Monday, July 20, 2009

That's Mr. Shaw!

Charles F. Shaw is a real person, who lives in the Chicago, Illinois area. He is a former winery owner whose name is used for Charles Shaw wine, a brand of inexpensive table wines. Shaw learned to enjoy Beaujolais wine while living in Europe as an investment banker, and moved to Napa Valley in 1974 where he purchased 50 acres to start a winery where he made Gamay and Sauvignon Blanc. In 1991, Shaw’s wine label and brand name was purchased by Fred Franzia's Bronco Wine Company, which is based in Ceres, California. Since the label already had a good reputation, Bronco used the name to market an inexpensive table wine. In addition to the Charles Shaw brand, Bronco has ForestVille, Estrella, Montpellier, Grand Cru, Silver Ridge, Rutherford Vintners, Hacienda, Fox Hollow and Napa Ridge among its brands. With the possible exception of Hacienda (and Charles Shaw, of course), while indeed inexpensive most of these other labels rate fairly low on the Plonk list of value performers.

Bronco revived the wine brand in 2002 to take advantage of overplanting in California for the current market demand. During the 1990s, growers planted more grapes than needed to meet demand causing a huge opportunity for low end sellers such as Bronco. All from California vineyards, Charles Shaw’s current wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, White Zinfandel, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Shiraz, and Valdiguie in the Beaujolais nouveau style. The Plonk’s prefer the Merlot and Valdiguie from this list, and greatly favor the reds over the whites.

It is not clear how the real Charles F. Shaw feels about being famous as “Two Buck Chuck” -- for a winery he doesn’t own. However, it comes with the added benefit of a lifetime invitation-to-dinner at the Plonk household.

Best, Joe Plonk

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