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Wine enthusiasts pluck first fruits of grape harvest

Published: Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07

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Courtney Laine -- THE BATTALION

Participants of the 35th Annual Harvest Festival pick and stomp grapes Saturday afternoon at the Messina Hof Winery and Resort. 42 acres of grapes will result in three tons of grapes, yielding 600 gallons of wine and 3,000 bottles.

 

A light breeze brushed through the air as the Texas sun spread its rays over the 42-acres of grapes awaiting harvest at the Messina Hof Winery and Resort in Bryan on Saturday.

Before being led to the vineyards to harvest the season’s fruit, guests participating in the 35th Annual Harvest Festival were equipped with a name tag, a Messina Hof goodie bag and their own personal wine picker.

“From three tons of grapes, we will make about 600 gallons of wine. And 600 gallons times five is 3,000 bottles. So, as a result of picking that, each of you is assigned to drink 3,000 bottles of wine,” said Paul Bonnarigo, owner of Messina Hof Winery, after a guest asked how many bottles will result from the harvest festival.

People of all ages came dressed to do some serious grape picking, wearing over-sized floppy hats that might be spotted at the Kentucky Derby to nitty-gritty gardening gloves and plaid patterned Bermuda shorts. 

“Thousands of people come from all around Texas and even from outside of Texas. People like to check it off their bucket lists, or come stomp grapes like [I Love] Lucy,” said Brittany Hassingriff, marketing and public relations manager at Messina Hof.

For more than an hour, crate after crate was filled with black Spanish grapes and then dumped by guests into four overly sized Messina Hof harvest tubs, which rested behind an industrial sized tractor.

This is a special year for the history of the winery, as owners Paul and Merrill Bonnarigo, welcomed the birth of their first grandson, Paul Anthony Bonnarigo.

“This crop will be his vintage. They had a granddaughter two years ago and made a wine for her, so this harvest will be his,” Hassingriff said.

Newborn baby Paul’s type of wine and name has yet to be revealed.

“Their granddaughter’s wine is called Sofia Marie Rosé, and the bottle is signed by her golden footprint,” Hassingriff said.

Owner, second-time grandfather, and “master wine maker” Paul Bonnarigo, was in the middle of all the action addressing guests and telling stories while dressed in his red wine maker’s beret and eclectic bright purple slacks.

“The squawk you just heard out there is a bird call, an electronic hawk. What it does is scare the other birds. So if you look at the sky, you don’t see birds because the hawks swoop down and pick them up and then take them to Dairy Queen,” he said.

Birds are considered pests to vineyards, so by using a hawk call to keep them away, the winery saves time and money that would be spent on netting the 42-acre vineyard.

When the grape picking concluded, guests made their way over to the grape stomping portion of the festival where everyone was given their own T-shirts. After the grapes were stomped, guests were invited to step on the backside of their T-shirts, in order to create their own personal piece of wearable winery memorabilia.

“Picking grapes was by far my favorite part. I liked the fact that we kind of got to see how everybody communicated together and pick a bunch of grapes. I’ve never picked grapes before, so it was pretty fun,” said Melissa Sleeper, senior sociology major and first-time grape harvester.

The harvest festival is a month long event that will be held every weekend until Aug. 12.

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