Alabama Baptists Sniff Noses at Wine Trail

Alabama has all sorts of tourist trails – there’s one for civil rights, another for birds and yet another for old churches. The newest one was introduced Tuesday to promote the state’s wineries, but Baptists aren’t joining in the toast.

A trade association and a tourism group came up with the Alabama Wine Trail to lure visitors to the state’s eight wineries, which produce everything from fruity muscadine and peach wines to more traditional varieties such as merlot and chardonnay.

Tom Vizzini hopes the trail will increase traffic at his Vizzini Farms Winery, which produces as many as 3,000 cases a year. He located it on the outskirts of Birmingham after running up against church opposition in a more rural area.

“We put our wines up against any of them from California,” said Vizzini, whose grandfather was a vintner in Sicily.

But some say the wine can stay on the West Coast.

A Baptist leader in neighboring Chilton County said his group opposed plans for a winery there and doesn’t like the idea of luring tourists to his home turf or anywhere else in Alabama to imbibe.

“We are on record as being opposed to any kind of alcohol-related industry,” said the Rev. Robert Griffin, moderator of the Chilton Baptist Association and pastor of Highland Baptist Church in Clanton. “I would support visiting old, historic churches, but as far as visiting wineries…”

It’s not just wine that draws scorn in conservative Alabama, where more than a third of the state’s counties remain dry 75 years after Prohibition and Southern Baptist churches claim about a quarter of the state’s population.

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