Page 55 - Oct2017

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1977 was a big year for a certain young couple—they decided
not only to get married but also to plant a one-acre experimental
vineyard and open the fourth winery in their home state. Paul
Vincent Bonarrigo had come from the Bronx to practice physical
therapy in Aggieland, while Merrill was born and raised in Bryan,
Texas. Together, they would fulfill a seemingly unlikely dream.
Although Paul had come from a long line of winemakers, the idea
to become one in Texas actually
evolved from conversations with
one of his patients, a graduate
student at Texas A&M who was
studying the feasibility of a wine
industry in the Lone Star State.
Paul had already purchased some
land in Bryan, and the decision
was made to plant Messina Hof’s
first vineyard on one-acre with
fifty different grape varieties to
see what would perform best.
In 1981, Paul and Merrill
produced their first Messina Hof
wines from Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Lenoir grapes,
and they won their first award as well, for their Cabernet and
Lenoir blend at the Texas State Fair. They decided to expand the
vineyard to eight acres the following year.
The couple saw continued growth through the
1980s including that of their family with the birth of
their son, Paul Mitchell Bonarrigo. Their wine was in
distribution and was even being sold internationally.
In 1990, Messina Hof became the first Texas winery
to receive a score of 90 from Wine Spectator for their
Angel Riesling. Paul became President of the Texas
Wine and Grape Growers Association the following
year and eventually served three terms. The rest of
the decade saw great expansion on the hospitality
side of the winery with a new guest center, restaurant
and cooking school, along with a bed and breakfast to
accommodate overnight guests.
The new millennium brought new prestige when the
wines were served at the Presidential Inauguration in
2001. More visitors meant a remodel was needed, and
the Guest Center was changed in 2006 to include not
only a wine shop and tasting area but also a full wine
bar with a lakeside room with a view. Messina Hof
would also host their first wedding that year outside
at the gazebo by the Waterfall Garden for their now
grown son, Paul Mitchell and his new bride, Karen.
In 2010, son Paul Mitchell left the United States
Marine Corp, where he was serving as an officer,
to become involved again in the family business.
by Sandra Crittenden
40 Years
of Romance,
Family, and
Tradition at
Messina Hof
OCTOBER 2017 |