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'2 Buck Chuck' nabs top award

Two Buck Chuck bucked the wine industry again this week, winning the top award for chardonnays at the California State Fair.

This $1.99 wine — formally known as Charles Shaw and made by Bronco Wine Co. of Ceres — topped about 350 other chardonnays from the state's commercial wineries.

It was a blind competition, so the judges did not know whether they were tasting the Two Buck Chuck from the San Joaquin Valley or a 40-buck bottle from the Napa Valley.

"It flies in the face of conventional wisdom that wine has to be expensive," Bronco spokesman Harvey Posert said Friday.

The Charles Shaw entry, made with 2005 grapes, also was named the best value among all of the 3,000-plus wines in the competition.

Bronco rolled out the Charles Shaw line, sold at Trader Joe's stores, in 2002. These cork-sealed varietals upended the low end of the wine industry, long dominated by wine in boxes and screw-top jugs.

The state fair winners were announced at a gathering Thursday. At the event, a lifetime achievement award was presented to Bob Gallo, co-president of E.&J. Gallo Winery of Modesto and son of co-founder Julio Gallo.

The wine awards were announced well in advance of the fair, which will take place Aug. 17 to Sept. 3 at Cal Expo in Sacramento.

Gallo is still No. 1 among the world's winemakers when it comes to brand power, according to a British marketing firm.

Intangible Business released its second annual rankings of wine and spirits brands, scoring them on "hard measures" such as market share and "soft measures" such as brand awareness.

Gallo was No. 1 among wines both years. In the latest rankings, it was followed by Hardy's from Australia, Concha y Toro from Chile, Robert Mondavi from the United States and Yellow Tail from Australia.

Gallo was 17th on the overall list, which is dominated by spirits. The top five were Smirnoff vodka, Bacardi rum, Johnnie Walker whiskey, Martini aperitifs and Stolichnaya vodka. E.&J. brandy from Gallo was fifth in its category and 58th overall.

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