Wine Professional Joshua Dunson Shares his Favorite Columbus Spots

The Cameron Mitchell staffer talks about his path into wine and beverage development.

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
Joshua Dunson at the Budd Dairy Food Hall

The wine world is a notoriously exclusive club, one not known for diversity and accessibility—though that’s starting to change. Oftentimes, the barrier to entry for people of color is simply a matter of having exposure to wine in the first place, says Joshua Dunson, a bartender and server at The Pearl Dublin who is working toward a career in wine and beverage development with Cameron Mitchell Restaurants. 

Dunson says he didn’t grow up around the rarefied world of wine—unless you count sweet moscatos like Arbor Mist. But he did have exposure to the Food Network, which stoked Dunson’s “innate curiosity” about food and set him on a path to The Culinary Institute of America (where his boss Cameron Mitchell went). 

“I come from southwest Georgia. That’s where I was raised, so it was a bit of a jump going to upstate New York for schooling, but it was one of the best decisions that I’d ever made,” says Dunson, a five-year employee with CMR. “It took some arm-wrenching to get my mom on board with sending her son to New York.” 

Dunson earned both associate’s and bachelor’s degrees at CIA, which is where he was exposed to the wonders of wine for the first time. He enjoyed it so much that he took CIA’s advanced wine concentration, which involves studying in Napa Valley for a semester. “I love nerding out about wine, but I also enjoy providing an experience for people who don’t necessarily have those experiences in life,” he says. 

Last year, Dunson had been studying for the level 2 certification exam with the Court of Master Sommeliers, the most well-known of the wine certification avenues, when the exams kept getting canceled because of the pandemic. Rather than wait, Dunson opted for an alternative: The Society of Wine Educators, through which he earned a Certified Specialist of Wine certification. Next up, Dunson plans to study for SWE’s Certified Wine Educator certification, an intensive exam that will test his ability to impart wine knowledge to others. 

We asked Dunson to share some of his favorite local haunts and recommended reads. 

First food memory: “Watching [my mother] cook one of our regular dinners of chicken adobo. Relatively simple but packed full of flavor.” 

Comfort food: “Back to my Southern roots of Georgia. My friends know me for my buttermilk biscuits and honey-butter fried chicken.” 

Go-to adult beverage: “My love triangle consists of wine, tequila and gin. I find I favor a Corpse Reviver No. 2 gin-based cocktail when I’m deep in wine studies to break up the pace.” 

Go-to bar: “Curio back in the day. Today, Veritas on Gay Street.” 

Spot for global cuisine: “My home and Tensuke Market. I enjoy cooking global cuisine dishes and blending those flavors in my down time with a good college friend. Tensuke Market has a wonderful selection for Japanese-inspired meals.” 

Hidden gem: Skillet. “It seats only a few tables, but this breakfast/brunch café has some of the best food I’ve experienced in this city. Exceptional flavors and execution. Their biscuits and cinnamon roll are must-have.” 

Recommended reading: “How to Love Wine: A Memoir and Manifesto” by Eric Asimov