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