History of Charles Shaw Winery

Good wine does not have to be expensive.

The Charles Shaw winery, named after owner Charles Shaw, went out of business years ago, but the name and the wine live on.

Charles Shaw and The Bronco Wine Company

The owners of the Bronco Wine Company saw something in the wine Charles F. Shaw once produced at his small winery in Napa Valley. The winery itself shut its doors in 1991, but CEO of Bronco Wine, Fred Franzia (yes, that Franzia) took notice the success of Shaw's inexpensive wines and bought the name (including the popular Two Buck Chuck moniker) from Shaw. The wines offered under the Charles Shaw winery label include:

The Charles Shaw label wines are produced at Bronco's Ceres, California vineyards.

About Two Buck Chuck

Decades ago, when Shaw was living in Europe, he fell in love with French Beaujolais. When he returned to the States in 1974, he decided to open a winery in California's famed Napa Valley. The wine offered by the Charles Shaw winery was sold only to Trader Joe's stores on the west coast, initially. There are currently over 300 Trader Joe's stores in the United States.

Keeping with Shaw's goal of providing an inexpensive Beaujolais style wine to the wine lovers of America, the wine was sold for $1.99, which is part of how "Two Buck Chuck" got its name from a wine critic many years ago. "Two Buck Chuck" is now sold in many states, though the increasing cost of transportation and shipping has caused the name to change, just a little, depending on where you live. So, if you live on, say, the east coast, you may find that "Two Buck Chuck" has turned into "Three Buck Chuck" or "Four Buck Chuck".

Regardless of whether or not you pay a couple of dollars more for Charles Shaw wine, the label itself, is one of the fastest growing wine labels in the country, selling an estimated five million cases per year.

Awards and Accolades

Don't let the price fool you, Charles Shaw wines have received a few awards, such as:

  • International Eastern Wine Competition - The Charles Shaw Shiraz won double gold in 2002.
  • California State Fair Wine Competition - Won the title of Best Chardonnay from California in 2005.

Bronco Wine Company Legal Issues

Though many of Bronco's wine labels, especially the "Two Buck Chuck", have had great success, the company itself has experienced a few serious legal issues:

  • Fred Franzia steps down - In 1993, the CEO of Bronco stepped down after the winery was charged a $2.5 million fine for misrepresenting the grape varietals on the wine bottle labels. According to the suit, Bronco was advertising their wines as containing premium grapes, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon, when in fact they did not. In addition to the hefty fine paid by Bronco, Franzia stepped down from his position as CEO, paid a half a million dollar fine for his personal involvement in the grape scandal and cannot have any part in the purchase of grapes for the company's many labels for a period of five years.
  • Young immigrant worker dies - In 2008, a pregnant 17 year old collapsed in the vineyards while working and later died. One of the reasons for her death, according to allegations, was the contracting company that hired the field workers for the winery offered few water breaks for their employees. This violated California OSHA standards, especially for employees working in the heat of the California sun. Some activists are now petitioning Trader Joe's stores to discontinue selling Bronco wines, including Charles Shaw, at their stores.

Hopefully, the company's legal woes does not negatively affect the success of the labels carried by Bronco. In addition to the Charles Shaw Winery, some of the other over 50 labels carried by Bronco include:

  • Crane Lake
  • Estrella
  • Fat Cat
  • Grand Cru
  • Fox Hollow
  • Forest Glen
  • Redwood
  • Thousand Oaks
  • Coastal Ridge
  • Domaine Napa
  • JW Morris
  • Oak Vineyards
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History of Charles Shaw Winery