MN Wineries Sue Over Law Against Out-of-State Grapes
There’s plenty of threats for the state to keep track of about when it comes to crossing state lines. Most Minnesotans wouldn’t put grapes on the watch list.
Yet state law prohibits Minnesota vintners from using a majority of grapes from other states in blending their wines. Grapes from other regions of the country help soften the edge of the harsher varieties that grow in Minnesota’s climate.
But an arcane state law on the books requires wineries to use a majority of Minnesota-grown grapes in their vintages. The limitation serves the purpose of protecting Minnesota’s grape growers from outside competition.
“We’re fighting for our right to run a successful business,” said Nan Bailly, owner of Alexis Bailly Vineyard, which was started by her father. “We have always carried the flag for Minnesota-grown and Minnesota-made wines, and always will. We have the oldest winery in Minnesota, and our estate-produced wines are the hallmark of our winery. But as our business has grown, we cannot produce enough from our vineyard to meet demand. The government is keeping us from making the wines that people are asking for.”
The ban not only makes for bad wine-making, but bad law. Two Minnesota wineries represented by the Institute for Justice have filed a federal lawsuit challenging the restriction on the grounds it violates their constitutional right to trade freely across state lines, according to the public interest law firm.
In their lawsuit, Alexis Bailly Vineyard and Next Chapter Winery argue that Minnesota’s restriction on out-of-state products violates their right to engage in interstate and foreign commerce, as protected under the Commerce and Import-Export clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Under the Commerce Clause, open discrimination against out-of-state commerce is unconstitutional unless the state can prove that the out-of-state commerce at issue is more dangerous than the in-state commerce, a burden that the state cannot satisfy in this case.
The public interest law firm, known for helping small business owners fight the system, contends the limitation unconstitutionally holds back Minnesota’s vintners’ economic potential and limits choices for consumers.
“Minnesota’s unconstitutional protectionism is a needless attack on the wallets and economic opportunity of its own residents,” added IJ senior attorney Anthony Sanders. “We’re confident the court will protect the ability of farm wineries to make whatever wine Minnesotans want to have.”
Minnesota’s thriving craft brewery industry faces no such restriction in using hops from the Pacific Northwest to become some of the most successful brewers in the country. Soon Minnesota’s winemakers hope to level the playing field for their industry.