Founder of Two Buck Chuck Dies

'At the end, we all have an expiration date,' said Fred Franzia, who died at 79
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2022 6:21 AM CDT
The Man Who Brought Us Two Buck Chuck Is Dead
This photo taken Sept. 16, 2009 shows Bronco Co. Wine Co. co-founder Fred Franzia looking over rows of Pinot Grigio before they are picked by a mechanical harvester at the Shady Oaks vineyard of Bronco Wine Co. in Lodi, Calif.   (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

The man who turned "Two Buck Chuck" into an American phenomenon is dead. Fred Franzia, co-founder of Bronco Wine Company, died early Tuesday at his home in California with family by his side, according to a letter sent to Bronco employees, per Wine Spectator. A cause of death wasn't given. He was 79. Born in 1943, Franzia founded Bronco with his brother Joseph Franzia and cousin John Franzia in 1973—the same year his family sold the Franzia Brothers Winery to Coca-Cola, per BuzzFeed. Franzia later said he didn't speak to his father for five years as a result of the decision. Fred's family lived on the grounds of the winery outside Modesto. "I grew up working in the vineyard," he told the New Yorker in 2009. And "I just was pissed."

He was a strong proponent of value wine. Though Bronco produces more than 100 brands of wines, it's best known for the 2002 relaunch of Napa brand Charles Shaw, which Bronco had purchased. Charles Shaw, or "Two Buck Chuck" as it came to be known, was sold exclusively at Trader Joe's for $1.99 a bottle. "Fred had the vision of creating high-quality wines at a value for wine consumers, including Charles Shaw," which was "built on a belief that wine should be enjoyed and consumed on every American table," the company letter reads, per the Modesto Bee. It notes Fred Franzia was once asked how he could sell a bottle of wine for less than the cost of a bottle of water and replied, "They're overcharging for the water. Don't you get it?"

The letter notes that more than 1 billion bottles of Charles Shaw have been sold. The brand distracted from Franzia pleading guilty to fraud charges for falsely labeling grape varieties on wine labels in the early 1990s. He was fined $500,000, received five years of probation, and was ordered to step down as Bronco's president for five years, per BuzzFeed and the Bee. He served as CEO for many years. "His entrepreneurial spirit, tireless dedication, and his commitment to both his family and to the Bronco family will forever be remembered," said Bronco. Franzia is survived by five children, 15 grandchildren, his brother, and two sisters. In the letter, his daughter Renata shared this quote from her father: "We are fighting a good fight and at the end, we all have an expiration date." (More Two Buck Chuck stories.)

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