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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Barrels of history

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Photo by Aubrey Vogel

While trying four different wines, two reds and two whites, tourgoers are taught the five steps in properly tasting wine — sight, swirl, smell, sip and savor.

After spending an hour and a half at the flagship Messina Hof winery in Bryan, I learned about the ins and outs of grape growing and winemaking. But perhaps most importantly, I learned Messina Hof gives its visitors the celebrity feel of a professional winery at an affordable price.
The first thing I used to think of when I thought of a vineyard or winery was the cost associated with them. I mean, expensive bottles of wine can be hundreds of dollars and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie had their wedding at a winery in France. For a while I held onto this idea that winemaking and vineyards were experiences only attainable for wealthy people and celebrities. However, Cameron Ciemiewicz, the tasting room manager at Messina Hof, said he wants everyone in Aggieland to know that a good experience at a winery doesn’t have to be expensive.
“In wine culture there is this history of it being saved only for people who were on the more wealthy side,” Ciemiewicz said. “There has been a shift now, it is a lot more accessible and people of all backgrounds can enjoy wine. It doesn’t have to be this pretentious thing anymore and we can enjoy it as a community together.”
Known as Texas’ most award-winning winery, Messina Hof could easily be a go-to for only the area’s most elite. Despite this, Messina Hof’s humble beginnings have influenced its growth. Planting their first vineyard in 1977 on a one-acre plot in Bryan, Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo started a family tradition that would pioneer the growth of the Texas wine industry.
The family-owned business began getting attention from neighbors shortly after its inception, beginning Messina Hof’s work in hospitality and accessibility for the Brazos Valley community.
“People shouldn’t feel intimidated coming here for the first time,” Ciemiewicz said. “The reason we are here is to teach and guide people to making good decisions about wine. We look to educate people in an approachable way so don’t worry about coming here without knowledge of wine. We welcome all levels of wine knowledge and that won’t change anytime soon.”
For $20, I booked my tasting tour at Messina Hof’s location in Bryan and was given not only a taste of the winery’s history, but a taste of several of their most popular wines and a complimentary wine glass. Now I’ll admit, I’ve never been much of a wine person. Walking through the aisles of H-E-B and seeing the hundreds of different wine options always seemed intimidating, so I typically opted for something else (who am I kidding, it’s White Claw). After spending an afternoon with Ciemiewicz, however, my outlook on wine was changed and I even bought a $13 bottle of Riesling as I left.
The family-owned feel of Messina Hof and Ciemiewicz’s passion for teaching about wine made me feel like I was on an adult field trip and I would definitely compare my experience to my trips to the zoo as a child. I recommend Messina Hof for anyone looking for an interesting and affordable experience — they have tours and low-cost bottles as well as a restaurant and a bed and breakfast. For a grand total of only $33, I got a tour of one of Texas’ finest wineries, a bottle of wine, a complimentary wine glass and a new-found appreciation of wine that will last a lifetime.

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