Messina Hof Winery Harvesting: “More fun than I thought it would be!”
I was recently part of a limo-driven labor force on route from Houston to Bryan, Texas, to participate in this year’s harvesting of Black Spanish (Lenoir) grapes at Messina Hof Winery & Resort. You may not recognize these grape name, as they are not the widely common Cabernet, Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. But, you probably have heard about the wines that Messina Hof makes from their Black Spanish grapes that are favorites with consumers in the Lone Star State: Papa Paulo Port and Sophia Marie Rosé.
Our Houston delegation included my fellow Texas wine buddy, Jeff “@TXwineLover” Cope, and several other media types. As you might expect, media can be an aloof bunch. But not this trip, before we arrived at the winery we were already posting on Facebook and tweeting about our expectations and on-bus wine tasting, featuring Messina Hof’s offerings of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay (but none for the bus driver).
Dave Morales tweeted” dave morales @daveBackstageOL Headed to Messina Hof! #MHWine http://yfrog.com/octm9urj
Jeff Cope tweeted: “Now my turn on a photo of the media bus to @Messina_Hof #txwine #mhwine http://yfrog.com/mn56oesj
Upon our arrival at Messina Hof, we were given a tour of the property that included the winery tasting room, The Villa B&B (rated four diamonds by AAA), and the Vintage House restaurant (photo above). The tour gave us a chance to get a personal look at Messina Hof’s winery and hear the first-hand perspectives on the Texas wine industry straight from Messina Hof Owner and Winemaker, Paul Bonarrigo (see video below).
For more Messina Hof Harvest Videos, click here.
However, unlike a more typical and relaxing times that I’ve previously spent at Messina Hof, our group didn’t stroll at their leisure through the vineyard, smell the roses at each end post, sit by the fountain, relax with a glass of crisp Riesling or rich Shiraz, or linger over candlelit conversation. On this trip, we had our mission well planned and boiled down to four words: harvest and stomp grapes. Only then could we sit back relax with a glass of wine, a plate of vineyard cuisine, the enjoyment of spirited conversation, and then a late bus ride back to Houston.
We started with our well-choreographed (by Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo and MH staff) harvest “orientation” on the maturing and harvesting of grapes, signing of vineyard songs (Pick, pick, pick the grapes, gently down the row…) and the important and customary signing of the Messina Hof damage/injury waiver form. The latter was a precaution just in case, in the grand gusto of grape harvesting, anyone might accidentally harvest a finger or two; likely to the surprise of the person harvesting grapes on the other side of the vine.
As the sun laid low and yellow in the western sky, we made our way heading east down a row of vines, dropping bunch after bunch of ripe, red-black grapes, which I might add were mighty tasty, too. I have to admit to eating just a few (wink, wink).
We were told earlier to be on the look out of any unusually large bunches (that Paul called his “Kahunas”) or bunches that had particularly unusual shapes that might go with a good story. These would be entered into a competition for the best Kahuna later that evening. Well, I found my Kahuna about half way down the row. It was long and pointy; something like the nose of a doberman pincher and it had another appendage that looked like a mouth that I could open and close. At first, I thought of it as a dog, but then Jeff said that it had three ears! Oh well, that meant that the dog was out; but, Jeff said that it could well be a dinosaur with three horns (aka Triceratops).
Once back at the winery crush pad, all of the “Kahuna Harvesters” had to tell the story of their Kahunas. My story was about a place far away from a time long ago. This was a time when the DNA of grapes and dinosaurs still very closely linked. Atfer I told my story, the Triceratops Kahuna in my hands started to open its mouth. In what I will admit was a poor attempt at dinosaur sound effects (not exactly of Jurassic Park quality), I made a loud throaty and scratchy sound in time with the opening of the Triceratops mouth. Alas, the crowd was mostly unimpressed. You be the judge (See video below).
However, my spirits were lifted as we shortly started to stomp the grapes in large plastic bins. The fresh, warm, purple grapes oozing up between our toes brought a smiles to our faces.
Then, for the souvenir moment, the harvesters imprinted their Tee-shirts with their dipping purple feet.
After dinner, we gathered back on the bus for Houston a bit hot and sweaty, but with smiles still lingering on our faces. Dave Morales said it best as he plopped down in his seat on the bus and said, “You know, this harvesting thing was much more fun than I expected.” You know something…I agree. It really was.
Come on down to Messina Hof Winery and Resort in Bryan, TX, to get your share of the harvest fun.
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If you want to participate in Messina Hof Winery’s 2012 harvest, they have harvesting festivities and dinner Friday evenings (7:00 pm) and Saturday evenings (6:30 pm) through August 18th. Daytime harvesting includes full and half day packages on Saturdays and Sundays through August 19th. For more details and reservations, click here.