Her Time to Shine
Nothing is impossible; with God everything is possible.
Aggie women are doing extraordinary things across the globe and the Aggie Women Network want to shine a spotlight on each of them.
I am Merrill Bonarrigo, class of 1975, and co-founder of Messina Hof Winery, Designer Events and The Vineyard District here in the Brazos Valley. I am a wife, mother, grandmother, and my greatest joy has been to work with my husband of 46 years and to see our children and grandchildren continue the Messina Hof legacy.
In 1977, I married my soulmate and partner, Paul. We began Messina Hof which was named after our respective ancestral homelands. Paul's family is from Messina, Sicily, and my family is from Hof, Germany. Today Messina Hof has wineries in Bryan-College Station, Fredericksburg, Grapevine, and Richmond, Texas.
I am an author, blogger, and have travelled to thirty-eight countries to share the story of Messina Hof and Texas wines. Paul and I lead tour groups to wine regions of the world, host a MerBon Lifestyle and Social Media page.
We helped found the Cattle Baron’s Ball for Bryan-College Station, helped to launch the Texas Reds Steak and Grape Festival in Bryan, and created an affinity partnership wine program for the Association of Former Students as well as the Bush Library. In 1991 I developed an internship program with the TAMU Parks and Recreation department that continues today to mentor students in the hospitality industry.
Honors include TAMU Legacy Award, Women’s Chamber of Commerce Rising Star, Woman to Watch, Outstanding Business Person, Luis Qualia Award and Supreme Master Lady of the Knights of the Vine. I have served on Boards of Women’s Former Student Network, BCS Chamber of Commerce, Texas A&M Agriculture Council, East Texas Tourism Association, BCS Tourism Advisory Council, Keep Brazos Beautiful, Texas Wine Tourism Committee, and Professional Event Manager Certificate Program committee, and we honored as Legends of Bryan.
Family, Traditions and Romance – The Messina Hof Journey Messina Hof Winery and Resort - Wines (orderport.net)
Aggie Women Connection
In 2010 I had the opportunity to join the board of Women’s Former Student Network (today Aggie Women Network). Realizing how important the organization is to woman Aggies – students, former students, faculty and staff, it provided it provided me an opportunity to give back. Aggie Women Network gave Aggie Women an important seat at the table.
To help develop the student mentoring program for Aggie Women, Messina Hof developed the Aggie Woman 1st Thursday Program. With the help and dedication of Lynn Hagan and Amelia McCracken, we were able to develop a gathering for Aggie Women to connect and provide support, encouragement, mentoring and networking for Aggie Women of all ages. Aggie Women Network and the Women’s Resource Center joined forces to help and 1st Thursdays has grown from a small group of 6 Aggie Women in 2014 to hundreds of Aggie Women today. It is held the 1st Thursday of every month during the school year.
Out of our 1st Thursday program, Messina Hof w/ Aggie Women Network developed this Aggie Women Leadership Reception to honor and celebrate the new Aggie Women student leaders each year as well as our Aggie Women faculty and staff. This reception is held the 1st Thursday of September each year.
Messina Hof is honored to be a founder and host of the annual Aggie Women Leadership Celebration and Aggie Women 1st Thursdays.
New! Messina Hof Aggie Woman label project –
As we look for new opportunities to celebrate Aggie Women, the artists among us seemed to be less served. So, we developed a wine label artist competition that highlights and honors the artists among us.
Each year a theme is announced. Artists compete for the opportunity to be featured on that year’s wine label. The winning artist’s wines are available for purchase for one year.
All of these programs serve our Aggie Women and also raise funds to support the Aggie Women Network programs.
Why did you choose to be an Aggie?
Born and raised in Bryan only a few blocks from Texas A&M, I always believed that I would go to school there – even though at that time it was male only. Every morning we could hear the band practicing while we ate breakfast, and it was a tradition for local families to rent out rooms to Aggie families for football games. I remember the families that stayed with us had such enthusiasm and a special spirit. They shared stories of campus and the games. I wanted that. My parents and I had faith that the rules for girls attending would change by the time I was ready to start college. It was so exciting to have that dream fulfilled when I got my letter of acceptance into the class of 1975. There was never a doubt in my mind that I would be an Aggie. I graduated from Texas A&M University in December 1974 with a degree in business management and marketing.
What is your favorite memory as a student?
One of the blessings of being in one of the first classes of women is that we got to help create programs for women students. It was so exciting to be part of the firsts: Diamond Darlings, OPAS guild, OPA & CWENS (service organizations), and being one of the first elected women to a position in the Student Senate. I was the recording secretary.
The other favorite memory is meeting so many amazing people from all over the world and sharing that spirit which is uniquely Aggie with them.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
“To put unconditional love for all in every human heart.”
What advice do you have for current students/students about to graduate?
- Know what is essential and what is nonessential in your life. Essentials are non-negotiable. They represent the truths on which you stand and from which you should never waiver.
- Remember that you are also a spiritual being and need to care for that part of your being as much as you care for your body and mental beings.
- Hope is the momentum of life. Every goal or dream expressed aloud or in your hearts is a hope. Each hope realized leads to new hopes and dreams. Claim hope daily.
- Joy comes from an attitude of gratitude. Each morning say thank you for the day to come, look for things that are good each day, and give thanks each evening for those you found. An attitude of gratitude lays the foundation for success.
Favorite movie quote?
“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda, Star Wars
What is your favorite quote or mantra that you live by?
“Nothing is impossible; with God everything is possible”.
What were you going to be when you grew up?
Bonanza was one of my favorite television shows growing up. I wanted to own the Ponderosa – “as far as the eye could see”, to work the land, and to create something magical. Messina Hof became my Ponderosa.