Merrill Bonarrigo Reflects, Offers Insight, and Encourages Industry Growth

By on February 1, 2013 Behind the Label

The marriage of two distinct family heritages in 1977 led ultimately to the romantic creation of Messina Hof Winery.  The combination of Italian winemaking and German colonial style established its roots in South Central Texas, culminating in the most award winning label in the State.  Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo had a vision that started with love.  Love of culture, love of family, and love of wine.  They say if you love your job, you never work a day in your life, but can either of you remember a young moment in the beginning that you felt completely overwhelmed in your venture?

Paul and I do believe that our work is a vacation because we love what we do.  When we first began we were blissfully naïve pioneer spirits.  The vineyard and winery were adventures.  There were obstacles like people telling us that you cannot grow grapes in Texas, like unfriendly alcohol laws and the lack of financing due to risk factors of an undeveloped industry.  With our encouragement of one another and an open ear and heart to where the Lord was leading us, we worked through each obstacle and looked for resultant opportunities.


Messina Hof : An established brand rooted in rich family soil

Messina Hof is not only a winery, it’s an established brand with two locations: vineyard, resort, restaurant, cook books, wine bar, marriage destination and more.  While most people are just beginning to learn about Texas wine, it’s been the foundation of your family for 30+ years.  As pioneers in Texas viticulture and wine production, what is one piece of advice you can give someone wanting to invest in the industry?

Many people are enamored by the romance of wine and the grace of the vineyard.  They envision themselves sitting on the veranda overlooking the vines and toasting the sunset with friends like in the movies or in commercials.  They miss the part about pruning, weeding, tying, and spraying  40,000 vines and the costs that are incurred.  I would recommend that if someone is interested in owning a serious vineyard, they need to work for one and see first-hand what is required in time and money.  This can be accomplished through shadowing or mentoring as well.  Or they can just plant a few vines in their back yard and enjoy the sense of ownership and make a little wine as well.    The best investment is enjoying those wines produced by the winemakers who have mastered the art and science of wine.

Listing the Awards for Messina Hof would be an article unto itself! That being said, in March you were the winning most wine at the 2012 Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Wine Competition, and recently returned from a trip to New York City where a tasting was held for your new releases. As a second generation winery and brand gaining national and international attention, what exciting plans does Messina Hof have envisioned for 2013?

Messina Hof is honored to be the first Texas winery ever to win Top All-Round Winery 2013 at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.  Out of a field of 943 wineries from the USA and 21 other countries, Messina Hof was the best!  At the same time we were blessed to win Best of Herd at the San Antonio Livestock Show and Rodeo 2013.  Other exciting news includes that at our Texas tweet events reached 1.3 million impressions worldwide, and Texas is now 4th in wine production in the USA having passed Oregon.

Messina Hof and other Texas wineries are producing world class wines.  The world is just getting to know us.  After 35 years, we still have love of culture, love of family, and love of wine.  We just enjoy sharing that love with a million more friends.


Currently Messina Hof has two locations, in Bryan-College Station, and Fredericksburg, Texas.  Messina Hof is a family owned and operated business Paul M Bonarrigo is CEO and his wife Karen is the Director of Administration.  You can read more about Messina Hof Winery and Resort at their extensive website, but to gain the full inviting experience you must visit their location!

Article by Leanne Holley, Texas Wine and Trail Magazine

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