Buck the System

The struggle within our breast was a brief one. On the one hand, we had before us a 1.5-liter jug of Cabernet Sauvignon priced at an alarmingly low $10.99. On the other hand …

Well, there was no other hand. We leapt and purchased that big bottle of Crane Lake 2007 California Cabernet. We trusted that John Edwards wouldn’t sell anything that would kill us outright.

What a find! It’s warm, dark and delicious, like Sarah Vaughn’s rendition of “tenderly.” Plummy, round, no trace of tannin — how is this possible? And who is Crane Lake? Never heard of it.

Turns out Crane Lake is related to the Charles Shaw label. That would be Charles “2-buck Chuck” Shaw.

You’ve heard of the phenomenon: bold, drinkable reds and whites sold by Trader Joe’s for $1.99.

2-buck Chuck is a Bronco Wine Co. product. Bronco is owned by Fred Franzia, the scourge of Napa Valley. He’s also Ernest Gallo’s nephew. Wine snobs hate him, often for good cause. Fred says no wine is worth more than $10 a bottle. Some of his wines are real teeth-stainers. One of his whites inspired the special effects in the movie “Aliens,” the part where the monster’s blood is actually acid that eats through metal.

Anyway, Mr. Franzia sells wine cheap. Some good, some not so good. Trader Joe’s owns the 2-buck Chuck label, so Fred created new labels — about 60 of them — including Forest Glen and Coastal Ridge to market similarly cheap brands. One of those labels is Crane Lake.

Don’t be misled. This isn’t 2-buck Chuck. It’s 4-buck Chuck.

Nicole Ouellette

Nicole Ouellette

When Nicole isn't giving advice she's completely unqualified to give, she runs an Internet marketing company in Bar Harbor, where she lives with her husband Derrick and their short dog Gidget. She loves young adult novels, cooking and talking French to anyone who'll talk back. [email protected]