The California Winemaker Who Created Two Buck Chuck Has Died

"Who says we're lower priced? We're the best price," Fred Franzia said in 2009. "The others, I think, are overpriced."

Fred Franzia, the California winemaker who created the Trader Joe's wine popularly known as Two Buck Chuck, died on Tuesday. He was 79.

Franzia's death was announced by the Bronco Wine Company, the vintner he founded with his brother, Joseph, and cousin John in 1973. In an Instagram post, the company said Franzia believed in creating high-quality wines at an affordable cost to consumers. The company's Charles Shaw wines famously sell for just $1.99 a bottle.

Franzia died at his home in Denair, California. A cause of death was not provided.

"His entrepreneurial spirit, tireless dedication, and his commitment to both his family and to the Bronco family will forever be remembered," the company said.

Though Bronco produces more than 100 brands of wines, according to its website, the company is best known for its cheap bottles of Charles Shaw. Franzia bought the brand in the 1990s after its founder, Charles Shaw, filed for bankruptcy. According to the New Yorker, Franzia got the idea to sell the wine for just two bucks a bottle in 2002, when he was forced to sell wine for 50 cents a gallon because of a surplus. Though the wine has had critics over the years, more than 800 million bottles were sold in its first 12 years on the grocery chain's shelves, according to CNBC.

"Who says we're lower priced? We're the best price," he told the San Francisco Chronicle in a 2009 interview. "The others, I think, are overpriced."

A representative for Trader Joe's did not immediately respond to BuzzFeed News' request for comment on Franzia's death.

Born in 1943, Franzia came from a long line of winemakers. His family founded the Franzia Brothers Winery but sold the brand to Coca-Cola in 1973, causing a bit of a rift in the family. The Franzia name is now best known for boxed wine, and the brand has no remaining relationship to Fred Franzia and the Bronco Wine Company.

“My dad, he was not a fighter,” Franzia told the New Yorker in 2009. “He just folded. And he and I went through a period of no communication, I think for five years. I just was pissed.”

Franzia himself also dealt with his own controversies as a winemaker. In 1994, he pleaded guilty to fraud charges for falsely labeling the grape varieties on his wine labels, and a judge ordered him to step down as Bronco's president for five years. Over the years, he also pushed for looser laws on labeling wines.

He is survived by his five children, 15 grandchildren, brother, and two sisters.

In its announcement of his death, the Bronco Wine Company noted that his work had allowed the company to remain family owned.

"His legacy will endure for generations to come."

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