Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Messina Hof VIP Reception

Image source.

This past weekend The Lovely Spouse and I spent some time at Messina Hof Winery in Bryan, TX.  They have another location in Fredericksburg, TX, but we haven't been there.

Messina Hof is a family owned and operated winery that is very well-known in the Bryan and College Station area.  If you ask around people seem to either love them or hate them.  I'm in the camp that likes some of their wines but finds the pricing to be a bit perplexing.  More on that later.  The marketing, however, is in my opinion, genius.

The parking lot gets rather full during events.
Messina Hof Winery in Bryan includes the production winery itself, fields and fields of grapes, a bed and breakfast, gift shop and wine bar, and restaurant.  Most visitors start at the gift shop and wine bar.  When there aren't special events, the winery offers wine tastings and tours for $10.  It's a pretty good tour of their production facility, which has been growing over the years, and includes tastings of their more popular wines.

The gift shop.
What most other visitors sometimes notice is the brilliant marketing machine at play.  First there are the events.  Two of the most popular ones are the Run Through the Vines 5K/10K that happens in the Spring and Harvest, which happens in Summer.  Right now we're in the middle of Harvest. And people are spending their weekends and $49-$79 a person to pick grapes for the winery. Brilliant! 

The wine bar.
In addition to the two major events the winery has something called a VIP Club. Our memberships were gifted to us, which we greatly appreciate.  Otherwise we'd never know about this.  All levels of VIP memberships get discounts on wines, the bed and breakfast, the restaurant and such, and a red beret, just like the one worn by the gentlement behind the bar in the pict above.  Last year it was nice because there were VIP receptions roughly once a season.  So far this year there's been one reception, which is the one discussed here. Now there are upgrades to the Gold and Platinum levels, which include additional events only for Gold and Platinum members.  And judging by what we saw at this reception, people are buying all of these.  Again, the only word I have for this is brilliant! 

Where the wine tastings are held. This is located within the gift shop.
Anyways, on to the reception.  The invitation stated the reception was 1:30 - 3:30 pm on Sunday.  We arrived a bit late, but still got a taste for the activities.

Real oak barrels for aging the wines.
New for this reception was a Guess the Wine competition.  At a number of stations, bottles labeled 1, 2, or 3 were placed within paper bags.  Guests that could guess the wine based on taste alone won a prize. We were all given a list of available wines, it was pretty long, and the employees were happy to give hints.  They were also happy to indulge the guests who just wanted to sip wine.

Thank goodness for mild, over-cast days in August in Texas!
There were also stations with wine and food pairings. As you can see these were pretty popular.

This was held in one of the winery's event spaces. My only criticism is the noise. It got loud.
I rather enjoyed the Paulo Cab Franc. Jammy with a velvety mouth feel and lingering berry finish.  Also available here was the Paulo Zin which had a stronger velvety mouth with greater tannin content, leading to a stronger red flavor and nose.  The Zin paired well with blue cheeses and sausages, while the Cab Franc paired well with milder cheeses. Both would probably be lovely with red meats and spiced pastas.
There were also tastings in the warehouse. Not very busy at this time because there were announcements being made on the patio. The staff was all wonderful during the event and provided excellent customer service.
Just a reminder that this is a real, working winery.  We could have gotten tours of the production area, but we had been through them before.  If it's been awhile since you've been you'll notice they've expanded quite a bit.
This is just fun. Also another great idea.
The grounds at Messina Hof are lovely.  They have a nice set-up for weddings and other special events.
Special announcements from the Bonarrigo Family.  CEO duties are being passed from father to son.
I like Messina Hof.  And I enjoy their wines.  They have a good selection from wine-geek reds through the sweetest kool-aid varieties favored by many.  The family is lovely and are truly nice people, even when not doing any sort of business with them.  And they are truly passionate about what they do.
Some of the seating in the wine bar.
The only reason I often don't purchase their wines for general consumption is because of the price.  There's stiff competition among the wines available for purchase at your average grocery store (in Texas) or wine bar. The entire Paulo Signature wine series (of which the Cab Fanc above is a member) retails for $44 a bottle. That price puts the wine in my Special Occasion category.  It's rare that I spend that much on a bottle of wine.  I'm more in the up-to-$20 per bottle categry and usually spend up to $10 for a bottle of table wine. The Cab Franc is good...but not enough for me to spend that kind of money on it. I know my folks enjoy the Solera Sherry so I don't hesitate to spend the $30 for a gift bottle for them.  But, again, at that price it's not something I would be buying regularly.  I like the ports, even the not-a-true-port-by-definition Port of Call (available at grocery stores here).  But, again, the $19-$30 pricetags put them out of my every day range, making it more likely that I'll purchase a different brand.  The exception is the G-miner, which is exceptional served with turkey. I usually purchase a bottle to go with Thanksgiving dinner every year.
Additionally, we have tried the restaurant at Messina Hof. The prices and setting are undeniably fine dining.  But the meal, beyond the bread and sampler appetizers (the Paulo antipasto and Texas wine and cheese plate), was forgetable.  There's incredible competion in town from Madden's, Christopher's and The Republic. Forgetable doesn't cut it for fine dining. And we're just not interested in the murder mystery dinners or cooking classes. 
I have been told, however, that they are fabulous for hosting events, including professional events.  Judging by the VIP reception, I believe that. 
As for us, we'll continue to visit Messina Hof strictly for lower key things like wine tastings.  It's also a good place to take out of town guests.

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