Franzia is a roaring success when it comes to sales, particularly in this economic downturn, with a recent tally of 440 million bottles of Two Buck Chuck sold in the U.S. But the man rankles many in Wine Country, particularly when he chides Napa vintners, calling their inflated prices “fantasyland.”

With Franzia in the media spotlight once again (he’s profiled in the New Yorker’s May 18th issue) I decided to take him up on the wine challenge that he offered last month. Franzia said: “We challenge any Napa Valley winery to a blind wine tasting with consumers and we’ll win more than a majority of the time.” His caveat: no sommeliers, no wine critics.

This week I’ll begin organizing that blind tasting, a line-up that includes some of Franzia’s bottlings interspersed with some high-priced Napa labels. But this tasting will have two flights of wine and two sets of panelists. The first set of panelists will be everyday consumers (no sommeliers, no wine critics.) The second set of panelists will be sommeliers and wine critics. So who’s in? What consumers want to be on the panel?

Whether you like Franzia’s wine or not, you’ve got to appreciate the fact that he shakes things up. No one but Fred Franzia could think of a $2 wine. There’s room in the wine world for innovators like him. Wine should run the gamut in price. If it creates a little in-fighting, so be it.

Franzia doesn’t think he’s particularly controversial. “We just do our thing and some people get irritated. I don’t get irritated. I don’t think I’m controversial. We just present an opportunity to consumers.”

Referring the 440 million-bottle milestone, Franzia said “That’s a lot of happy consumers. There’s no controversy there.”

What do you think? Is Franzia the most controversial man in Wine Country? And as for the tasting, are you in?