He might be a hero to fans of Two-Buck Chuck, but there's a reason Fred Franzia has a bad boy reputation in wine circles—he knows how to stir things up.
For years, Napa Valley vintners battled the feisty owner of Bronco Wine Co. because he used the names Napa Ridge and Rutherford Vintners for wines that didn’t have a drop of Napa juice in them.
Now, the owners of Santa Barbara Winery, a small operation based in Santa Barbara, feel blindsided by a new Franzia label that in their view comes perilously close to their name and brand.
Franzia's new brand, Santa Barbara Landing, features a 2005 Santa Barbara County Chardonnay, which sells for $4.99 a bottle. It's sold exclusively at Trader Joe's, just like Two-Buck Chuck.
Bottles of SBW’s wines, on the other hand, sell in the $14 to $22 range. Craig Addis, SBW's marketing director, says he's worried that consumers might think that SBL is a second label of SBW and that the price discrepancy will undermine their sales.
While the labels look different, the font used on both labels is nearly identical.
Franzia says that he didn't know about the SBW brand and he made a mistake, said his spokesman Harvey Posert. But, Posert said, Franzia also believes the two labels won't be confused by consumers and that he has no plans to drop the label.
SBW, which also produces the Lafond line of wines, has asked the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the federal label-licensing agency, to rescind the label or at least limit it to a one-time use, Addis said. If that were to happen, it would mean that after the wine is sold out, the label would have to be discontinued.
Addis said if the TTB doesn't act that his winery will have no recourse and will not contest the matter in court.
“We’re a small guy,” Addis said. “If we were Disney, sure, we’d sue them. The tact I'm taking is getting the word out that there's not a relationship to our brand.”
Tim Webb — high point nc — December 11, 2006 4:43pm ET
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