You may not know his name – not immediately, maybe, but keep reading – but you sure know his contribution to wine lovers. He created the $1.99 Charles Shaw wines sold at Trader Joes.
His name is Fred Franzia and he passed away in September. He was 79.
His signature wine became so popular they developed a cult following, not unlike a Halloween horror movie. People started calling the wines “Two Buck Chuck.” No other wine in history has ever had such excitement and devotion among the mainstream public.
He was the nephew of Ernest Gallo and his family also produced wines, including boxed wines which became wildly popular at house parties. Recognize the Franzia name now?
After his family sold the company to Coca-Cola Franzia he, along with his brother Joseph and cousin John, started Bronco Wine Company. They then bought miles and miles of vineyards more than 30,000 acres with the idea to produce wines on a massive scale, make quality wines and sell them cheaper than traditional California wineries.
He once told the Los Angeles times that his tractors would drive through three miles of vineyards before they had to turn around. “Everything is done on a mass scale,” he said.
Eventually the company bought Charles Shaw winery after its founder filed for bankruptcy.
Fred Franzia would often boast that Two Buck Chuck could compete with $10 wines and said “if you can’t taste or tell the difference, then why spend the money?”
He then proved it at the International Eastern Wine Competition when Charles Shaw Shiraz beat out 2,300 other wines to win a double gold medal in 2002.
He was not a saint, tho. While at Bronco, he paid a $500,000 fine and resigned as president of Bronco when he and other executives were found guilty of fraud by making false claims about the quality of the grapes to deceive customers. That got the attention of the federal government. Others were sent to jail but he avoided that punishment.
But that is not his legacy. Two Buck Chuck is and PubClub.com raises a glass of Charles Shaw Shiraz as a cheers and salute to him.