Three Questions for Merrill Bonarrigo, co-founder of Messina Hof Winery & Resort
What’s been the biggest change in the Texas wine industry since you opened your winery?
It’s the image of Texas wine to the world. We went from being a cartoon of Chateau Bubba around the campfire to a recognized, world-class wine-producing region that wins gold medals in international competitions.
What is going to have the biggest impact on the Texas wine industry in the next five or 10 years?
Three things will greatly impact the Texas wine industry. (1) Availability of Texas grapes. We need more Texas farmers to grow grapes. If you know a farmer who is interested in growing grapes, please have them call me! (2) Keeping the message of “drink Texas wine” in front of the consumer. TDA does an awesome job marketing our industry with eye-catching and innovative programs. (3) Texas wineries being able to sell their wines at the winery and online. There are more than 160 wineries now in the state, and each needs an avenue to sell its products.
What’s the key to finding new markets and new customers for Texas wines?
Education and trial create believers in our industry. Programs like the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association’s “Friends of Texas Wines” get consumers involved in the industry. The TWGGA Speakers Bureau takes the message of Texas wine to groups across the state. I personally crusade for all Texas restaurants to serve Texas wines. At each event, I encourage every attendee to ask for Texas wines at every restaurant they patronize and to let the restaurateurs know how important it is to support local wineries. Just imagine what would happen if everyone requested Texas wines every time they dined out! TDA’s GO TEXAN Restaurant Program has done a great deal already to help this cause.