Trader Joes two-buck Chuck creator not associated with it
Charles Shaw, the man behind Trader Joe's "two-buck Chuck," never saw a dime from his namesake wine. Arabella Breck
Trader Joe's has sold nearly a billion bottles of its famous "two-buck Chuck" wine since 2002 — but the man behind the wine hasn't made a cent from it.
The Charles Shaw label, which includes Cabernet, Pinot Grigio, and a variety of other wines, sells for .99 at most Trader Joe's locations.
But the famously inexpensive brand wasn't always so cheap and readily available. The original label produced prestigious, award-winning wines at Charles Shaw's winery in Napa Valley, starting in the 1970s.
After seeing success in Napa Valley, the real Charles Shaw briefly sold one of his gold-medal-winning Gamays for a bottle at Trader Joe's. But that Charles Shaw wine isn't the two-buck Chuck that's in stores today.
When he tried to scale his business, Shaw ran into trouble. His wines were contaminated with a petroleum flavor due to a packaging error, and he lost 10,000 cases. Then, a bug called root louse destroyed his main vineyard. Later, his wife, who had funded most of the business, filed for divorce and removed Shaw from it.
After Shaw lost his business, a trustee for the Charles Shaw winery became the owner of the Charles Shaw brand and label design — including the name Charles Shaw.
The Charles Shaw brand, label, and name were acquired by a businessman named Fred Franzia for Bronco Wine Company for ,000. Franzia held onto the name until 2002, when he brought it to Trader Joe's to sell at a bottle. The real Charles Shaw had nothing to do with this deal and didn't find out it about it until after the fact.
Shaw, 74, currently lives in a high-rise apartment building in Chicago, working nights on databases at the Chicago Board of Trade.
Though two-buck Chuck still has his name on the bottle, Shaw hasn't seen a penny of his legacy's fortune.
Video: What You Need To Know Before Shopping At Trader Joe's
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