March 25, 2022

International Woman Winemaker is Today

Today is International Woman Winemaker’s Day. Women have been involved in the Texas Wine Industry since the 1970’s. One of the women pioneers in the Texas Wine Industry is Penny Adams who I have bestowed the title of Texas’ FIRST LADY OF THE VINEYARD. She remembers her Grandfather’s vineyards between Lubbock and Amarillo where she would play in the vineyards and retreat to the Grape Arbor when it got hot in the Summer Sun. Penny followed her passion with the grapes planting her first Vineyard in Blanco County and producing her first wine in 1982. However, her first love was horticulture getting her Horticulture Degree from Texas A and M in 1980 and later a Viticulture Degree from Fresno State in California in 1982. She was involved in planting 100 acres of grapes on the UT System’s land in Van Horn County. Penny was the vineyard manager and winemaker for Wedding Oak Winery for eight years, leaving the winery to establish VineCo which provides consulting services for vineyards and winemakers. She lives in the Texas Hill Country and provides services primarily for vineyards and winemakers in the Texas Hill Country. She also teaches a Viticulture Course for Texas Tech University at the Texas Hill Country Campus for Tech. Her years of working in the vineyards has provided her with a wealth of vineyard information that she is passing on to the next generation, including many women. Penny has a strong love of grape vines since she knows that with outstanding grapes you can produce outstanding wines. Penny also loves sustainability in the vineyards, emphasizing the need to properly select grape varietals for the given environment. Penny advises young women interested in vineyards and winemaking to get experiences in those places and pursuing education to further your knowledge.
Another early women in the Texas Wine Industry is Merrill Bonarrigo. I have her dubbed as the “First Lady in Texas’ First Family of Wine. This native of Bryan met the love of her life in the eyes of a Physical Therapist from New Jersey who landed in Bryan to establish a Therapy Practice. These two love birds were enthralled with wine and established Messina Hof Winery in Bryan. While making wine, these two hippies founded a Family. Their Son Paul VII served in the Marines and after several tours of duty in Afghanistan has taken over the winemaking duties at Messina Hof Winery. Paul VII and his wife Karen have a daughter Sophia Marie and a son Paul Anthony. The third generation of this family looks like they are primed to enter into the wine business under the watchful eye of their grandmother Merrill. Karen is stepping forward in helping Paul VII with the Administrative Duties of Messina Hof Winery while the Matriarch Merrill graciously helps everyone along in this Family Winery Business. It is all about FAMILY at Messina Hof Winery. She and both Paul’s along with Karen always have an “open door” welcoming their guests with their outstanding Texas Hospitality.
Texas has many other outstanding women in its Texas Wine Industry to congratulate in addition to Penny Adams and Merrill Bonarrigo. A few of the other outstanding women in the Texas Wine Industry include Susan Auler of Fall Creek Vineyards (one of Texas’s oldest wineries), Marnelle Durrett being second generation at Kiepersol Winery, Benedict Rhyme who has established herself as a winemaking consultants for several top Texas wineries., but the list goes on and on. Congratulations to these outstanding women in the Texas Wine Industry!

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