Fred Franzia

Fred Franzia drives fellow winemakers crazy mad. At the same time, he makes wine drinkers who value value wines crazy happy.

Franzia says no wine should cost more than $10. He gobbles up excess juice, hauls it to his Bronco Winery in Ceres, California, turns it into drinkable wine. More than 10 million cases a year make him the nation’s fourth largest maker. Bronco bottles Forest Glen, Forest Ville, Silver Ridge, Quail Ridge, more than 50 brands in all.

His $2 Charles Shaw gained fame as “Two Buck Chuck.” In San Angelo, his top value play is Grand Crú at $5 a bottle.

In 2007, Franzia drove California vintners crazy when his low-price Chardonnay won a blind tasting competition at California’s State Fair. When a California wine wins this type of competition in France it’s one thing—worthy of a movie, Bottle Shock—but when Bronco wins in the home state, apoplexy.

Franzia’s name is on the world’s best selling box wine, but that is not Fred’s wine. In the early 1970s, his family sold the Franzia label to Coca-Cola, which subsequently sold it to The Wine Group, world’s third-largest wine company. Many speculate Fred’s career has been, in part, to avenge that sale.

In any event, Fred Franzia and his Bronco winery continue to drive the wine world crazy, one award-winning $5 bottle at a time.

Recommended (all Bronco products):

• Forest Glen Forest Fire White Merlot. Fruit-driven, off-dry, enjoy chilled. $8

• Crane Lake Cabernet Sauvignon. Complex, no; very serviceable, yes. $6

• Forest Ville Chardonnay. Moderate fruit, green apple, pear. $6