Court ruling the latest obstacle overcome by winery

Published 6:04 pm Friday, March 20, 2015

Jeff and Bill Bailey are thankful two recent bills passed by the Alabama Legislature allow their business to stay open.

Jeff and Bill Bailey are thankful two recent bills passed by the Alabama Legislature allow their business to stay open.

As Bill Bailey sits on his front porch in a black, wooden, rocking chair and looks out toward his family’s well-tended vineyard in Jemison, he has feelings of relief mixed with an optimistic outlook.

“We are doing OK,” Bailey said. “In just a few weeks it will be lovely around here.”

Although the current scene at the winery is nothing short of peaceful, the reality that Bailey’s family business, Hidden Meadow Vineyard, could have been forced to close due to a recent ruling from the Alabama Supreme Court is still fresh on his mind.

“It was definitely worrisome when we found out what we could be faced with,” Bailey said. “We found out on a Friday, and there was definitely a moment where we were worried about what might happen.”

Containers filled with wine made at Hidden Meadow Vineyard sits in the “chill room” waiting to be bottled.

Containers filled with wine made at Hidden Meadow Vineyard sits in the “chill room” waiting to be bottled.

The Alabama Supreme Court struck down a state law from 2009 that allowed municipalities of a certain size to hold referendums on the sale of alcoholic beverages even if they were located inside a county that did not allow such sales.

Jemison and Thorsby voters approved alcohol sales in separate elections in 2010, based on the 2009 law, and businesses in those municipalities have been selling alcoholic beverages, with the local governments seeing increases in revenue because of associated taxes.

The 2009 law excluded cities in Blount, Clay and Randolph counties, leading to a lawsuit that led to the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the law.

More than 30 cities and towns in Alabama could have been affected by the recent Supreme Court ruling.

Legislation allowing Jemison and Thorsby to continue alcohol sales was passed by the Alabama Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley March 12.

Rep. Jimmy Martin of Clanton sponsored the bills correcting the issues, one of which addresses municipalities, such as Jemison and Thorsby, which held referendums after the 2009 law passed.

The second bill allows any municipality with a population of at least 1,000 residents to hold a referendum on alcohol sales.

Bailey said the news hit close to home when his family learned their business could be in jeopardy.

While the Supreme Court ruling would have affected area businesses in both Jemison and Thorsby, it could have been catastrophic for the Bailey’s business.

“It isn’t a good feeling to know that everything you have worked for might come to an end,” Bailey said. “We would have been forced to close.”

Bailey and his wife, Janette, opened the vineyard behind their house in Jemison in June 2011.

What originally started as a hobby became a business when the city of Jemison voted to go wet in 2010, and in 2011 the Baileys opened the gates of Hidden Meadow and began selling their homemade, hand-bottled white, red and blush wines.

The Bailey’s son, Jeff, currently works full-time with the business, and the family spends most days working to produce quality wine for customers near and far.

“You put out a fine wine and people will come buy it, and they do,” Bailey said. “We try to have something for everybody.”

Some of the vineyard’s varieties include muscadine wines, dryer red wines and dryer white wines, sweet wines and the vineyard’s specialty, peach wine.

“People love our peach wine,” Bailey said. “We use Chilton County peaches, and it is delicious.”

In addition to wine, Hidden Meadow is a popular venue for small, outdoor weddings, bridal showers, group meetings and other small, private events.

The store, with wine and wine accessories, has a wrap-around porch and a “party deck” in the back with tables and twinkle lights for evening events.

While guests often flock to the winery to enjoy a relaxing time, the Baileys spend much of their time working on their product.

“We want people to come and have a good time,” Bailey said. “What we do here is pleasurable work. We love every aspect of the job, but it is a hard job. I tell people all of the time that I quit an easy job to do hard work.”

Hidden Meadow is listed on the Alabama Wine Trail, and Bailey said visitors from all around come to Chilton County, which helps boost the local economy.

“[Jemison] Mayor Eddie Reed assured us that everything would be OK, and he was really great about keeping us informed regarding the future of our business,” Bailey said. “We are very appreciative of everything that Mayor Reed and Jimmy Martin did.”

Bailey hopes in the future that less restrictions will be placed on wine producers in Alabama with fewer limitations on distribution.

“It would be really great if we could get extra freedom on distributing our wine,” Bailey said.

Currently, wine from Hidden Meadow is distributed to 17 ABC stores and in 28 retail outlets.

The wine can also be purchased at the winery.

In the meantime, Bailey’s family is thankful the recent bills passed allow them to stay open and look forward to business continuing as usual.

“When people come here, we want them to experience the vineyards,” Bailey said. “If it is off the beaten path, people still come and we are thankful that they do.”

Hidden Meadow is open every Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Hidden Meadow Vineyard is located at 664 County Road 606 in Jemison.

For more information, call (205) 688-4648 or visit for a complete list of where the wine can be purchased in Alabama.