Minnesota District Court Strikes Law Requiring Minnesota Wine be Made From Minnesota Grapes

After a remand from the 8th Circuit, the district court in Minnesota struck the state law that provides advantages to wineries who made their wine primarily from Minnesota grapes.   The opinion by Judge Wilhelmina M. Wright on competing motions for summary judgement avoided discussion of the 21st Amendment and found strict scrutiny appropriate due to her determination of facial discrimination of the statute.

Not sure how you can call the product Minnesota wine if the grapes are from California but I guess that is a matter for consumer protection laws. Apparently not all Minnesota wine growers are happy with this lawsuit and ruling.

(earlier post) 8th Circuit Finds Standing, Sends Minnesota Wine Grape Law Back to District Court

I blogged about waiting for the 8th Circuit’s decision last week and now they have ruled this week.  The 8th Circuit reversed the district court’s decision not to find standing in the challenge to the law requiring 51% of the grapes to be from Minnesota to qualify for one of two licenses.   They did not address the merits of the plaintiff’s dormant Commerce Clause claims and that will be the subject of briefing at the district court on remand.

A Minnesota Star Tribune article on the decision can be found here.

(earlier postWaiting for 8th Circuit in Minnesota 51% Grape Law Case

Oral arguments were held in February and no decision has been reached yet.   The plaintiffs have filed a notice of supplemental authority on the Supreme Court’s recent Tennessee Retailers case arguing the Supreme Court’s action supports their challenge to MN winery law.   We will continue to watch and wait for a decision in this case.

(previous post) 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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