The Brazos Valley Bucket List - The Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail

By: Shane McAuliffe Email
By: Shane McAuliffe Email

You may think you're in a field in France or looking at a crop in California. But it's all a tour of Texas and these grapes are grown within 45 minutes of Bryan-College Station at several local wineries.

"To drive within an hours range and to taste those wines, you're actually in the heart, soul, the mind and kitchen of each of those wine makers," said Jerry Bernhardt with Bernhardt Winery in Pleasantville.

Now the oldest area winery is right here in Bryan at Messina Hof. It was establish in 1977 but it's not the only winery here in the Brazos Valley. Just down the road in Brenham you'll find the Pleasant Hill Winery and the Windy Winery. In Whitehall, just outside of Navasota, you'll find the Retreat Hill Winery. And in Plantersville, you'll find the Bernhardt Winery. These are just five out the seven wineries that make up the Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trial.

"They've got enthusiasm and they're making great wine. And that's important," said Paul Bonarrigo with Messina Hof.

Bonarrigo is considered one of the architects of the Texas Bluebonnet Wine trail simply because he was the first to start growing grapes in the Brazos Valley.

"Back then what we had was a lot of enthusiasm. I mean the Brazos Valley is one of the most fertile lands in the world," said Bonarrigo.

Pleasant Hill is the second oldest winery in the Brazos Valley.

"You can see I put down roots for sure," said Pleasant Hill Winery owner Bob Cottle.

Cottle started this winery in 1992 and the secret to the success of the Bluebonnet Wine Trail is the quality of the wines.

"The wines we're making are pretty incredible. We're learning how to grow the grapes better every year and the better the grapes are when we start the wine making process, the better our wine could possibly be," said Cottle.

The Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail is growing and there are several factors to the reason of the trail's success, great wine is just part of it.

"We've become one of the most recognized named trails in the state of Texas," said Bernhardt.

"We're 60 miles from the 4th largest city in the united states and there is a lot of wine consumption coming from Houston," said Billy Shannon Cox Jr. with Retreat Hill Winery near Navasota.

"Texans are great supporters of Texas made products and there is nothing more Texas made than wine," said Bonarrigo.

"You can meet the owners at pretty much every winery, every weekend," said Cottle.

"I think we're going to become a very integral part. It may be a little ambitious but we'd like to be like the Fredericksburg, Hill Country Wine Trail eventually," said Linda Meitzen with Windy Winery in Brenham.

"It's such a unique event to go out to a winery and to be able to get a chance to walk through the vineyards and hold a cluster of grapes," said Bernhardt.

"I believe that within 10 years we'll have 50 wineries in the Brazos Valley," said Bonarrigo.

So enjoy it while you can, it's not everyday that you can pick grapes with the actual wine makers or get an inside look at the secrets of wine making.

"I think people have gone to the hill country wineries and I think they like the quaint wineries. Some of the Hill Country wineries have gotten so big and so commercial. I think people still like to come out here and walk around the vineyard and meet the winemaker and be able to have that personal relationship with the person that is putting the win in the bottle for them," said Cox.

And the trick to keeping this Brazos valley business booming?

"A lot wine consumption, that's our goal. Please consume wine," joked Cox.

The Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail is a check mark on the Brazos Valley Bucket List that requires a designated driver.

Below you can find links to the Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail as well as links to each of the wineries on that trail.

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