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Dirgham Salahi, Virginia winery owner and Montessori school founder, dies at 81

Dirgham Salahi, longtime owner of the Oasis Winery in Hume, with son Tareq and daughter-in-law Michaele at the winery in November 2007.
Dirgham Salahi, longtime owner of the Oasis Winery in Hume, with son Tareq and daughter-in-law Michaele at the winery in November 2007. (Oasis Winery)

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 10, 2010; 10:15 PM

Dirgham R. Salahi, 81, the founder the Montessori School of Alexandria and longtime owner of the Oasis Winery in Hume, died Oct. 6, his family said.

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His wife, Corinne, confirmed the death but declined to provide further details. The Washington Post reported last year that Mr. Salahi had dementia.

Mr. Salahi was drawn into the headlines recently after his son Tareq and daughter-in-law Michaele appeared at a White House state dinner in November even though the couple had not been included on a published guest list.

The incident dominated media coverage for weeks and was investigated as a major security breach by the Secret Service. Tareq and Michaele Salahi have been featured on this season's Bravo television series "The Real Housewives of D.C."

The gate-crashing affair at the White House led to unwanted publicity about the family's bitter entanglement over control of the Oasis Winery.

Founded in 1977 on an estate about 65 miles outside the District, the Oasis Winery sits on a picturesque 108 acres in Fauquier County's hunt country.

Dirgham Salahi, who had studied geology, examined the loamy earth around his estate and carefully selected a group of French hybrid varietals to grow on his farm.

From his harvest, Mr. Salahi made red and white wines, including a riesling, cabernet sauvignon and gewurztraminer. He also made a sparkling wine composed of a combination of chardonnay and pinot noir grapes.

At its peak, the winery shipped out 15,000 cases a year and grossed $1 million.

In the mid-1990s, Mr. Salahi brought Tareq into the business, giving him 5 percent interest in the company and the title of general manager. Within a few years, the vineyard began to hemorrhage money. In 2005, Oasis filed a loss of $277,498 on $833,525 in revenue.

In 2006, Dirgham Salahi and his wife, the former Corinne Brouhon, sued their son for $1.5 million in damages and reimbursements stemming from Tareq's business, Oasis Enterprises, which was an event-hosting and limousine service.

Tareq Salahi countersued his parents a few months later, arguing that his business had raised the winery's profile and helped "increase sales."


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