The Texas wine industry was born in 1560, when Spaniards brought vines from Europe and planted them at Texas missions, in hopes that the vines would prosper. In the late 1800s, Texan T.V. Munson believed that Texas rootstock could save a troubled French viticulture industry. Introduction of Texas rootstock did, in fact, save the French industry at that time. In the 1970s, a group of agricultural pioneers believed that quality wine grapes could grow in Texas.
Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo were part of the early Texas agricultural group that pioneered the Texas wine industry into what it is today. Paul grew up in the Bronx, New York, and he was the first of his family to get a college education. He graduated from Columbia University in 1968. Merrill was born and raised in Bryan, Texas, and she graduated with one of the first classes of women at Texas A&M University in 1975.
In 1977, Paul and Merrill married and settled into a home in Bryan, Texas. During that same year, they watched the television mini-series “Roots,” which inspired them to learn about their family heritages. Paul’s family came to America from Messina, Sicily, and Merrill’s family emigrated from Hof, Germany. Later that year they began planting their first vineyard. They named their vineyard Messina Hof, after their family roots, and incorporated traditions from each family into the wine, food, and hospitality of Messina Hof Winery and Resort.
Paul’s family in Sicily has been making wine since the 1800s. The Bonarrigo tradition of winemaking was reborn in the United States when Paul Bonarrigo (also known as Paul VI) started creating Messina Hof wines in Texas. Messina Hof is now the most awarded Texas wine in national and international competitions.
Merrill skillfully develops consumer-friendly programs for food and wine pairing at Messina Hof. She is the author of a number of cookbooks, and her latest book Vineyard Cuisine, co-authored with Paul, chronicles 30 years of wine and food in the Texas wine industry.
Paul and Merrill have one son named Paul (also known as Paul VII), and he has grown up working in the vineyard and studying his father’s winemaking. In 2006, Paul VII and his wife Karen married at Messina Hof Winery and Resort on a beautiful March afternoon under the gazebo in the vineyard. Paul and Karen met while Paul was attending the United States Naval Academy and Karen was studying at The George Washington University. After commissioning from the Academy, Paul VII served in the United States Marine Corps for five years. Today Paul and Karen work side by side at Messina Hof continuing the legacy and creating their own new frontiers.
Paul VII currently oversees operational duties at Messina Hof Winery and Resort, while also participating in the winemaking process, creating Father and Son Cuvees with Paul VI. Karen focuses on Human Resources and general administration of the winery.
Messina Hof is home to the Vineyard Cuisine style of cooking. Created by Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo, authors of Vineyard Cuisine: Meals and Memories from Messina Hof, it consists of the use of wine in all of our sauces and marinades. We also use fresh herbs and vegetables grown seasonally in our own estate garden.
Messina Hof is home to the Vintage House Restaurant, Villa Bed & Breakfast, Winemaster’s Wine Bar, and Vineyard Cuisine style of cooking. Created by Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo, authors of Vineyard Cuisine: Meals and Memories from Messina Hof, it consists of the use of wine in all of our sauces and marinades. We also use fresh herbs and vegetables grown seasonally in our own estate garden.
In 1983, Messina Hof’s first year of developing commercial wines, Paul and Merrill produced 1,300 gallons. Our Papa Paulo Port, still one of our most popular wines, was the first wine made at Messina Hof. All of the grapes grown here on the 100-acre estate are the popular Port varietal Black Spanish or Lenoir. This year, Messina Hof will produce 265,000 gallons of wine and more than 18 varietals. Texas is the fifth largest wine producing state in the U.S. Messina Hof controls 25% of all grapevines planted in Texas, and is the largest grape grower in the High Plains region where we yield grapes from 500 acres. Messina Hof is the second largest tourist attraction in Brazos County and brings in more than 250,000 visitors per year.
• Featured as the Official Winery & Resort at the 2007, 2008 and 2009 Texas Bowl
• Messina Hof wine tasting at the Harriet Lembeck Wine & Spirits Program in New York
• Paul Bonarrigo as three term Chairman of the Texas Wine Development Council
• Successful Go Texan Restaurant Round Up Program
• Messina Hof is the first and only Texas winery to have a proprietary bottle
• Messina Hof goes green; Heatlock Soy application sprayed on all the outside tanks – saves energy. Installation of a cardboard bailer to enhance “green” program. New chiller to cool all tanks and cut energy use by 50%.
• Four time winner Texas Best Winery at the Texas Livestock Show and Rodeo
• Featured in the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau lobby displays
• TDA Go Texan Grant awarded for our Bounty From Our Own Backyard program
• Nolan Ryan signs on for celebrity tie-in with Messina Hof for 2009
• Wine Roads of Texas aired all year
• "Best of Herd" Winery - San Antonio Rodeo International Wine Competition
• Awarded Best of Show at the San Antonio International Wine Competition in 2008 and 2009
• The Wine Spectator gave Messina Hof’s Late Harvest Riesling, “Angel,” the highest rating ever given a Texas wine and described our Muscat Canelli as “brilliant.”
• Bon Appétit named Messina Hof as “One of the USA’s Finest Winery Experiences.” • Messina Hof Winery & Resort voted “Most Romantic Place in the Brazos Valley” by the Best of the Brazos Valley.
• The Fort Worth Star Telegram named Messina Hof “the Winery of the Decade” and acknowledged Messina Hof’s winning of the blind taste Grand Cru competition in Bordeaux, France.
• Voted by the Houston Chronicle as “The Best Day Trip”
• The Wall Street Journal said, “Texas is the fastest growing wine producing region in the country and the leader is Messina Hof Wine Cellars in Bryan, Texas.”
Messina Hof wines can be found in fine wine shops, grocery chains and in many dining establishments across the state of Texas, Louisiana, Colorado, Nevada, Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Carolina.
THE VINTAGE HOUSE RESTAURANT
• Voted “One of the Three Best Restaurants in Texas”
• Voted “Dining worth the Drive” by Texas Co-op Magazine readers.
• Features vineyard cuisine with fresh-from-the-garden ingredients and food prepared with Messina Hof’s award-winning wines.
• Recognized by Sante' Magazine for our high standards of quality in Fine Dining and Wine Hospitality.
• 1st to receive the Chain de Rotisseur in the Brazos Valley
THE VILLA BED AND BREAKFAST
• Recognized as “The Most Romantic Bed & Breakfast in the USA.”
• Dallas Morning News named The Villa as “One of the Finest Bed & Breakfasts in the USA.”
• Selected Top 10 Central Texas Bed & Breakfast by Resortsandlodges.com
• Recognized as “Best Bed and Breakfast” by Bryan/College Station Eagle – Newspaper Readers’ Choice Awards
• Ten, romantically-themed rooms, furnished with European antiques. Amenities include: live-in innkeeper, fresh flowers, European Champagne breakfast, coffee makers, daily newspaper, terry cloth robes, and other luxurious feature.
• Featured in the Wine Enthusiast July 2010
THE WINEMASTER’S WINE BAR
• Voted “Best Wine By the Glass” by the Best of the Brazos Valley
• Favorite Sunset Tour destination
• Home of the Port Mudslide and the Ivory Mojito