It felt like an embrace from someone who promised that everything was going to be OK, that life would turn out just as it should. Perhaps by that familiar stranger with whom you connect immediately, inexplicably, illogically — the kind of connection that leads to a one-night romp.
It was one of those moments when you didn't care about the next morning — everything was about the present.
Would you believe that such a stranger was a glass of wine? It was — and I wasn't inebriated.
In my monogrammed stemware was a couple of fingers of Messina Hof's Papa Paulo Port, a vintage that's exclusively crafted from the Lenoir varietal, the juice of which is intensely flavorful, deeply pink and sinfully intoxicating. It's aged in oak barrels for 24 months. Whereas most ports are fortified with brandy, this one isn't; it's 100 percent late-harvest Lenoir grape.
Swallow this, Portugal. In this Texas port, hints of lusty cocoa, coffee and cherries dominate the tongue. A few swigs later, warmth from head to toe. Another? Please. On second thought, heck, may I see the bottle?
In this Texas port, hints of lusty cocoa, coffee and cherries dominate the tongue. A few swigs later, warmth from head to toe. Another? Please. On second thought, heck, may I see the bottle?
Not to pretend I that was in a scene from When Harry Met Sally, but that's in a nutshell the gist of what ensued — minus the audible orgasm. Gazes and nods from my companions around the Moonlit Harvest dinner table last Friday at dusk, at the kickoff of Messina Hof's 2012 Harvest Festival which runs through Aug. 19, evinced that I wasn't alone.
The five-weekend festival is full of activities including grape picking, stomping, special menus, wine and food pairing parties at the Vintage House Restaurant, themed murder mystery dinners, galas and dance soirées.
Ask vintner Paul Bonarrigo about his technique for brewing this 2012 Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo Wine Competition Texas Class Champion bottle and he'll respond with an elaborate tale about his complete head of hair, his red leather beret and his 35-year marriage to his wife Merill, whose maiden name is Hof (a nod to the Bavarian city in Germany).
Or some story about fermenting wine inside a truck while road-tripping across the country. The hilarious anecdotes just keep on coming.
The first bottle of Messina Hof wine may have been produced in 1983, but the pair's respective families had many decades of winemaking tradition. In Bonarrigo's Italian family, the first born was always named Paul and was expected to carry on the métier. The eighth-generation Paul had come into the world a few days prior to our visit; there was much to celebrate, and many vats of wine to consume.
I was happy to partake in just this one glass.
Our sojourn to the 42-acre Bryan vineyard ambled from grape to glass, beginning in a vast orchard filled with grapevines ready to bestow their berries. With a blade in hand and a plastic crate in the other, off we gallivanted in and around selected rows in search of tightly packed canopies. As the sun set in the horizon, hues of pinks and blues colored the expansive sky. Some took their jobs seriously and opted for speed while, for others, it was a genteel diversion.
Much of what was harvested was allocated for the bottle, and the rest was designated for pure, sticky, stomping fun — not for consumption, but to be composted as fertilizer. With juice-soaked feet from treading on fruit, there was only one logical thing to do: Jump on a white T-shirt and sign a memento of the foot tracks of your labor.
Though not before the Big Kahuna Award was presented to Marianne Henry, a sassy dame celebrating her 72nd birthday. To win the honor, grape pickers had to identify an interesting-looking bunch, give it a cutesy title and showcase a special talent. Henry's fierce tai chi moves and don't-mess-with-me attitude earned the popular vote.
Perfectly wined and over-dined, the jaunt to Houston's wasn't particularly taxing. Someone else was driving.
Messina Hof Winery & Resort's 2012 Harvest Festival runs through Aug. 19 and offers visitors daily activities. Prices vary by event. Click here for more information.