Of Words and Wine at Messina Hof, Texas Hill Wine Country

Wine does more than nourish the body. There are some who would say it does the exact opposite but I have always believed that whatever benefits the soul must, in turn, nourish its vessel. It is the ritual that most speaks to my soul and I am lucky enough to have lived in the heart of several wine regions.

Growing up, I lived close to Napa Valley before it became famous for its world class wines…when there were just a bunch of grapes dangling on their vines. Or so the story goes. In reality, wine was being sourced in the 1800’s from Napa for the wine lovers in San Francisco. One of my favorite sights was the Greystone Cellars of the Christian Brothers, now the home of the Culinary Institute of America’s Napa campus. Greystone Cellars was built as a gravity flow winery and cooperative wine cellar in 1889 to serve the San Francisco thirst.

Between high school and college, I spent a year as an exchange student in France. My French father was a sommelier for the French government in the Loire region. Jovial and kind-hearted, he taught me how to taste and spit. He tried to teach me ways to tell so many things about a grape, but that just seemed to detract from the fun of sip and spit. (Most wineries have sip and spit implements in case you don’t want to stagger out the door–just ask.) My French mother was an incredible cook and pairing wines with the meal was part of the joy. Skinny when I arrived, I filled out by the time I arrived back in California with a love for the fermented juice of grapes.

And after many years away from wine country, I now live in Texas Hill Country which is the second largest wine destination in the United States. Many of the grapes used come from the high plains of West Texas, about five plus hours away, where the days are warm, the nights are cool, and the sand is perfect for grapes. But we have our share of vineyards and hanging grapes here as well. The best part is I can do a single wine tasting any day of the year.

Due to my schedule, that occurs about once every 3 months, but I love the idea of it. So, returning from a writer’s conference in Johnson City on a Tuesday before Spring Break, I swung into the empty parking lot at Messina Hof. Due to the histamines in deep red wines, I only drink whites but there are some wonderful white wines in Hill Country.

After a $12 5-token tasting of Viognier ’17 (notes of white peach, lemon, and chamomile), Chardonnay ’16 (lightly-oaked), River Rock (a Trebbiano/Chenin Blanc blend), Chenin Blanc ’16 (a soft pear flavored semi dry), and Gewurtztraminer ’16 (a semi-sweet fragrant citrus and oddly dry wine) and a wonderful conversation with the tasting room specialists, I vowed to return with my next reading book and observation notepad in hand.

Because words and wine just seem to go together.