In 2009, when Marvin Dunson, owner of Currahee Vineyard and Winery, located near Currahee Mountain in Toccoa, planted his first muscadine grapes, he could not have known where his efforts would take him. It wasn’t long before the grapevines that he and his children,
Trey, Ashley and Ben, set in the ground began bearing fruit. From that fruit a variety of popular wines was created, and along with the wines came success and notoriety.
“We started out as a small family business, but with the help of friends and the support of the community, we began to grow. At first most of our business was word-of-mouth, but now we are also known through our exposure in advertising and on social media,” says Dunson.
As awareness of the winery grew, so did the demand for its wines. Not only are the wines found in regional retail outlets, such as Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge and the Cottage Vineyard & Winery in Cleveland, they are also available directly to customers in 35 states through Currahee’s distributor, VinoShipper.
At one time Currahee Vineyard & Winery was known mostly for its sweet and semisweet wines. But that has changed. Today the winery is also offering semi-dry wines, such as their pinot grigio and Currahee Red, which are made with Black Spanish hybrid grapes. Drier vintages include both their traminette and a blended red wine they call “Destiny.” Dunson is quick to point out that much of the vineyard’s success is directly attributable to their wine consultant, Joe Smith, owner and winemaker at Serenity Cellars in Cleveland. “Joe is one of the reasons we have had such exceptional and award-winning wines for almost a decade,” says Dunson. “Joe has truly been instrumental in helping us become who we are today.”
When it comes to the actual winemaking, Chris Hansel and Dunson’s son, Ben, assist Smith in the physical process. Ben and Chris are also responsible for operating a mobile bottling service that Currahee Vineyard provides to area vintners. Ben and Chris bottle not only for Currahee but for 14 other wineries as well. Using specialized equipment, they process between 1,800 and 2,000 bottles per hour.
When the winery is open for wine tasting, Dunson’s wife, Joan, along with Danny Carter, serves guests. Joan is also responsible for coordinating special events at the winery, such as parties and wedding celebrations. In addition, the tasting room provides live music from local artists every Sunday afternoon.
After purchasing 14 acres adjacent to their existing property, Currahee’s next big project is the construction of a 10,000-square-foot winery facility. Dunson hopes to have construction of the winery building underway before the first of the year. “None of this would be possible without the ongoing loyalty of our customers. Without them we would not be in a position to even consider this degree of expansion,” says Dunson.
With all of the awards and distinctions that Currahee Vineyard has garnered over the years, there was one honor Dunson never expected. In 2018 he was contacted by the U.S. Navy to participate in a commemorative service for Medal of Honor recipient Michael A. Monsoor. For this event the Navy requested that Dunson create a sparkling wine to be used in a ceremony for the commissioning of the USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001), a Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer.
Currahee Vineyard wines came to the attention of the military when they were served at a reunion of the 506 Parachute Infantry Regiment. This regiment, still known as the “Currahees,” first trained on Currahee Mountain between 1942 and 1944 at the U.S. Parachute Infantry Training Center in Toccoa before being shipped overseas during World War II. The word “currahee” is derived from a word in the Cherokee language that means “stand alone.” That name would become poignantly appropriate for Navy SEAL Michael A. Monsoor as he “stood alone,” throwing himself on a live grenade to save his brothers-in-arms while they were assisting the Red Currahee army unit in Ramadi, Iraq. Additional details about Monsoor’s heroic sacrifice may be found on the Currahee Vineyard website at www.curraheevineyards.com.
Honored to participate in the Navy’s ceremony, Currahee Vineyard provided 100 cases of sparkling wine for the occasion. In January of 2019, Dunson, along with his family, traveled to San Diego to attend the commissioning ceremony. Because of their participation, he and his family became honorary members of the crew and were designated as members of the “Order of the Plank,” entitling them to a symbolic plank of the ship, which Dunson displays in his office. “I’m proud to have been a part of that ceremony,” says Dunson. “It was one of the most memorable moments of my life.”
3301 W Currahee St.