Is there wine in the meatballs? (Yes, there's wine in the meatballs.)
Is there wine in the stuffed mushroom caps? (Yes, there's wine in the stuffed mushroom caps.)
Is there wine in the gooey brown butter blondie? (Yes, there's wine in the gooey brown butter blondie.)
You get the point. Wine is incorporated in every dish on nearly every menu at Messina Hof's new Harvest Green Winery & Kitchen, which opened last month at 8921 Harlem Rd. in Richmond. We say nearly every menu because the kids stuff isn't cooked with wine. That wouldn't work. But everything else is. The pan-seared chicken? That's merlot in the demi-glace. The roasted beet salad? That has a sauvignon blanc vinaigrette in it. The cheesy, nutty, and peppery prosciutto and wild mushroom Neapolitan pizza? Its base is apparently ricotta and chardonnay.
In the wrong hands this is a novelty—either the picks are so forceful that diners see right through the attempt, or the food just doesn't stand up, or maybe at times it's both. But Messina Hof knows wine. They've been around since 1977, based out of Bryan where they have a smaller facility with a bed-and-breakfast, and produce an impressive collection, from dry roses to big berry merlots and harder-to-find styles like Italian Sagrantino. So there's a willingness to trust here. But more, the food coming out of the kitchen at Harvest Green stands up to the wines. The marriages work.
This idea of wine incorporated in every recipe is a Messina Hof trademarked brand called Vineyard Cuisine. It's a way to bring food and wine closer together, to round out the experience of being at Harvest Green Winery & Kitchen, which is set on the Johnson Development's 1,300-acre residential and commercial community Harvest Green in Richmond.
Here, Messina Hof gets to do everything a winery can do: There's a tasting area with an 83-foot bar showcasing wine on tap and in bottles; a dining room with regular seating and a more casual lounge area; and private rooms made for business meetings and parties. Beyond that is a 2,600-square-foot patio, a potential outdoor extension for live music and celebrations, vineyard space, a barrel room, and a shipping hub. It's the largest winery in the Houston area.
People will come for the wine, especially its chardonnays, those merlots, and bold triumphs like Paulo Primitivo and the aforementioned Sagrantino, which might be the best of its kind this side of the Atlantic Ocean. What will make people come back? Or at least stay for another two hours? The food. And so far, so good. I'd return to try more pizzas and to have another go at the polenta with Gulf shrimp in a rich fennel and sauvignon blanc broth.
Yeah, sauvignon blanc broth. It's good. Still thinking about it.