MN Winemakers Claim Sour Grapes In Judges Ruling
When you think about wine, you probably think about warm weather, maybe the Napa Valley, or Italy. You should maybe start thinking about Southern Minnesota. Southern Minnesota has award-winning wineries like Four Daughters near Rochester, Three Oak Winery in Albert Lea, and The Next Chapter Winery in New Prague. But in order for these wineries to operate and sell their wine to visitors in Minnesota, they all have one thing in common: a requirement that the wineries grow 51% of their grapes here in Minnesota, which as we know with our weather lately that can be tough.
In a recent ruling that was made by U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright that struck down a lawsuit made by the nonprofit Institute for Justice on behalf of Alexis Bailly Vineyard in Hastings and The Next Chapter Winery.
The lawsuit claimed that the Minnesota law governing their wine sales violated the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. It was argued in the lawsuit that Minnesota law unfairly restricts business across state lines. The winemakers in the suit claimed that the requirement creates an artificial market for Minnesota grapes when they can get some of their grapes from California for less.
In short, if it is too cold to grow the grapes to make the wine in which you serve to your visitors on site then you have to make up for the shortage of grapes by then importing them. This is where the lawsuit that was filed was trying to change the 51% rule because if we have a bad grape growing year the business could be out of serving wine to its visitors.
Wright's 10-page ruling yesterday didn't address the constitutionality of the Minnesota law. Instead, she said the wineries lacked the authority to sue over the law because they still have the option of expanding their businesses through a manufacturer's license.
It's not clear if any other wineries may file another lawsuit over the 51% state law.