By Cindy Rinker In October, Virginia Tourism celebrates wine month and it is hard to throw a wineglass in Shenandoah County without hitting a vineyard. Our typical weather, rich soil and rocky limestone underground makes this part of Virginia a haven for those looking to squeeze the loveliness of the Valley and put it in a bottle. Wendy and Ed DeMello own Third Hill Winery and DeMello Vineyards in Quicksburg on Va. 42. It is a lovely drive to the winery which sits atop a small hill and has stunning views from its wrap around porches. On a sunny, blue sky day, you can clearly see local farms and houses and the Alleghany Mountains cradling the Valley in the background. They come from California. What? From the most perfect place to create wine to Virginia? “It is incredibly expensive out there,” Wendy said. “You can’t imagine how expensive.” There was a seed planted in Wendy’s mind that she would like to return to Virginia someday. She was born in Washington, D.C., and lived there until she was 2 when her family migrated across the country to California. She would come back in the summer time to visit relatives on the East Coast and always enjoyed her visits “home.” She convinced her husband Ed to move East when they retired and they settled in the Shenandoah Valley. They did not come here to start a winery, after having their soil tested by Virginia Tech in 2007 to determine if they could grow grapes for their personal use, they planted three acres of grapes. “We had no knowledge of viticulture,” Wendy said. “We had no plans to become a vineyard or winery.” Their experience with grapes was hard work. Planting, trimming, harvesting – they did most things themselves. “It is our second life,” Wendy said. “That’s what I like to call it.” They built on their success and added more acres and decided that they would sell their wine. Ed designed and built the lodge where the tasting room is located with many locally sourced materials. Reclaimed wood gives the lodge a very authentic and beautiful look. It is also full of pieces that were bought at local sales and from local farms. Ed provided the manpower and architectural work and Wendy designed the interior. Their personal partnership is evidenced by a lovely atmosphere. The couple has been married for 43 years and while they had different careers before retirement, they have found a real rhythm in this “second life.” “We work well together,” Wendy said with a smile. In 2015, they were ready to open the lodge and sell their product – fruity white and red wines. They will celebrate Third Hill’s fourth anniversary on Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving. In recent years they have added some hybrids which Ed said he really likes. Very different from the dry wines of his native California. A favorite wine is a Petite Pearl which is created Bordeaux style with low tannin. So much depends on Mother Nature. “We had a really good year this year,” Wendy said, adding that they were finished harvesting in September which is several weeks ahead of when they normally pick the grapes. Early rain was good, but the summer dried out and the grapes just flourished, she said. “The heat really helped.” Third Hill is an unusual name for the non-locals, but Quicksburg residents know Third Hill as a rise which was once used by signal corps during the Civil War and continues to carry that name in the local lexicon. “You can see for miles and miles from Third Hill,” Wendy noted. The winery frequently has local musicians playing in the evenings for people to enjoy as they drink the wine. Two large wrap-around porches compliment the interior seating and there is a pavilion on the lawn which the musicians use to perform. Many people bring picnics to eat as they enjoy their wine and the local musicians. “We have so many talented musicians in the area,” Wendy said. “We feel very lucky.” Though they are not really advertised as an “event” location there have been small weddings, anniversaries and birthday parties at the winery. The events are catered since the winery only offers a variety of cheeses to sample with the wine. They belong to a network of vineyards and are part of the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail which includes the many local vineyards in Shenandoah County. The area has quite a reputation for fine wine and natural beauty. Its place in history also makes the trail interesting as there are Civil War sites and battlefields as wells as Revolutionary War history. If you want to find out more about Third Hill Winery and De Mello Vineyards, check out their website You will not be disappointed by planning a trip to this lovely place!
Cindy Earehart Rinker is a writer and storyteller with Write Words of Shenandoah County.