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Minnesota wineries split about new statewide rule change

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Salem Glen Winery in Rochester

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) - The 51 percent rule was meant to protect Minnesota's grape industry. Yet the law is now being called unconstitutional on the grounds of restricting fair trade.

Until this week, all wineries in Minnesota were forced to use a majority of grapes grown in the state. The removal of the rule opens up new doors for many wineries, but others believe it could let out opportunities for local growers and researchers.

"If you're importing all your grapes and producing mostly not Minnesota wine, it seems disingenuous to call yourself a Minnesota farm winery," said Dustin Ebert, owner of Salem Glen Winery.

The Rochester winery uses mostly local grapes. It will not be impacted by this new ruling.

"We think it's a disservice to those who spent so much energy to start importing lots and lots of grapes from outside," Ebert said. "We believe you can make wonderful wines with the grapes that grow around here. There's no need to import grapes."

The owner says researchers and growers will be negatively impacted.

Meanwhile, some smaller wineries are rejoicing.

"Probably a little bit overdue because it limits the ability to get grapes. In all honesty, there's never been a year that we could remember, unless its been a really slow year, that we could actually get the grapes we needed anyways," said Jay Enderson, owner of Three Oak Winery.

Both wineries have been offering outdoor seating but have seen smaller profits this summer.

"I think we did seven weddings this year which is good but they were half or a fourth of what they would have been," Enderson said. "That affected us all the way through."

Since oudoors is only an option in Minnesota until it gets cold, surviving the fall and winter months is a looming problem.

"It will be challenging," Ebert admits. "We will have to look at how to handle the indoor areas during the cooler season."

Yet both say support from customers is keeping them afloat, including some new faces.

"People have a tendency to want to travel somewhere. We may not have as many local people in town coming here but we have people from Rochester or Mankato who want to take a day trip to us. Our people are taking a trip over there," Enderson observes. "It's been a good thing. Has it been like normal? No, but the support has been good enough for us to hang on and survive."

Salem Glen prefers to use Frontenac grapes, a product of research from the University of Minnesota. Three Oak Winery makes products with both Minnesota and California grapes. Four Daughters Winery in Spring Valley says it does not have an opinion on either side.

Alex Tejada

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