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Why Minnesota Can Be Called Wine Country

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(credit: CBS) Rachel Slavik
Rachel Slavik joined the WCCO team in October of 2010 and is thrill...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When you think of Minnesota’s tourism industry, you probably think of our lakes or the north woods. Few people consider this wine country.

But over the last 40 years, more and more vineyards and wineries have opened up in Minnesota.

Endless rows of grape vines, a quaint chalet: It is a scene so many of us associate with California wine country. But on the outskirts of Hastings, the Alexis Bailly Vineyard is a long way from the west coast.

“I’m not so sure you don’t kind of go ‘Wait, what’s going on here.’ We’re still crossing nature’s boundaries,” Nan Bailly said.

Having been in the business for 40 years, Nan Bailly knows the challenges of growing grapes in Minnesota.

“I would say three out of five years I lose a significant portion of my crop,” Nan said.

For her, that’s part of the appeal.

“I also like the challenge. I like working hard, I don’t mind being unique, i don’t mind sort of having people go what are you doing there,” she said.

But even with a harsh winter, the wine industry in Minnesota continues to grow. From the southern region up to the Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria, she said they make around 20 different kinds of wine at any given time. All are part of  the 30-plus wineries around the state.

The experience is similar to the south of France or Napa Valley. Complete with tasting rooms and tours, a handful of wineries are producing product on site. And then there’s the scenery. That’s where Nan thinks Minnesota’s wine industry can show real growth.

Turning the emphasis to tourism rather than production, wineries are putting more money into their grounds by adding outdoor games and picnic areas.

“I think that’s the only place you’ll see a money-maker,” Nan said.

Minnesota may never rival wine country, but now anyone can enjoy the experience here at home. Vineyards grow a mix of grapes plants produced at the University of Minnesota and the grape vines of their choosing.

Alexis Bailly, for instance, makes the bulk of their wine from a french grape plant. The U of M plant is heartier and more likely to make it through winter.

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