Minnesota’s 51% Grape Law Heading to 8th Circuit

The winery that lost the challenge to Minnesota’s grape law has filed an appeal to the 8th Circuit.  Briefing has been done and amicus briefs have been filed by local cider makers and the Institute of Justice.   The State’s brief has concentrated on the standing challenges that the district court found persuasive.  A date for oral argument will be set soon.

(previous post) Minnesota Defeats Challenge to 51% Local Grapes Law

Two Minnesota wineries lost a dormant commerce clause challenge to a Minnesota law that requires 51% of the grapes used in wine to be grown in Minnesota in order for a direct sale at the winery to occur.  The wineries claimed that the law designed to help “farm wineries” burden interstate commerce.   Instead they sought to be able to avoid the local 51% Minnesota grape sourcing law that allowed direct sales, procure out of state grapes/wine and still sell direct.   The court rejected their argument in her order: “There is no right to sell wine directly to the public, and the state of Minnesota is not required to configure its licensure statutes to allow Plaintiffs to conduct business in any fashion they choose.” The court referenced Freeman v. Corzine, 629 F.3d 146, 162-63 (3d Cir. 2010) as additional support for this position.

In her opinion Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright noted that the plaintiffs created their own problem and as a result do not have standing to challenge this law:

Here, in contrast, Plaintiffs have a clear alternative to the in-state requirement imposed by the farm-winery license. Plaintiffs can obtain wine-manufacturer licenses, with which they can produce wine free of the in-state requirement and avoid their asserted injury. Plaintiffs’ injury stems from Plaintiffs’ choice and is not fairly traceable to the in-state requirement.”

A newspaper article also covered this decision and discussed some of the merits of Minnesota wine.  I always wondered how wineries can call themselves local vineyards if someone else grew all the grapes thousands of miles away.

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