Vineyard could benefit from proposed law

Ready to sell: Hidden Meadow Vineyard in Jemison produce multiple varieties of wines from local fruits.

Ready to sell: Hidden Meadow Vineyard in Jemison produce multiple varieties of wines from local fruits.

By Adam Powell | Special to the Advertiser

When one uncorks a bottle of Hidden Meadow Vineyard’s Rose Meadow muscadine wine, the sweet taste of Alabama berries is a welcomed assault on the senses.

Bill and Janette Bailey own the vineyard and winery in Jemison and currently produce multiple varieties of home-grown muscadine and grape wine, as well as products made from local peaches, blackberries and more.

Since the operation opened in June 2011, aside from selling their product on site, the duo has had to go through distributors to get their products into the hands of wine aficionados across the state.

Established business: Hidden Meadow Vineyard opened in June 2011.

Established business: Hidden Meadow Vineyard opened in June 2011.

“It costs you a lot more to go through these distributors,” said Bill Bailey. “To go through that middle man it costs you so much more, we almost have to sell it at cost.”

However, a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Cam Ward (R-Chilton) could eliminate many of these ills for the Baileys and other small winemaking operations across the state.

Senate Bill 381 would establish a “farm winery license for the manufacture and sale of farm wine produced in Alabama.”

If passed, the bill would mimic similar legislation already established in 46 other states across the country.

The Senate bill would make it legal for Alabama wine producers to manufacture and sell farm wine across the state and elsewhere, provided each winery is in possession of a wine manufacturer’s license, has been in operation for an entire calendar year and produces 50,000 gallons or less per year.

Further, the bill would allow Alabama wineries to sell products to the Alabama Beverage Control Board, directly to consumers or through off-site sales, including stores, hotels, restaurants, clubs and more.

The bill would also allow manufacturers to obtain licenses for the establishment of two additional retail locations and for the hosting of special events, such as wine festivals.

“It will give these wine producers more opportunities to sell their product,” Ward said. “The problem in the past has been that they’ve been blocked from the free market.”

The possibilities this bill would offer are not lost on the Baileys.

“If this bill were to go through, we could sell and deliver everything ourselves,” Bill Bailey said. “Business is growing all the time, but we need more just like any other business.”

Ward agrees.

“You look at Chilton and Shelby counties and we have some of the finest wineries in the state,” Ward said. “This bill will promote competition and provide more opportunity for growth—that’s something they’ve been unable to do in the past.”

Bailey noted that similar bills have come before the Legislature in the past and have been unable to gain traction.

However, Ward said he is optimistic that the bill will make it through the Senate and the House with ease.

“I think people feel like they should have more access to the market,” Ward said. “I don’t think there will be any problems.”

For more information on Hidden Meadow Vineyard, visit HiddenMeadow-Vineyard.com or call 205-688-4648.

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