Paul Vincent and Merrill Bonarrigo never imagined being pioneers in a growing Texas wine industry that is now the fifth largest grape producing state. A Texas A&M graduate student studying grape feasibility in Texas convinced Paul and Merrill to plant Messina Hof’s first vineyard in Bryan, Texas. The one acre experimental vineyard consisted of fifty grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, and Lenoir. The first few years were spent dedicating themselves to the vineyard while learning winemaking. In 1981, Messina Hof won their first medal at the Texas State Fair for a Black Spanish-Cabernet blend. This was just the start of the thousands of awards the winery would earn in later years.
In the 1980s, the Bonarrigos welcomed their son Paul Mitchell Bonarrigo, who later in 2012 would become the Chief Executive Officer of Messina Hof. Two more vineyards were planted in Bryan that allowed Paul and Merrill to produce 1,300 gallons of wine in 1983, enough to release Messina Hof’s first commercial vintage including Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Papa Paulo Port.
In 1987, Messina Hof entered Texas distribution and in 1989 they expanded into Japan. Other milestones occurred in the following years. In 1990, Angel Late Harvest Riesling became the first Texas wine to score a 90 in Wine Spectator. In 2013, Messina Hof became the first Texas winery to win Top All-Around Winery at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
After serving five years as a United States Marine Corps Officer, Paul Mitchell and his wife Karen returned home to Bryan in 2010. As a family, the Bonarrigos successfully opened Messina Hof Hill Country in 2011. When Messina Hof was officially passed down to the next generation in 2012, besides Paul Mitchell becoming CEO, Karen Bonarrigo became the Director of Administration. Paul Mitchell and Karen opened Messina Hof Grapevine Winery in 2014.
Today after 40 years, the two generations of Bonarrigos work side-by-side as Messina Hof has expanded to produce 130,000 gallons of wine per year.
To celebrate the 40th anniversary, Messina Hof has produced three limited-edition commemorative wines. The 40th anniversary wines feature an exclusive label honoring Messina Hof’s original design, paying tribute to the beginnings of its Texas winemaking legacy.
The three wines include:
- 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2014 Papa Paulo Porto (Lenoir of course)
- 2015 Heritage Blend (proprietary blend of eight different varietals)
“Our 40-year journey from the industry pioneer to leader in production of Texas wines is only the beginning,” said Paul Mitchell Bonarrigo. “We invite all wine lovers to join our family in celebrating with great wine, exclusive events, and good friends.”
Along with the release of the three commemorative wines, Messina Hof will host a variety of events at all three locations. “Merrill and I have enjoyed our 40-year journey with our customers, employees, and family. We are blessed,” said Paul Vincent Bonarrigo.
For more information about Messina Hof’s 40th anniversary including a full history, interactive timeline, and event information, visit www.messinahof.com/home/forty