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Lawsuit Challenging Grape Laws For Minnesota Wineries Moves Forward

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A lawsuit that challenges current Minnesota laws stipulating that wineries here must user a majority of Minnesota-grown grapes is moving forward.

The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Alexis Bailly Vineyard and Next Chapter Winery can move forward with their challenge to the existing laws.

"In the last two years, I've lost over 80% of my crop. That's normal. This past winter was the worst damage we've had in 45 years," Nan Bailly said.

As a winemaker and owner of Alexis Bailly Vineyard near Hastings, Bailly knows her winery wouldn't make it without a little help from her out-of-state friends.

"For us to be successful commercially, we have to bring in grapes from out of state. We don't have a choice," Bailly said.

State law requires that more than 50% of the grapes she uses have to be Minnesota grown. To bring in grapes from New York or California, she has to file an affidavit and the state can say no at any time.

"Breweries and distilleries in Minnesota have the freedom to buy product for their beverages from wherever they want. So it seems a little odd that me, as a winery, why do I have to go under different rules? It doesn't make any sense," Bailly said.

There's now hope that the law will spill over. On Monday, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the regulation is hurting Minnesota wineries and the case need to go back to the district court.

"We've had several cases on restrictions on interstate commerce," Anthony Sanders said.

Sanders is an attorney for the Institute for Justice, a national law firm that's representing Bailly's winery. Because of a recent case in Tennessee, he's confident Minnesota wineries will win.

"You had to live in Tennessee for two years before you could even get a license to run a liquor store, and the court found that that was unconstitutional. We're very confident that this case will fall from that one," Sanders said.

Bailly said it isn't just about Minnesota winters, it's also about blending grapes grown here with grapes in other parts of the country.

"It's like going to 31 flavors and only being able to have chocolate and vanilla. As a wine maker, it excites me to work with new varieties, varieties I can't grow in Minnesota," Bailly said.

You can read the full court decision here.

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