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Bill would help wineries, breweries

U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (left) asks a Carlos Creek Winery server about a white wine she was pouring while the co-owner of the winery, Kim Bredeson, looks on. Smith said she enjoyed the April 4 tour and the chance to see the wine making process. (Al Edenloff / Echo Press)

A new bill would help breweries, wineries and distilleries throughout the country — including Carlos Creek Winery.

U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minnesota, visited the winery on April 4 and talked to owners Tami and Kim Bredeson about the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act. It aims to reduce excise taxes, compliance burdens and regulations.

The craft beer, winery and distillery industries continue to blossom. There are more than 5,300 breweries, 8,000 wineries and 800 distilleries across the country.

Supporters of the act note that the brewing industry alone had a national economic impact of more than $252 billion in 2014 while wineries contributed more than $162 billion and provided 1.1 million jobs.

"People love to go to a place that makes the wine or beer you're drinking," Smith said. "It makes it more special."

One way the act would help: Wineries would receive a tax credit on sparkling wine.

Right now, Carlos Creek pays a $3.40 per gallon tax on sparkling wine — much higher than the $1.07 tax on still wine and 7 cents on cider, according to Tami Bredeson.

The high excise tax on sparkling wine harkens back to a time when sparkling wines and champagne were considered luxury products, she said.

Under the act, the winery would get a $1 per gallon tax credit, giving wineries more incentive for making sparkling moscato, for example, which is one of the most popular types of wine in the industry right now, Bredeson said.

Smith said the new legislation would level the playing field for all wineries, breweries and distilleries and bring down costs for Minnesotans who like to buy local from the businesses in their neighborhoods.

"With all the regulatory hurdles, it's difficult for the businesses to expand," Smith said. "This will make it easier for small breweries and wineries to thrive."

Value-added grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture also help wineries expand, add employees and invest in their operations. Smith saw an example of that at Carlos Creek. About two and half years ago, it used a value-added grant to buy a new bottling machine that allows the winery to produce single-serve mini bottles of wine — a concept that quickly caught on with customers and businesses.

The number of restaurants offering the Carlos Creek mini bottles has grown from seven to 47, Tami Bredeson said.

"People really like them and the restaurants like them because they can serve it fresh," she said.

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

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