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Carlos Creek Winery gets big grant

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Carlos Creek Winery is branching out.

On July 12, the winery was awarded a $280,000 Value-Added Producer Grant that will help it grow and reach more customers. Colleen Landkamer, state director with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, officially awarded the grant.

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After a few words and the check presentation, everyone was invited to take a tour of the winery.

Value-added grants are awarded to help agricultural producers establish or expand markets for their agricultural products.

The winery will use the grant to increase their customer base and distribution of the locally produced wines.

Tami Bredeson, president of Carlos Creek Winery, said the winery needed the grant to reach and supply more Minnesota stores.

The "Minnesota Nice" branch of wine has been the most popular of Carlos Creek Winery's selection. The winery is currently unable to reach all of the possible customers requesting this wine, said Bredeson.

The winery currently supplies customers within 100 miles. With the future increase in production from the grant, the winery will have a customer base beyond Minnesota's borders. Bredeson's goal is to one day have the Minnesota Nice wines in every state in America.

More production equipment, technology advances, an addition to the winery itself and a permanent floor in the arena are some of the changes they hope to make at the winery with the help of the grant.

The addition to the building will be about 1,700 square feet. They also hope to add a covered area for ceremonies.

There are many weddings at the winery and they hope to be able to fulfill each couple's expectations with the new additions.

Providing accommodations for weddings and other special ceremonies has also been a great tool for marketing at the winery, added Bredeson.

The grant could lead to hiring two more full-time employees and more part-time positions. With the expansion and increase in production, there will be more work to be done at the winery, Bredeson said.

One of the possible positions could be a full-time wine producer. Bredeson added that the current wine producer puts in above and beyond his 40-hour work week so another wine producer is needed for the additional work.

With the help of the grant, the capacity for wine production will increase by 200 to 300 percent, said Bredeson.

Bredeson believes the winery is a partner with the community. When visitors stop in, the winery recommends other local businesses they can check out. A shuttle carries visitors from the winery to local hotels after weddings and other events.

The winery gets about 40,000 visitors each year and about 90 percent of them are from outside the Alexandria area, said Bredeson. It has been estimated that the winery helps bring in $1.9 million for community businesses each year, she added.

She also said that they employ local musicians as well. Friday through Sunday, there is live music at the winery from 2 to 6 p.m. Bredeson said this provides a good beginning for local musicians.

The winery works with other local producers and is always looking for more connections that could fit in well with the winery.

Bredeson added that the winery has experienced nothing but great support and commitment from the community.

The USDA has awarded about $13 million in value-added grants to Minnesota producers since 2003.

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