When one thinks of Bryan/College Station, Texas, they might picture Texas A&M University and the very first Texas FREEBIRDS restaurant, known for stomach filling, delicious hand rolled burritos. Wine should also be part of that mental image however, as Messina Hof (Founded in 1983 by Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo) is a staple for high quality Texas wines.
Messina Hof has a broad portfolio of wines made from both Texas Appellation and out of state fruit and they specialize in non-Vitis vinifera grape varieties such as Lenoir. Papa Paulo Port was the first wine produced commercially at Messina Hof in 1983 and it was inspired by Paul’s family of winemakers from Messina, Sicily who produced Port-style wines.
An interesting fact about this Port-style wine is there are no spirits used to fortify the wine. A high alcohol tolerant yeast strain is used to achieve a very high level of alcohol, which results in a smooth finish. This wine is produced from 100% Lenoir (Black Spanish/Jacquez) from the 28 year old Messina Hof vineyard. This particular vineyard is sandy loam over clay soil. This bottling was named “Texas Champion” at the 2007 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition and after one sip, I can see why.
The bottle has tremendous heft, which in itself indicates a highly regarded vintage by the winemaker. This bottling is a Father/Son collaboration (Paul Bonarrigo VI and Paul Bonarrigo VII) and is a very limited release. A small amount of wax was placed over the top of the cork which offers a nice elegant touch. Normally I cringe at the sight of wax on a bottle of wine because as pretty as it looks, wax is usually not a Sommelier’s best friend due to the work needed to properly remove it. In this case, the small amount of wax was no issue as I simply pierced through the wax with my wine key and then into the top of the cork with no mess, and better yet, no derogatory words flying from my mouth.
In the glass this wine is black; I mean inky black with a deep concentration. Once swirled, the aromatics jump out into the nose and I immediately recognized that gorgeous oxidized raisin-like aroma that is such a pleasant part of drinking any style of Port or Madeira. This wine is black fruit driven with notes of licorice, dark chocolate, and a playful nuance of root beer. The palate confirms the nose with the addition of sweet candied cherries and raspberries.
- 2007 Paulo Port – Limited Edition of 2,520 bottles
- 100% Lenoir
- Appellation: Texas, Messina Hof Vineyard in Bryan, Texas
- Fermentation: 6 months in stainless steel
- Barrels: 24 months; 12 months each, new French and new American oak
- Sight: Inky black with a dark magenta rim, high extraction/concentration
- Nose: Plump raisins layered with black fruits, licorice, dark chocolate, and a root beer-like aroma
- Palate: Raisins, black fruits, licorice, dark chocolate, root beer, candied cherries, and raspberries
- Finish: Long
- Acids: Medium
- Tannins: Medium minus and round
- Alcohol: Very high
- 18.3% alcohol by volume
- pH: 3.65
- RS: 8%
All in all I consider this a very well made Port-style wine. It is intriguing that it is all wine and no brandy, but it adds an extra level of smoothness to the finish which might be very pleasing to those that aren’t fans of that well known heat that comes from Brandy. Although it is a 2007 vintage, this wine can still be purchased at the winery for $60.00 per bottle. Is it worth the price tag? That is up to the purchaser/consumer. If you are seeking a dessert wine with a high alcohol level and a very smooth finish, this bottle might be for you. If you are seeking a well-aged Port involving traditional fortification and that “Big Brandy” heat on the back of the palate, you might be better off purchasing a genuine Port from Portugal. This wine is great on its own or will pair very well with a cheese tray including big funky cheeses such as blue cheese, or with a nice oven-fresh warm brownie topped with vanilla ice cream.
Sip, savor, and enjoy my fellow aficionados.