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The Delta in the Rearview Mirror - The Life and Death of Mississippi's First Winery

The Delta in the Rearview Mirror

The Life and Death of Mississippi's First Winery

By Di Rushing
Hardcover : 9781496849298, 208 pages, January 2024

Table of contents

Prologue: Any Given Day
Chapter 1: Living the Dream
Chapter 2: An Otherwise Lovely Spring Morning
Chapter 3: A Nice Place to Visit
Chapter 4: Mississippi Mud
Chapter 5: What Passes for Inspection
Chapter 6: A Brush of Conscience
Chapter 7: A Precarious Solidarity
Chapter 8: Business 101: How to Work at a Real Job
Chapter 9: Life in the Country
Chapter 10: Creating Our Own Reality
Chapter 11: And the Winner Is . . .
Chapter 12: Mississippi Delta Estate Bottled
Chapter 13: Hearts Are Broken
Chapter 14: And Just How High Is That?
Chapter 15: Waiting for the Other Shoe
Chapter 16: Just Tryin’ to Pay the Bills, Ma’am
Chapter 17: Living by the Sword
Chapter 18: House Specialties
Chapter 19: Trial and Error
Chapter 20: When Memory Refuses to Serve
Chapter 21: Time to Go
Chapter 22: Standing on the Corner of Right and Wrong
Chapter 23: Long List of Last Times
Chapter 24: An Offer We Could Refuse
Chapter 25: Di Has a Violent Streak
Chapter 26: There’s No Place Like Home
Chapter 27: Bloom Where You Are Planted
Chapter 28: The Joy of No Joy

A firsthand account of the splendid rise and frightening fall of Mississippi’s first winery


After graduating from Mississippi State University in 1976, Di Rushing and her husband, Sam, found themselves back on their family farm near Merigold, Mississippi, with 350 acres and no real clue what to do. The couple decided to open the first winery in Mississippi, and with it, a successful business was born. Six years later, a small restaurant joined the Delta winery. Both businesses were thriving by 1990, with eight national award-winning wines, a beautiful vineyard, and a successful restaurant.

But in March of 1990, a series of unforeseen events rocked the operation. After the Rushings discovered one of the tour guides, Ray Russell, selling drugs in the winery parking lot, they fired him. He responded with a terrorizing vengeance that persisted over the next nine months. In the early morning hours, the former guide broke into the winery, crept into the wine cellar, and released the entire inventory—nearly a quarter of a million dollars’ worth—down the drain. Fortunately, his incompetence thwarted his most destructive intention to blow up the restaurant. In his rampage, he broke all the windows, which allowed the gas from the kitchen oven to escape, sparing the premises. Though the Rushings rebuilt with the help of their community, Russell continued to stalk and threaten the young family. As his menacing behavior continued to escalate, the Rushings closed their business of fourteen years and moved to Ouray, Colorado, where they began rebuilding their lives. Culminating in the sudden, violent murders of Russell, his wife, and his father twenty-five years later, this book tells a story of both shock and resilience, charting Mississippi history in the process.

Intertwined with the true crime narrative, The Delta in the Rearview Mirror: The Life and Death of Mississippi’s First Winery details author Di Rushing’s life in and out of Mississippi, including growing up in 1960s Greenville, attending university, traveling overseas, and the relationships she cultivated along the way.


"In her forthright telling of the rise and heartbreaking end of the Rushing family’s iconic winery and restaurant, Di Rushing gives us far more. Her story turns out to be an unblinking account of the Delta itself with all of its facets. Her family’s experience packs the Delta’s full history, which features not only the region’s agricultural fertility, creative imagination, and green vistas, but a tragic side as well. She writes about race and class and presents a chilling example of how resentment and violence can be handed down in one family with the ease that hope threads through another."

- Ellen Ann Fentress, author of The Steps We Take: A Memoir of Southern Reckoning

"Mississippi isn’t perfect, and its problems manifest themselves in terrible ways every day, but the good people and natural beauty of the state are often what people remember. Despite the horrors that Rushing and her family experienced, she still remembers Mississippi fondly; her book is a love letter to the goodness here."

- Alex Brower, Mississippi Books Page