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Winter puts a cork in Minnesota wine production

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Minnesota's home-grown wine industry is feeling as chilly as a bottle of white in the wine fridge. Record-setting cold last winter is taking a toll on the state's fledgling wine-grape production, which will limit the amount of Minnesota wine that will be available later this year.

KARE first heard it through the grapevine, reporting that some Minnesota vineyards are experiencing devastating losses.

"All of the vineyards north of the metro are either showing a 100 percent loss or near 100 percent losses for all of their grapevines," Minnesota Grape Growers President Irv Geary told the station, adding that the Wild Mountain Winery in Forest Lake will harvest about 6,000 to 7,000 pounds of grapes this fall compared to an average harvest of 25,000 pounds.

The Star Tribune reported that statewide, the winter took an estimated 30 percent of Minnesota's wine-grape crop.

Because Minnesota’s wine industry is still relatively young, the grape plants are more vulnerable to an extreme winter. While the grape varietals used by Minnesota's 50 bonded wineries were selected to be hardy enough to weather the extreme cold, this year's relentless run of below-zero temperatures was more than many of the plants could take.

“There was no January thaw,” Tami Bredeson, co-owner of the Carlos Creek Winery, told the newspaper. Her winery in Alexandria lost about 80 percent of its expected grape yield. “There was never a letup for the plants. They had to struggle so hard, for so long.”

KARE's story suggested that Minnesota wineries may have to turn to apples or berries for fermentation, or combine the grapes that survived with those from other parts of the country to bottle blends that contain less local wine.

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