Lawsuit Challenges Minnesota’s Out of State Restrictions on Grapes for Wine Making

Meagan Forbes (an attorney at the Institute for Justice’s Minnesota office, which represents Alexis Bailly Vineyard and Next Chapter Winery in their case) indicated this week at the Minneapolis Star Tribune Online that, “If you’re looking for a Cabernet, Tempranillo or Malbec at your favorite Minnesota farm winery, chances are you won’t find one. And it’s not Minnesota’s harsh winters that are to blame. It’s Minnesota’s harsh regulatory environment.

Unlike craft brewers — who are free to import a variety of hops and barley from anywhere they please — Minnesota farm wineries are legally required to make wine with a majority of Minnesota grapes. This law props up the state’s grape industry at the expense of farm wineries, wine drinkers and our state’s economy.

“It’s time to set our farm wineries free.”

Ms. Forbes noted that, “The rise in Minnesota farm wineries has closely corresponded to the availability of Northern grape varieties — the only grapes that can grow in the state’s cold climate. Farm wineries, however, are not required to grow their own grapes, and many struggle to grow even these Northern varieties in Minnesota. Yet, when farm wineries turn to other growers to purchase additional grapes, the law forces them to buy from Minnesota growers.”

“Thus, the state cripples farm wineries’ ability to access the ingredients they need to blend and make the broad variety of wines their customers want,” Ms. Forbes stated.

The opinion item added that, “Minnesota shouldn’t be boxing farm wineries in with this kind of protectionist law. That is why Alexis Bailly Vineyard and another farm winery, Next Chapter Winery, have filed a federal lawsuit challenging Minnesota’s winemaking restriction under the U.S. Constitution. Their suit asks a simple question: Why can’t Minnesota farm wineries make wines with grapes from other states?

“While wine may get better with age, Minnesota’s protectionism surely does not. Let’s lift these unnecessary restrictions and unleash the passion, creativity and energy of our Minnesota vintners,” Ms. Forbes said.

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