The Dark side of the California Wine Biz
The New Yorker has an article about the source of 2$UpChuck.
Kind of a must read:
Don't have a New Yorker account , and don't want one, so I can't read the entire article to see if what you see as the "The Dark side" is the same stuff about Franzia that has been told before. He has a very 'colorful' history and personality and I've never seen him described as being particularly likable. I don't think I'd want to pal around with him at all, but he has certainly set the US wine world on it's ear.
His approach has always reminded me of the famous H. L. Mencken line: "No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.".... with the critical variation here being replacing the word 'intelligence' with the word 'taste'. The vast majority of people seem to find his wines very drinkable, or at least good enough to drink. That's a good thing. Nothing to do with intelligence.
Mid - you really need to find a copy of the New Yorker and read the entire article. Fred Franzia is such an egregious scumbag that Satan himself would be embarrassed to be seen with him. The article describes the recent death of an underaged, undocumented worker on one of Fred's farms. This young women died because no water was provided for workers working 10+ hour shifts in the blistering Central Valley heat. This of course is just the tip of iceberg regarding Mr. Franzia's crimes against wine and humanity (not to mentioned eco-terrorism). This company (Bronco) has a long history of using undocumented workers, misleading consumers as to the origin of the grapes used in their wines by labeling wines made from Central Valley fruit "Napa Ridge" (Franzia pleaded guilty to charges of mislabeling grapes and was fined), using methyl bromide (a soil sterilizer known to cause cancer) as well as a number of other toxic chemicals in their vineyards.
Yes, they make cheap and popular that may not kill you to drink it, but it ocasionally kills the people that make it. I wouldn't drink one of Bronco's wines if it was free and I will never again shop at a Trader Joe's as they are well aware of Bronco's shady practices yet remain their biggest customer. Knowingly purveying and promoting Bronco's vile products for many years.
re: Vinny Barbaresco
Well..... you can take my statement "He has a very 'colorful' history and personality and I've never seen him described as being particularly likable", unsanitize it, and it will come out pretty much what you're describing. I was just trying to be non-confrontational.
Despite all that, there are still thousands of people leaving Trader Joe's' stores with cases of that stuff all the time. Franzia has been on the wrong end of more lawsuits that anyone can count, including the infamous case where he tried to convince a court that it was perfectly OK to use the word Napa on the label of a wine where none of the fruit was grown in Napa. The guy does have some cajones.
An eye-opener for me has been understanding that the average 750ml bottle of wine in this country sells for South of $6 and the industry considers anything at $12 or more to be 'super premium' wine. If nothing else, he understands where the money is to be made.
My local library lets me access New Yorker articles online.
I've heard one other story about Bronco. Apparently Barbera grapes became the "it" grape. So they would sell other wineries a truckload of barbera grapes, but only the top layer was the premium grape.