Messina Hof’s History - Celebrating 40 Years
The Messina Hof legacy began 40 years ago, with an experimental vineyard and fifty varietals of grapes. Thousands of awards and a generation later, Messina Hof continues to be at the forefront of the Texas wine industry.
In 1977 neither Paul Vincent nor Merrill Bonarrigo anticipated becoming the power couple that would help pioneer a growing Texas wine industry. At that time, there were few commercial vineyards in Texas and the idea that it would become the 5th largest grape producing state was nothing short of a dream.
With the encouragement of a Texas A&M graduate student studying grape feasibility in Texas, Paul and Merrill planted Messina Hof’s first vineyard in Bryan, Texas. The one-acre experimental vineyard consisted of fifty varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc and Lenoir. Over the next few years the Bonarrigos dedicated themselves to the vineyard lifestyle practicing the tricks of the winemaking trade. In 1981, Messina Hof’s award-winning legacy unexpectedly began with a medal in the Texas State Fair for a Black Spanish-Cabernet blend. To the Bonarrigos, this was the first of many victories that reinforced their mantra of “anything is possible.”
The 1980s brought rapid growth for Messina Hof and the Bonarrigo family. A new winemaking generation was born when Paul Vincent and Merrill welcomed their son Paul Mitchell Bonarrigo. The planting of two additional vineyards allowed Paul Vincent 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’s expansion continued by entering Texas distribution and in 1989 they expanded into Japan. What began as a young couple’s project was now Texas winemaking history.
Paul Vincent and Merrill would continue to affirm their status as pioneers in the industry as their mantra of “anything is possible” continued over the next two decades. From 1990, when Angel Late Harvest Riesling became the first Texas wine to score a 90 in the Wine Spectator, to 2013, when Messina Hof became the first Texas winery to win Top Overall at the Houston Livestock show and Rodeo - Messina Hof was paving the way for those to come.
In 2010, after serving 5 years as a United States Marine Corps Officer, a generational transition began when Paul Mitchell and his wife Karen returned home to Bryan, Texas to continue his parent’s legacy. As a family, the Bonarrigos successfully opened Messina Hof Hill Country Winery in 2011. Paul Mitchell’s experience growing up on the vineyard prepared him for the next major step in Messina Hof’s history. In 2012, the winery was officially passed down to the next generation with Paul Mitchell becoming the Chief Executive Officer and Karen, the Director of Administration. Paul Mitchell and Karen opened Messina Hof Grapevine Winery in 2014 at the end of a record breaking year. They continue to lead Messina Hof in the direction of international recognition.
Today, 40 years later, the two generations of Bonarrigos work side-by-side. Messina Hof has expanded to produce 130,000 gallons per year and continues to remain at the forefront of the Texas wine industry.