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Road Trip: Rose Hill

This article originally appeared in Elite Magazine on August 28, 2013.

In the days B.D. (before Duplin), before it was home to the South’s largest winery, Rose Hill was first home to the world’s largest frying pan. Which means it’s possible to sample a glass of Hatteras Red, fried chicken from an extremely oversized skillet and a big helping of down-home flavor in the same small town.

No, this isn’t Napa.

Every visitor who walks into the rustic winery is greeted by the sound of a sweet Southern accent and an invitation to try the even sweeter Southern drink known as muscadine wine. You might even meet third-generation winemaker brothers Jonathan and Dave Fussell. Family lore has it that their father would try new batches on the family dog – what the cocker spaniel liked, David Fussell bottled. Now, Duplin is on track to sell about 370,000 cases of wine this year. Out of 100 North Carolina wineries, Duplin does more business than all of them combined. About 92,000 visitors come through each year, many of whom take the tour Duplin offers daily (except Sunday) of its bottling plant and rows of silver vats storing the liquid that will eventually be turned into 42 different sweet, and some dry, wines.

Off site, the Fussells are expanding the Duplin empire – which includes lucrative contracts with nutraceutical companies that use the muscadine grape’s skins and seeds – to open more wineries in bigger cities. The first stop will be Myrtle Beach.

But Duplin in Rose Hill will no doubt retain its homespun flavor. It’s well worth a day trip to take in a free tasting and tour and lunch at the Bistro, the winery’s restaurant. The Bistro offers sandwiches and salads, each with a suggested Duplin wine pairing, but regulars save room for a slice of Mama Ann’s Grape Hull Pie. Underneath the pie’s thick meringue is a filling made from muscadine skins. Nothing goes to waste at Duplin.

Murder-mystery and Christmas dinner shows are popular. Each course, salad to dessert, incorporates a different Duplin wine. The annual Our Main Squeeze Wine and Music Festival is free to military families. Check duplinwinery.com for specific dates and times.

Rose Hill is about a mile from Interstate 40, the east-west corridor for North Carolinians traveling from the Triangle to the coast, and an easy drive from Fayetteville on N.C. 24.

Quick facts

Population: 1,655

Stoplight count: 1

Charm factor: Request Ronnie as your Duplin Winery tour guide. Duplin’s self-proclaimed “level five consultant” is obviously a character.

Talk of the town: The Rose Hill Poultry Jubilee marks its 50th anniversary on Oct. 4-5. The highlight of the festival is seeing the world’s largest frying pan in action. It holds 200 gallons of cooking oil, uses 40 gas burners and fries 365 chickens at a time.

Good to know: It’s harvest time at Duplin, so September visitors might see the grape press in action as a steady stream of tractor-trailers brings loads of muscadines from farms all over the Carolinas.

Nearby notables: For folks headed to the Crystal Coast beaches near Jacksonville, Rose Hill is about halfway, a good stopping point for the long trek east.

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