Reporting Reg Chapman
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Minnesota’s wine industry is coming into its own. Not only is it pumping money into the state’s economy, it’s also adding jobs.
In 2011, the industry added $59 million to the state’s economy. It was also responsible for more than 3,200 jobs.
Mike Fullerton, the owner of the Prairie Pond winery in New Prague, opened shop in November and instantly noticed how popular Minnesota wines have become.
“It’s growing like crazy,” he said. “The number of vineyards is growing and thanks to the research with the grapes, we are producing a good wine.”
Minnesota’s wine industry owes its success to University of Minnesota researchers, who helped create cold-hardy grapes. It’s allowed business owners like Fullerton to capitalize on the state’s new boom crop.
Brigid Tuck, an extension researcher at the U, says vineyards generate $16 million, wineries generate $22 million and wine tourists pour $20 million into the economy.
However, he also says that those in the industry must find a way to keep it going.
“Wineries are very well aware that they need to brand themselves,” Tuck said.
Fullerton says what Minnesota wines need is exposure.
“What we’re trying to do is let people try the best wines in the world up against the Minnesota wines and show them that…it tastes a little bit different but they are still quality wines,” Fullerton said.
With 63 percent of all Minnesota wines purchased at wineries, growers hope these home state wines catch on in other places.
“I think that as word gets out that they are good wines, we’ll see that people wanting them in the restaurants and bars,” Fullerton said.
It will be a challenge, he says, to expose more people to Minnesota wines.
Event-savvy marketing is crucial but he hopes wineries will band together to help promote the industry.