May 17, 2022

Sailor Becomes St. Mary’s Wine Maker

Lester III, Amara, Lester IV, Xenia, and Erin Melanson, created Xella winery and vineyard, located near Leonardtown, MD. They started their business in 2016 but caught the wine bug as early as 2004. (Photo courtesy Xella wines)
By Kristine Wilcox, senior communications/multimedia specialist with AVIAN

A local sailor has turned his experience of seeing the world with the US Navy into a love for wine, and has become a wine maker as a result.

While traveling the globe with the Navy, Lt. Cmdr. Lester “Farva” Melanson III developed a love for the world’s best wine that turned into an exciting business endeavor.

Lt. Cmdr. Lester “Farva” Melanson III joined the Navy to see the world and in the process developed a love of wine and winemaking. He and his family created Xella winery and vineyard. They offer tastings and sell their wine each Saturday at Shepard’s Old Field Market in Leonardtown. (Photo courtesy Xella wines)

Melanson and his wife, Erin, established Xella winery and vineyard near Leonardtown in 2008. The name is an acronym of the first letter of the their names and their children’s — Xenia, Erin, Lester III, Lester IV, and Amara.

“Nothing could embody this endeavor more than including our whole family in the name,” Mr. Melanson said.

He works at NAS Patuxent River and first got the wine bug in 2004 when he went on his first military deployment.

“I had some department heads that were really into wine, so during port visits to places like Italy, Portugal, and Malta they introduced me to the wine world,” he said.

In 2008, he and his wife went to a “make your own wine” experience, and the hobby was born. Since then, they have traveled the world together tasting and learning about wine.

“Generally, we like real small mom-and-pop wineries where the winemaker is the one pouring the wine and you can really pick their brain about their business and operation,” Mr. Melanson said. “We have had great times everywhere from Vancouver Island, Canada to Paso Robles, California to Bordeaux, France talking to small producers. That being said, my two favorite places have been the Champagne region of France — Epernay and Reims — and Alsace.”

Lt. Cmdr. Melanson, who has a master’s in oenology (winemaking) and viticulture from UC Davis, California, said he and his wife have a phased approach for the business. Currently, they are producing 250-300 cases a year, sourced from Maryland, Virginia, California, and South America while their own vineyard in Leonardtown becomes established. They sell it at the Shepherd’s Old Field Market in Leonardtown on Saturdays as well as on their website and at several local establishments such as Leonardtown Cigars, Bru Beergarden, Board and Brush, and Social Coffeehouse/Speakeasy.

“While we are doing that, we are expanding our own vineyard; our oldest vines are three years old and it takes four to six years for vines to mature enough to make wine out of the fruit,” he explained. “We doubled the size of the vineyard this year and hope to continue to expand. We don’t have a tasting room on our property yet, but we have the building that we are starting to remodel, which will be the tasting room, and we built a new barn, which will be the future production facility.”

He said some day his family would love to run the winery full time.

“Our goal is to make the best wine we can with the best fruit available,” Lt. Cmdr. Melanson said. “Our philosophy is to work hard and play hard. Wine to us is a compilation of everything we love in life: history, art, science, and nature.”

Xella offers a mix of dry, semi-sweet, and dessert reds, white, and rosé wines. Check out their website or follow them on Facebook or IG @xellawine.


To learn more about Lexington Park, visit the St. Mary’s County Community Development Corporation’s Leader member page.

St. Mary’s County Community Development Corporation

46940 South Shangri-La Drive, Suite 7

Lexington Park, MD 20653


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