Created for a Communications Leadership course, I was tasked with proposing a partnership between an American winery and the wine industry of the Republic of Georgia. It was a fun project, its initial challenge seemed to be the relative obscurity of Georgian wine. My first thought was, “Why not the French?” However, Georgian wine-making proved to be far more interesting and earthy than I expected. It was a perfect match for one of my favorite Texas wineries. What follows are the speaker notes that I presented with the visual presentation:
For this presentation, I chose to represent a wine with which I have a personal connection. I have worked and dined with the family who founded this vineyard, the Bonnarigo family.
Wine-making in Georgia is ancient and steeped in tradition. While Messina Hof is a young winery, relatively speaking, its driving value is that of family and respect for the past, while looking to the future. The statement “You value tradition, so do we” speaks to that regard for the past, particularly given the long and continuous history of wine-making in Georgia.
Georgian vineyards are small, personal, and rooted in family. They’ve retained their history and continued their stories. Georgian wine is primarily produced by small growers, rather than large mega-vineyards such as one might find in California. Texas’s Messina Hof is a vineyard in that tradition. The acreage is walkable, the fermentation housing is in two side-by-side buildings, the wines are taken from vat to table in the fine dining room that is adjacent to the production facility.
Shared events, made possible by technologies like Zoom, might allow for virtual wine festivals, classes, and tastings. Might I suggest a white wine flight tasting, featuring the Georgian orange or amber wine as well as the Bonnarigo Heritage Select, overseen by a Georgian Tamada, a toastmaster and host who offers traditional toasts and guides the conversation? Virtual concurrent wine festivals or vineyard tours would be fun events to link wine lovers from both sides of the world, creating bonds between the two countries and reinforcing Georgia’s continued flourishing as an independent country.
“The Georgian proverb ‘Every guest is a gift from God’ goes a long way to explain how hospitable and welcoming Georgians are. Tourists regularly report being invited to stay in mountain communities while hiking, being personally escorted to sites of interest and, of course, fed and watered amply at every turn” (National Geographic, 2018). Messina Hof is also known for its Texas hospitality. Hosting weddings, tours, private dinners, and more in its dining and tasting facilities as well as its inn, the Bonnarigo family values hospitality as much as it values fine wine.