Monday, May 18, 2009

Two Buck Chuck

CNN article about Fred Franzia, CEO of Bronco Wine

...the CEO of Bronco Wine, the nation's fourth-largest wine company, tells me repeatedly that only a sucker would pay more than $10 for a bottle of wine - including his own $35 Domaine Napa. And that Napa's and Bordeaux's claims about their special soils are bogus: "We can grow on asphalt. Terroir don't mean sh*t."

In 2002, Franzia persuaded Trader Joe's to sell a low-end label called Charles Shaw (after the winemaker who sold the tony label to Franzia, and dubbed Two Buck Chuck by consumers) that waged war on domestic wines in the $4 to $10 range - and was named best chardonnay in a blind taste test at July's California State Fair over far pricier competition. The label is one of America's fastest-growing, selling 5 million cases per year, all through one chain of stores.

"There's not a doubt in my mind that the two biggest things that have happened to the wine industry in the last 10 years are the movie Sideways and Two Buck Chuck," says Gary Vaynerchuk, who reviews wines on his popular video blog,

While he expects a lot, Franzia is known for listening to his employees, even if he has to berate them into talking. "The thing we do better than anyone is we listen," Franzia says. And despite Bronco's size, he's still willing to take big risks.

As we speak, enormous swaths of his fields are being ripped up to switch from cabernet sauvignon and merlot vines to pinot noir and pinot grigio, which Franzia expects to be big sellers because they're easy to drink.

"Success is easy if you think of it like rust: It's inevitable if you keep at it. You look for magic moments, but they're not there," Franzia says. "Guys can claim they are, but that's bullshit."

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