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Charles Shaw – What The Chuck?

April 21, 2010 Fifty-Two Weeks Comments Off
Charles Shaw – What The Chuck?

If there ever was a film made about Fred Franzia’s life, and I hope there is, Brian Cox would my choice to play the role of the foul mouthed, stout figured king of the bargain grape.

Fred is the nephew of California wine legend Ernest Gallo. It is his Family’s name “Franzia” that dominates boxed wines across the Country. In addition, he is also the man behind another name: Charles Shaw, AKA Two-Buck Chuck.

Fred Franzia is CEO of Bronco Wine Company, who has caused a huge stir in the wine community over the past several decades. There have been lawsuits stemming from accusations of fraudulent labeling practices, to labor complaints resulting from the tragic death of a young female farm worker who was employed by Bronco Wines. Yet, it is neither of these affairs that have earned Bronco Wines the most attention. Make a $1.99 wine and other vintners may chuckle and dismiss you as fiscally negligent. Make a $1.99 wine and sell it by the millions of cases exclusively at Trader Joes, and everyone will take notice. So it is, that a massive empire was forged, two dollars at a time. … Continue Reading

Hahn Wines – Sustainability in the Highlands

Hahn Wines – Sustainability in the Highlands

Born out of the decrepit and vile heart of Los Angeles near Hollywood, where stars are born and even occasionally meet their destruction, the 101 marches north, passing through some of the most fantastic regions of California, Oregon, and Washington. Away from The City of Angel’s congestion, violence, and vanity. Along sun bathed beaches and into the rolling hills of the Central Coast it roams. Through vineyards and ranches, farm towns, and military bases. Through the land of John Steinbeck novels and across the Golden Gate Bridge. It winds through the rugged coastline and massive redwoods before it leads you away from its birth state, imploring you to discover the unknown that lies ahead in Oregon and later Washington.

On drives to the Bay Area, there is a stretch of the 101 freeway that always catches my attention; it is about an hour north of Paso Robles. Here the landscape is open and desolate. Although desolate really isn’t the right word, since it is a vibrant farming region. None-the-less, I have always been intimidated and enticed by desolate places, whether they are actual or imaginary. As I drove through here a few weeks ago, it felt particularly desolate and enchanting. I watched rays of sunshine burst through the patchwork of somber clouds, illuminating the green of the hills with vibrant bursts of color. It was a perfect day, the sky was unsettled and moody and there were little man-made distractions around to take away from its beauty. … Continue Reading

Tablas Creek, The Long Road to Success

Tablas Creek, The Long Road to Success

“Would you like to try it?” Jason asked.

“Sure.” I replied.

We were in a large green house at Tablas Creek Winery. At full capacity, as many as 200,000 grape vines call it a temporary home, before moving into shade-houses, and then finally their permanent homes in vineyards all across the west coast. However, at this time of year, the vast space is all but empty, other than the gray plant racks and the lone grafting table that we stood before.

The grafting tool, one of the originals at Tablas Creek, allows a varietal, such Grenache, to be grafted onto a specific rootstock. This process is known as bench grafting. Jason Haas, General Manger, and son of Robert Haas (Owner of Tablas Creek), walked my friend Jordan and I through the steps. … Continue Reading

Wolff Vineyards, A Study in Sustainability

Wolff Vineyards, A Study in Sustainability

He once created a world-class wine from a bottle of Welch’s grape juice simply by looking at it; Robert Parker scored it 94 points. He can sign fluently in American Sign Language using only his feet. He once met the Prince of Belgium and sold him wine. For fun, he sometimes blows-up hotdogs using either electrical current or his charming smile. He protects threatened California Pacific Pond Turtles and restores native streams, all while sleepwalking. He won a world championship in water skiing, without skis, or a boat. He started the California Gold Rush. His wine mentor invented a special alloy for NASA and taught him how to break dance. He is the most interesting man in Central Coast wine.

After a little over an hour of conversation, I jokingly told Jean-Pierre last week that he reminded me of those Dos XX commercials. He laughed and said, “Yeah, yeah, that’s me!” While not all the statements above are true or fully accurate, Jean-Pierre, a vintner and owner of Wolff Vineyards in Edna Valley, is a remarkably interesting person. To illustrate my point, the following statements ARE all true. … Continue Reading

{Archives}

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

September 22, 2011

Bonny Doon: Day of the Doon IX {Photo Essay}

We have grown rather accustomed to long trips for short stays, so much so that a 500 mile weekend is not such a big deal anymore. There are a lot of events we are invited to and we can only attend a few of them. But when Randall Graham asks you to attend, you attend. [...]

Secret Project {the reveal}

August 17, 2011

Secret Project {the reveal}

A few weeks ago I posted the “Secret Project” with some shots of  a friend’s new winery taking shape. At the time, the space was still in a raw state, holes in the ground, bare walls, cut concrete. In terms of photographing a new winery, one might say there was not much to see, no [...]

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