John Todhunter-Man of Many, Many Talents!
By Bob Tagert
John Todhunter-Man of Many, Many Talents!
Over the years, most of the personalities we have written about were folks referred to us or people we met around town. John Todhunter does not fit that mold as we have known him and his wife Holli for many years. It was fun to find out just how diverse this guy is.
“After I got my degree at UC of Santa Barbara I went to work as a research fellow at the Institute of Molecular Biology. From there, a few years later, I came to Washington and took a faculty position at Catholic University and was chair of the bio-chemistry program,” he tells me. While at the university he did consulting for
pharmaceutical development as well as receiving an NIH grant. “You know, you
can’t live on a professor’s salary,” he tells me with a grin. From there Todhunter was appointed by President Reagan taking a position at EPA and handled all of the programs in the US for toxics, chemicals and pesticides. This position required Senate confirmation which, by the way, went smoothly-something unusual these days. While at the EPA he built relationships with pharmaceutical companies that were developing drugs and other products. After three years, Todhunter left EPA and started his own company.
When he was with EPA, and since he ran the whole pesticide programs, he had to go out and meet with agriculture groups all the time and also developed a relationship with the Department of Agriculture. “I got to know some of the folks in the Department of Ag and I admired them – they had tough jobs.” At this time Todhunter had been doing this chemical thing for so long, he had an epiphany… “Agriculture is the basis for civilization, I thought…I really need to do something in agriculture.” He realized he couldn’t grow pot and soy beans required too much land to make a profit so he thought…grapes. “I could grow grapes and make wine! This produced a value addition to the crop.”
In January of 2002, the Todhunter’s closed on a piece of land in Delaplane, Virginia, planted their first vines in May of that year and Three Fox Vineyards was born. As with anything with Todhunter, he jumped in head first and became the wine maker, after all, he had a head start on the bio-chemistry of grapes. Wife Holli was the “boss” of the tasting room as well as the vineyard manager – even taking her shift mowing the vineyards. This is when we first met the Todhunter’s and we became good friends from the beginning. It did create a problem though, when we delivered the Old Town Crier to the winery Holli would always bring out a nice bottle of their wine and we would spend the next hour in good conversation. Not a bad problem to have.
While growing the winery, Todhunter wore two hats, he ran the winery and still consulted with pharmaceutical companies to keep the cash flow intact. In 2020, they sold the winery and moved to Old Town Alexandria. It was here that he set up his office and resumed full time consulting.
As he settled into his new home in Old Town, he reconnected with a group that he had been involved with in 1990. The team had developed sinus and nasal care products and an antiseptic nasal spray called SinoFresh. In the mid-90’s they sold a lot of the product mostly in the Florida coastal area. At that time they only sold single personal items.
Over time the company had some problems and the future didn’t look too bright. Todhunter and a few others put a rescue plan together and bought the company. “They had a wonderful product that helped folks with their sinus problems”, he said. The new company they formed is called “ZapVir”, with the Vir representing Virus.
In addition to the individual products, the company has just launched their new travel kit containing the antiseptic nasal Spray, throat Spray, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes. “The beauty of our products is that it gets your own body to fight off the germs rather than being a drug”, he explains.
The Travel Kit was launched in July and they are actively marketing the product now. (Check out their ad in this issue). Their market share of the single products had waned in the past few years, but the new company is actively looking to re-establish their market share and gain shelf space in local pharmacies and major stores. “Hopefully we can find a small independent pharmacy in Alexandria where we can offer our products and establish a profitable relationship”, he continues.
It was at the winery that we learned of John’s other talents. On weekends he would break out his guitar or piano and entertain his guests with song. He told me he started his musical career at 7 years old when he took violin lessons. “I could not get a sweet sound out of that instrument…it always sounded like a cat being strangled,” he says. From there he played accordion for eight or nine years before he moved to the piano and guitar. He actually got pretty good at it as he formed a couple of bands along the way. He performed in a soul band and a jazz quartet and even got a deal to produce a demo for Capital Records. He put these talents to good use on weekends as he entertained guests at the winery.
Another creative talent that Todhunter has is being a murder mystery writer. “I wrote short murder mysteries that restaurants could use for Murder Mystery Night if they would carry our wine,” he tells me. So…if you are in the market for an original Murder Mystery script, John might just be your go-to guy and you can serve the wine of your choice.
John took up the sport of fencing several years ago and was using it as an outlet for some exercise until recently getting back into fencing competitively. John Todhunter is truly a talented man who has run the gamut from the corporate world, to independent actualization, to learning the arts, creating a successful winery and going full circle by returning to where he began.
Over the years, I have observed that he is most happy when he was measuring the brix of his grapes, entertaining folks, especially when he is playing the piano and singing with friends. However, when he really gets a gleam in his eye is when he is on to a new adventure…especially when it helps his fellow man.
And last, but certainly not least, is the fact that he is a fantastic cook and shakes up a mean martini!
Oh, wait…he is also a Civil Celebrant…you need someone to help you tie the knot???