When I bring up the topic of wines from Texas, I invariably get a guffaw, a “they make wine in Texas?” or something along the lines of “it can’t be any good.” Pardon me, but I beg to differ. I spent my second harvest weekend at Messina Hof Winery in Bryan, Texas, and not only do they make wine in Texas, they make damn good wine. I met Paul V. Bonarrigo and his wife Merrill last year at the International Wine Tourism Conference in Perugia, Italy. I’ve come to learn that all great things begin with a vision, and Paul and Merrill’s vision was that they could make great wine in Bryan. His vision has blossomed to a winery producing 100,000 cases annually and the opening of a second location in Texas Hill Country. The winery’s name comes from the popularity of the miniseries “Roots.” Paul’s family hails from Messina, Italy and Merrill’s family roots are in Hof, Germany.
Last year I paid my first visit to the winery to take part in their annual harvest celebration and this year I was delighted to return for the 36th annual festivities. Winery owners would be well served by a visit to Messina Hof. They are the definition of genuine hospitality. Paul and Merrill, and their son Paul M. and his wife Karen treat each guest as if they’re a family member. Each participates fully during the three weekends of harvest celebrations, greeting their guests, walking them through the harvest process, helping them select clusters for the “Big Kahuna” contest and guiding them through the grape stomp. Each participant leaves with a t-shirt that has their grape stained footprints on it. Guests are then given a tour of the winery, lunch, featuring Treberwurst, sausage marinated in wine must, and a food and wine pairing in the afternoon led by Karen. Paul V. ha settled into his role as chairman and Paul M. is now CEO and oversees the winemaking.
The Villa at Messina Hof is available for those who choose to stay on premises. A Four Diamond AAA rated bed and breakfast, The Villa features antiques collected by the Bonarrigos during their travels and spacious rooms, each with a different theme. A hearty breakfast is served each morning. Lunch and dinner is available at Vintage House under the skilled guidance of Executive Chef Chris Shepley. The Wine Bar at Messina Hof celebrated a grand re-opening this past June and offers guests wine tastings as well as wines by the glass and a nice selection of cheese pairings.
As for the wines, you have plenty to choose from. Paul V. told me at last count they were producing 88 different wines. I tasted quite a few over the course of three days and particularly enjoyed the Pinot Grigio, Mama Rosa Rosé (made from the Lennoir grape), Cabernet Franc, Primitivo and Port, not fortified, but fermented to 18% alcohol. You will feel like you’re part of the family when you visit Messina Hof. I can’t wait to return!