Bronco Wine Co.’s head, Fred T. Franzia, who lost a legal battle in the U.S. Supreme Court, is picking himself up, dusting himself off, and launching a big new wine brand he predicts will allow Bronco to maintain its dominance in the under-$9 per bottle market.
The new brand’s name, Harlow Ridge, is a combination of Harlow Court, where Bronco’s Napa production facility is located, and the company’s Napa Ridge brand, the subject of that Supreme Court case. Earlier this year, the Court upheld a California law mandating that wines bearing the word “Napa” in their name must contain at least 75 percent Napa County grapes. In complying with that decision, Bronco will continue to produce Napa Ridge, but in smaller quantities.
The new Harlow Ridge brand will be made with Lodi grapes. Seven major varietals, plus white Zinfandel, will be produced, with an average retail price of $8.99. Harlow Ridge’s case production is unknown, but in calling it a “mainstay brand” in Bronco, Franzia indicated it will make up for the gap created by Napa Ridge’s pull-back.
Bronco purchased the Napa Ridge brand and inventory for $42 million from Beringer back in 2000. A few years later, Franzia came out with his now-famous “Two Buck Chuck” line of wines. His stated aim is to keep the price of wine low enough that Americans can afford to drink it anytime, including in restaurants, whose wine markups he often criticizes.
His business philosophy is simple, Franzia says. “Bronco fishes where the fish are!”
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