When I tell others about visiting wineries in Texas I always get that dumbfounded look on their face. There’s wineries in Texas? Uh…yeah, there is. I have not had the chance to visit all of them, but I can say one of my favorites is only about two hours from where I live. Messina Hof Winery & Resort is located northeast of Houston in Bryan, Texas.
Years ago I had the opportunity to set up a couple of wine tours with the Porsche Club. I can’t think of anything better than a great pairing of several Porsches and a day at the vineyard. It’s been about 12 years since I’ve been back and this was a perfect time to head up there on a 100 degree very humid Saturday. It was worth the trip!
I had left early that morning to make the easy drive up to Bryan. Traffic was light, the sun was out and I couldn’t wait to get there. After a long week of work behind me, it was nice to get out with my camera in hand. I had arrived at Messina Hof just before noon. I missed the wine tour I wanted to go on, which was fine as I found out there was a private tour scheduled at that time. I decided to go have some lunch at the Vintage House Restaurant at the vineyard. As you walk in, the first thing you see is wine barrels, ceiling high. They are not there for decor, but rather ‘wine-in-progress’ fermenting as you dine. The main dinner area was set up for a few bridal lunches which was fine by me, as I got to be seated out in the Vineyard Room, overlooking what else? The vineyard! I got a corner table fit for a king!
As I was reviewing their wine selection and being at a vineyard, you would think I’d order wine. Not today. As I was expecting myself to order wine, I first decided on my meal so I could pick something out to compliment my Iceberg Wedge Salad (Crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with estate grown caramelized onion-buttermilk dressing, gorgonzola cheese, applewood smoked bacon, and grape tomatoes.), followed by a Shrimp Scampi pizza (Shrimp sautéed in Sauvignon Blanc, fresh tomatoes, garlic, Brazos Valley Monterey mushrooms, kalamatta olives, and mozzarella cheese.). Lunch was dee-lish! I’m not a big onion fan, but the onion dressing was wonderful. I need to scope out that secret recipe…hmmmm….and lets not forget the pizza. Lightly seasoned and airy. I prefer to eat light these days, so the pizza was a great way to have a balance meal without over doing it. Of course I had to leave room for dessert. You should know me by now, I have to end a meal with something sweet. How else am I going to tell you if a wine pairs up with a nice cheesecake? By the way, the following selection paired beautifully!
So you ask, what wine did I order? I didn’t. I ordered champagne (sparkling wine as they call it). Not just any champagne but a Messina Hof Almond Champagne.
I’ve never beed a big fan of champagne, mainly because it’s always been the harsh cheap stuff the dog wouldn’t even drink. From the first taste, I was more then pleasantly surprised. Their Almond Champagne is so smooth, you have to keep yourself from drinking it too fast, but to slow down and savor each sip. The champagne is not overly bubbly. I like that. You would think the almond, being an overpowering tasteful nut would overrun this bubbly treat. It does not. As you take your first sip, the almond rolls smoothly across your palate. The almond aroma is light with a mixture of green apple giving off such a refreshing scent. The apple balances the almond, not overpowering your taste buds. The champagne actually keeps your attention as you cannot believe such a nut can be used in such an unlikely place. I found no ‘flat spots’ in this champagne. Never heard that technical term have you? What I mean is, the champagne does not come on strong or falls flat in the middle or at the end as you swallow. Kinda like a cheap chardonnay. You want to impress your friends? I give this champagne a strong A+. Needless to say, I bought two bottles before I left for the day.
After lunch I headed over to the Wine Bar to get my ticket for the wine tour. For $10, a Messina Hof tour guide will take you around the vineyard, explaining what grapes they grow, the season for harvesting…(oh and for those who like to have purple feet, they love for you to come and help harvest. You get to squish grapes with your feet, and mark a white t-shirt with your purple feet, have lunch, wine tasting afterwards and dinner for a fee). Anyway, our group made it into the building where they showed us the difference in French Oak and American Oak barrels, the wine codes on the barrels, labeling and they led us into wine tasting room.
Here is where the group tried out different wines, especially the ones you can only purchase at the vineyard. You also get to keep the engraved Messina Hof wine glass as a souvenir. So think of it as getting your ten bucks back! I came home with a half a case of wine. For later reviews of Messina Hof, I brought home two bottle of Almond Champagne (already reviewed here), a Cabernet Franc (a rich red wine), a Port Barrel Reserve, and a Beau (a sweet red wine). I’m looking forward to serving these wines soon. I know you want to know all about them!
After the tour, I toured the grounds before heading home. I highly recommend visiting Messina Hof for a few reasons. It’s a great weekend outing and they are also open on Sunday’s. A perfect place to have an afternoon lunch or a romantic dinner with significant other. Oh and if you didn’t want to drive back into Houston, Austin or San Antonio…Messina Hof has a ten room bed & breakfast. Eight of the rooms have balconies that over look the small lake stocked with hundreds of turtles, while the other two rooms are equipped with a hot tub. Either way, fun can be had in any room. Oh yes, all rooms are decorated in different romantic settings. I have not had the opportunity to see the rooms, this information was relayed by the tour guide at the start of tour.
Driving up to the entrance of the vineyard, the feel of Texas leaves you. That’s not a bad thing. Remember, my friends can’t believe there is a vineyard in Texas as the stereotype of a vineyard is to find them in California. Having lived in California, the feel of Messina Hof brought back a few great memories driving up through the Central Coast.
I won’t be waiting another 12 years to visit Messina Hof again. I’ll be heading back soon. You never know, you just may find me sitting in the Vineyard Room…sipping champagne.