Fred Franzia's Death Has The Wine Industry Shaken

Fred Franzia, co-founder of Bronco Wine Company, passed away at age 79 on September 13, 2022, in his Denair, California home (via Bronco Wine Company). He is survived by his five children: Renata, Roma, Joseph, Carlo, and Giovanna. Franzia had fourteen grandchildren, with a fifteenth on the way. He is also survived by his brother, and co-founder of Bronco, Joseph, as well as his sisters, Joellen D'Ercole and Catherine McFadden.

The Bronco Wine Company released a statement on its Instagram, saying, "It is with profound sadness the Franzia family and Bronco Wine Company announce the passing of proud father, CEO, founding partner, and wine industry icon, Fred T. Franzia." His children, Renata and Joseph, shared a quote from Fred with the company at the time of the announcement: "We are fighting a good fight and at the end, we all have an expiration date" (via The Sacramento Bee). The cause of death has not been released.

A company for the consumers, built on family values

Fred Franzia was born May 24, 1943. The Franzia family's winemaking legacy began after the Franzia matriarch, then called Teresa Cararra, moved from Italy in the early 20th century and married Gieusseppe Franzia in California. According to the Franzia website, she planted the family's first grape vines in the state's Central Valley, in 1906. In the 1930s, Teresa took out a loan to start up the Franzia Brothers Winery, alongside her five sons, who gained ownership of the company after Teresa's death. In 1973, Franzia was sold to the Coca-Cola Company, reports Wine Spectator.

Fred started the Bronco Wine Company later that same year, alongside his brother, Joseph, and cousin, John, per Wine Spectator. According to the Bronco Wine Company website, the founders learned the tricks of the trade from their fathers, who had years of winemaking experience. Bronco produced the Charles Shaw wines, dubbed "Two Buck Chuck," which can be found at Trader Joe's stores for budget-friendly prices (via The Sacramento Bee).

Fred continued to campaign for lower costs throughout the years. Once, according to a story shared on the Bronco Wine Company Instagram, when asked why his wines were less expensive than some bottles of water, Fred reportedly replied with, "They're overcharging for the water — don't you get it?" He reportedly pushed for more restaurants to offer more inexpensive wines on their menus, allowing diners to decide their drink of choice.

Funding education for future generations

Fred Franzia's dedication to his craft extended into other aspects of his life as well. According to Wine Spectator, he made considerable donations to the American Vineyard Foundation, which researches and studies various aspects of winemaking, including breeding, genetics, disease and pest management, cultural practices, and education. To further the education of future winemakers, Franzia also helped fund a position for a viticulture faculty member at California State University, Fresno.

Fred Franzia's family will be holding a private celebration of life. They have requested donations to be made in Fred's honor, in lieu of flowers or gifts. Donations can be sent to several groups selected by the family: Santa Clara Jesuit Projects Endowment Fund 61096, Sutter Health Medical Foundation, and Modesto Parent Resource Center. If you'd like to honor Fred Franzia at home, grab a bottle of Two Buck Chuck from your local Trader Joe's, and pour one out for the winemaker.