FARGO — Fifteen North Dakota wineries recently banded together to form a new industry group, the Winery Association of North Dakota.

The group will focus on public policy issues and work with the state Legislature to grow and develop commercial wineries. It will also work with wholesalers and retailers, President Rod Ballinger said Tuesday, July 14.

“This is pretty historic,” said Ballinger, one of the owners of Fargo’s Bear Creek Winery. “We just felt the last couple years that, like any of the other commodity groups, we needed a winery association.”

Most of the state’s wineries are members, and the first meeting was held at Bear Creek Winery on June 30.

“It’s pretty exciting times for us. It will give us a unified voice for the industry,” Ballinger said.

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“We need to have the association address the needs of the industry. ... We don’t have a specific agenda right now, but being organized is a big thing.”

An industry group formed earlier, the North Dakota Grape and Wine Association, is more involved in education and promotion of the industry, Ballinger said. Most WAND members are part of both groups.

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Members of WAND must be state and federally licensed. Each member has an equal vote, Ballinger said.

In addition to Bear Creek Winery, charter members are: 4e Winery (Mapleton); Cottonwood Cider House (Ayr); Dakota Hills Winery (Rugby); Dakota Sun Gardens Winery (Carrington); Dakota Vines Vineyard and Winery (Colfax); Fluffy Fields Winery (Dickinson); Kesselring Vineyards (Kindred); Maple River Winery (Casselton); Pointe of View Winery (Burlington); Prairie Rose Meadery (Fargo); Rookery Rock Winery (Wheatland); Sawyer Crossing Vineyard and Winery (Sawyer); Vintners Cellar Winery (Bismarck); and Wolf Creek Winery (near Coleharbor).

“We’re pretty excited to get the word out to everyone and tell people who we are,” Ballinger said.

Pointe of View Winery was the first winery established in North Dakota, opening in 2002, according to WAND. There are now nearly 20 wineries in the state making wines from cold-climate grapes and other fruit.