
Not only will you find about 42 varieties of wine in stock on any given day, many of them offered at special deals, but there are also gifts for wine lovers such as wine stoppers and red wine stain remover. Samples of food products such as salsas and sauces are also available, as are jewelry, shoes, shirts and books.
Open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, The Bistro Restaurant has a daily soup and entrée as well as appetizers, salads, sandwiches and made-from-scratch desserts, including Mama Ann’s Grape Hull Pie and Pig Pickin’ Cake. You may also buy wines by the glass or bottle, and there is a courtyard for al fresco dining.
From dinner theater performances to an oyster roast and a Thanksgiving feast, the fall offers a variety of special events that will enhance an ordinary visit to the winery. For a full schedule, visit www.duplinwinery.com.”