Elizabeth Musgrave Merrill Furness, 87, who is credited with establishing the commercial wine industry in Virginia and whose vineyards produced more than 70,000 bottles of wine in 1985, died of congestive heart failure Feb. 27 at her home in Middleburg.
In 1973, Mrs. Furness began her career as a vintner by planting 3,000 French grape vines at Waverly, her 500-acre estate in Fauquier County. Her wine company, Piedmont Vineyards, now produces about 10,000 gallons of wine a year. In 1983, wine critic James Conaway wrote in The Washington Post that Piedmont's twice-fermented experimental chardonnay was "soft and slightly spritzy."
Mrs. Furness was born in Duluth, Minn. She grew up in Europe. In the 1930s, she appeared with the chicago Symphony as a mezzo soprano. She moved to the Washington area in 1943 and settled in Middleburg, where she became widely known in society and as a horsewoman.
She was a member of the Orange County Hunt and the Piedmont Environmental Council. She also had been a member of the Sulgrave and the 1925 F Street clubs in Washington.
Her first husband, William Coit Hubbard, died in 1970. Her second husband, Thomas Foster Furness, died in 1976. Survivors include two daughters by her first marriage, Mrs. George M. Ewing of Canandaigua, N.Y., and Mrs. William E. Worrall of Middleburg; five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.