ake off your shoes, and get comfortable. Harvest weekends aren't the least bit pretentious at Messina Hof Winery & Resort in Bryan, Texas. How aloof can you be when you're walking around with purple feet stained from stomping grapes?
"My grandfather said when you marry, you want to find a woman who has a fat foot," quips winery co-founder Paul Bonarrigo. But you don't need big feet―or an oversize knowledge of wine―to enjoy one of the Harvest Celebration weekends that he and wife Merrill host each summer. They go out of their way to make you comfortable.
The events draw everyone from students at nearby Texas A&M University to visiting Russian ambassadors.
"We've had Chinese professors who don't speak any English," says Barb Szumanski, who prepares gourmet breakfasts for overnight guests at the winery's 10-room, European-style villa.
Experience a day filled with activity at the state's second-largest premium wine producer, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary. While Messina Hof is best known for its prize-winning ports, visitors also come to pick grapes, stomp them into juice, sample tastings, and enjoy elaborate food-and-wine pairings.
"We teach you how to slurp and cluck," Paul explains. "Most of enjoying wine is from smelling." Clucking with your tongue helps aerate the wine.
Attendance to the winery jumped after the movie Sideways, he adds. "There were people who a few years ago couldn't even say ‘Pinot Noir.' Now they come up and say, ‘I like Pinot because it's delicate," Paul says.
You can learn all about winemaking at a harvest weekend and have a fun time that will tickle you right down to your toes.
Messina Hof Winery & Resort:
4545 Old Reliance Road, Bryan, TX 77808; www.messinahof.com or (979) 778-9463. There are three harvest weekends in August. An all-day package costs $69.95 per person, including a food-and-wine pairing. Lodging rats in the villa start at $238.50 during Harvest Celebration events. Daily tastings and tours cost $5 per person.