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30 Minnesota wineries offer wine-tasting ‘passport’

Thirty of Minnesota’s wineries are offering free tastings for those carrying a “Discovery Passport” — which costs $25 and is good for 10 free tastings and other special winery offers.

As Minnesota’s wine industry grows like a vine through the state, the Minnesota Grape Growers Association (MGGA) is introducing its first “passport program” to sweeten deals on wine tastings at participating wineries.

The “Discovery Passports” are available for $25 and offer 10 free wine tastings at 30 different wineries and vineyards. In addition to the free tastings, some of the wineries also offer special rewards for passport holders like discounts on their restaurants or buy-one-get-one-free bottles of wine.

“Your typical Minnesota wine tasting can cost anywhere from $5 to $12 each visit,” Missy Machkhashvili, events coordinator for the MGGA, told Twin Cities Business. “While it varies at most wineries, the tasting may offer anywhere from three to 10 different wines, in one-once pours.”

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Minnesota is not the first state to experiment with the passport program; it’s been successful in Washington, New York, Iowa, Illinois, and other states, according to Machkhashvili. Minnesota’s program was launched last week and has thus far sold more than 200 passports.

“Our main goal in the passport program is to drive education about Minnesota wines,” said Machkhashvili. “Once we get people into the tasting rooms we know they will start to really appreciate the local wines we have to offer here.”

For a full list of the participating wineries and to order a passport click here.

For an in-depth look at Minnesota’s growing wine industry read Twin Cities Business’ feature story on the subject, which appeared in our July issue.

Wine-tasting visitors are essential to the success of many small wineries, which have high hopes that the tourists will take at least a bottle or two home with them. In fact, many small wineries don’t sell off-site at all, and it’s typical for area wineries not to have much distribution outside of their immediate area.

Twin Cities BusinessThe local wine industry has been booming over the last two decades. In 1990, there were two licensed wineries in the state. Today there are 43 of them actively selling wine, said Machkhashvili.

Grape growers show similarly explosive growth: While today there are more than 600 vineyards in Minnesota, before 1990 there were fewer than 20.

Annual wine production in the state is growing 28 percent annually, and it is estimated that by 2014 the state will be producing 150,000 gallons of wine a year, up from 93,000 in 2009. Minnesota farm wineries are projected to produce more than $11.25 million of wine a year by 2014, according to the MGGA.

This article is reprinted in partnership with Twin Cities Business.