THE BONARRIGO FAMILY BIOGRAPHY
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.
Sophia Marie, our first grandchild was born on May 29, 2010. She has her own award-winning wine – Sophia Marie Rose’.