Messina Hof Hill Country Grand Opening: Of Tractors, Terroir and a Taste of 1984

Messina Hof Hill Country Grand Opening: Of Tractors, Terroir and a Taste of 1984

It was a grand day yesterday on the Fredericksburg Route 290 Wine Trail with another Texas winery planting its footprint at the epicenter of where it’s happening. It’s at the stretch of road between Blumenthal and Stonewall centered on (appropriately enough)  Grape Creek about 5 miles east of city center Fredericksburg.

Messina Hof Winery and Resort of Bryan Texas opened their castle-esque Hill Country tasting room. It was built from the remnants of a tractor repair shop (repair shop bays and all which explains the open design of the tasting room), but you would never guess this was the case. The only vestage of the tractor repair days is the original but refinished concrete floor. When told of the buildings history I made a comment guessing that it was made for Texas tractors and now for Texas terroir, a continuation of its Texas agricultural legacy.

When I arrived at mid-day, the pre-grand opening festivities were in full swing. I quickly found chef and cookbook author Terry-Thompson and winery owner and grand impresario of Texas wine, Paul Bonarrigo (sporting his characteristic red beret), engaged in wine and discussion. I joined them in conversation just as Paul released what to me was the bombshell news of the day. He said, “All of the wines that we will be selling in our new Hill Country tasting room are  made from 100 percent Texas grapes.”This was music to my ears as I have experienced first hand that several wineries and tasting rooms (some in close proximity to the new Messina Hof location and in more generally in Texas are selling wines that are not made Texas appellation. In other words, there are not enough Texas grapes in these wines to legally carry the words “Texas” on the front label.

Terry and I walked in the airy open space between the two tasting room bars sampling Messina Hof wines, starting with a high plains Riesling, an off-dry Muscato and a crisp, clean and sweetly-luscious Mistrella (a style of wine where the fermentation is halted with an infusion of brandy, thus combining the fresh fruity grape juice with the fortification of alcohol).

After a tour of the tasting room facilities, a close inspection of an antique European marble gazebo, and a visit to the four B&B cabins out back, Paul personally tasted us through a selection of wines. We swirled and sipped Messina Hof’s offerings of Merlots and Cabernets, four wines total, one of each made from Hill Country grapes and Texas High Plains grapes. While the high plains wines seemed to have a deeper color as expected, both sources of grapes produced fine and delectable wines. You’ll have to taste them for yourselves to pick your favorites.

Then, we tasted Messina Hof 2010 Semillon. Paul said, “Normally, there isn’t enough Texas Semillon for us to bottle a single varietal wine, but due to the plethora of Texas grapes harvested last year, we had enough to ferment it separately and make this wine.” Terry and I both loved it. I confess that I’m not much of a Chardonnay drinker and this wine gives an real alternative to the wine drinkers around Texas like me. It had great lemon citrus fruit qualities combined with a silky medium bodied mouthfeel that Chardonnay drinker tend to appreciate.

As Terry and I were savoring the Semillon, Paul reached over to a wooden box of wine bottles next to the tasting room bar and said, “Do you want to try something really interesting!”

Not really knowing what Paul had in mind, he showed us a bottle of Messina Hof wine with a 1984 vintage date, just two years after he and his wife and business partner, Merrill, opened their family winery in Bryan Texas. Paul said, “This should be interesting, but I don’t know what it’s going to be like after over 25 tears. You know, this wine was a Meritage blend, before the term Meritage was even invented.” He was referring to “Meritage” as it is used too describe a red wine made from a blend of Bordeaux grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc and others, but where the grapes were not grown in the famous French region. The term Meritage wasn’t even initiated by the Meritage Alliance until 1988!

Paul carefully and slowly pulled the cork on his Messina Hof Wine Maker’s Blend (Texas 1984, Table Wine) , and all looked like it was going well. The cork was still moist and didn’t show signs of leakage. Then, he poured the wine from the bottle revealing that it, in fact, had held up remarkably well. It had a brick red color that still held a hint of purple in it.

The most incredible aspect of this wine (obviously after how well it held up during bottle aging) was how it evolved over a prolonged time period in the glass after being poured. Terry and I first identified the typical descriptors of fine old Bordeaux wines, all elements of terroir: wet earth and mushrooms, just like a forest floor. After about 30 minutes, a deep leather note emerged along with liquorice that danced from the glass. This was followed in another half hour by wet hay and herbs, and then finally nearly an hour and a half after the bottle was opened, there was a minerally note that I identified as similar to the “lead pencil” from my early school days.

If you want a taste of modern Texas wines of quality that are actually made from Texas grapes, stop by Messina Hof’s new Hill Country tasting room.  If you savor fine old bottle-aged red wines and want a taste of 1984 Texas terroir (a venerable taste of Texas wine history), Messina Hof has it for sale too, available in their new Hill Country tasting room, but for how long? I don’t know; probably for as long as the precious few bottle last.

Messina Hof Hill Country

9996 Hwy 290 East, Fredericksburg, TX 78624 USA

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Love to taste, talk and tweet about Texas wines and where they are in the global scheme for wines. After all that's the only way they will reach the full potential.


  1. Dear Russ,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to come to the new Messina Hof Hill Country winery. We so appreciate your support and interest. It was great to share our celebration with such special friends.

    Cheers to you! Merrill

  2. Merrill,

    It was a truly pleasurable event. It was interesting reminiscing with you and Paul about the early days when this wine was grown and made: students in lederhosen and buying your first “real” wine tanks. It was a true taste of Texas wine history in my glass.


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