GREENWOOD — The city of Greenwood’s downtown winery is within two months of opening.
Lonnie Bailey told the Greenwood Rotary Club this week that The Winery at Williams Landing plans to open Nov. 15, as long as it gets federal approval of its labels by then. If the approval drags out, it could delay the opening until the end of November.
Bailey, an attorney who has been practicing in Greenwood for 30 years, has been a hobbyist winemaker for some time. He and his wife, Debbie, decided to take their interest commercial, even while Lonnie continues in his law practice.
A fondness for history is a big part of the venture. The winery gets its name from the trading post founded in 1834 on the Yazoo River by John Williams that eventually became Greenwood. The operation will be housed in a 106-year-old building at the intersection of Howard Street and Carrollton Avenue that was a firehouse until 1930. The two-story red brick building served later as the headquarters for a tin and roofing shop and, for a half-century, as the offices of the Red Cross of Leflore County. It has been empty and deteriorating since 1998.
The building “was in a sad state” when he acquired it, Bailey said. “I am pleased to announce that it is no longer in a sad state.”
The building has undergone an extensive renovation following historical preservation guidelines. One distinct feature that has been retained is the towering double doors at the front.
“I’ll be able to pull them apart just like they did when they used to have horses pulling a fire buggy,” Bailey said.
Bailey is hoping to offset the costs of the renovation through the wine club he has established. For a onetime $1,000 contribution, members receive a lifetime of perks, such as a complimentary bottle of wine per quarter and discounts on purchases. All wine club proceeds go toward the building restoration, he said.
“We felt like that was the greatest benefit we could give people who didn’t want to go through the hard work I have for the past six to eight months but want to be part of the renovation of downtown Greenwood.”
Mayor Carolyn McAdams, a major proponent of downtown revitalization, said she was thrilled when Bailey came to her initially with his vision for what the old firehouse could become.
“I thought I was going to flip myself out of my chair,” she said.
Williams Landing will become only the second operating native winery in the state, according to Bailey. The other is Old South Winery in Natchez.
Native wineries are required to make wine that includes at least 51 percent Mississippi-grown products. In return, they qualify for some tax breaks as well as the authority to have a retail sales operation.
Williams Landing will be able “to sell wine by the glass, by the bottle, by the case, by the truckload if you want it,” Bailey said.
Initially, he will be purchasing his grapes from other Mississippi growers, but Bailey said he has planted 140 vines in Carroll County that he hopes in two years will provide the bulk of his grape needs. Most of his wines will be variations of muscadine, but Bailey also was showing off blueberry and fig wines that he will be bottling.
Beer distributor Hank Hargrove was one of the Rotary Club’s members to taste a sampling.
“I thought it was a very good wine,” he said. “I especially liked the blueberry. It has the scent of blueberry, but it tastes like a regular dry red wine.”