July 2020

President’s Message

It is my sincere hope that everyone is staying safe, staying busy, and enjoying some great wines!

Since our last issue of The Wine Press, a lot of seminars for our members have been developed, scheduled, and taken place. We hope you have enjoyed the offerings during July which have been produced by our members: Ed Reyes, Carolyn Christian, Ken Knapp, Sara Yeoman, and Kevin Donnelly. If you missed our July lineup, do not miss the remaining seminars scheduled for August. Sign-ups are done online through a Zoom link found in the weekly email sent on Monday/Friday mornings or through corresponding links incorporated on our OCWS website’s Zoom Seminars page. Since these are member-only events, you must log in to see this page on our website. The OCWS Winery Program is also making plans to conduct their programs virtually this Fall. More details are provided in related articles in this month’s newsletter.

The OCWS has also partnered with the Orange County Fair & Event Center to participate in a Virtual Fair which will be held during the originally scheduled Fair dates of July 17 through August 16. We have posted two virtual offerings on Fair Food & Wine and Summer Go-To Wines. The Virtual Fair can be found at www.ocfair.com.

Summer has always been a busy time for the OCWS each year. Importantly, it is the time when new Board of Directors are needed as directors’ terms expire. Please consider submitting your candidacy now. I can promise you it is a rewarding experience in which you will get to know our members and get an opportunity to contribute to our future success. Each summer, we also have our “Annual Business Meeting” as required pursuant to Article 6 of our By-laws. The 2020 meeting will be held on Friday, September 11. Due to restrictions currently in place, the meeting will be held “virtually.” The announcement for sign-ups to this meeting will be sent out via email and posted on the ocws.org website in early August.


 Bill Redding, President

Welcome to Zoom, the OCWS Alternative Event Platform

After COVID-19 made the outside world taboo, the OCWS adopted to interacting with members through computer screens. COVID has forced us to shift how we operate and interact in just a small window. During the month of July, we introduced the Summer Sundays Seminar series. Many members have expressed their interest in these web-based events and logged in without issue, some having never logged into a video platform before. We thought we would use this space to introduce Zoom to our membership.

How does a Zoom event work? Zoom is a web-based video conferencing tool with a local, desktop or mobile application that allows users to meet online, with or without video. Zoom users can choose to record sessions, collaborate on projects, and share or annotate on one another’s screens, all with one easy-to-use platform.

The Wine Society has for quite some time used Constant Contact to e-blast messages to OCWS members throughout the month reminding members of events close to selling out and other important member information that needs immediate attention.

During the Summer Sundays Seminar series, Sara Yeoman Director, and host of these events, initiates an e-blast informing members of an upcoming seminar on Monday mornings. The eblast identifies the seminar event, date and time, and shows a “green” sign up bar (link) for members to click and fill out. Once you have filled out the information, an email confirming your attendance will be sent to you from Zoom—please be sure to check your junk/spam folders if you didn’t receive a confirmation email. Later in the week, you will receive another email providing you with everything you need to know about the event and how to access the Zoom event with a “Click Here to Join” link. It also provides a password, which is unique to you so that the event cannot be accessed by others—it is member specific. Members also have the option of using a landline or cell phone to dial in to the event using the dial in numbers shown, the webinar identification number, and password. If this option is selected (not using your computer), you will not be able to view any presentations—you will only be able to listen to the audio of the event taking place.

Remember, you do not have to have a Zoom account to attend, you will be prompted to download the software once you click the link you have been provided utilizing your personal computer.

For demonstration purposes only, below is a screen shot of how to join the event, which will be located midway in each seminar registration email. Each registration email will be different, so please do not rely on the password contained below:

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out by emailing us at Seminars@ocws.org. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have or walk you through the process before the event.

– Sara Yeoman, Director

New Member Promotion

COVID-19 has sidelined us, to say the least. The virus made us hunker down and forced us to find creative ways to virtually stay social. Various virtual OCWS wine seminars have taken place and will continue throughout the year for members to sign up and enjoy from the comfort of their own homes. This being the case, we thought we would reach out to our members with a promotional opportunity to invite your friends to get in on our exciting virtual opportunities by becoming members of the OCWS. 

Do you have a friend or two or even three who has expressed an interest in wine? Even without the 2020 OC Fair taking place this year, we are running a membership promotion.

If your friend joins as a new member (former members are excluded), they will receive a $15 credit per member ($15 for a single membership, $30 for a dual membership) that they can use to attend any event prior to July 1, 2021. Shoot, that makes joining almost cost free! The credit cannot be used to purchase merchandise or for membership renewal fees.

So talk it up among your wine loving friends—knowing you, they know how much fun it is being a member of the OCWS. You all know how much fun this club is. New members can sign up through our website at ocws.org.

– Brian McDonald,
Director & Membership Chair

Last Call to Declare to Run for an OCWS Board Seat

Over the last several months, the Membership Committee has posted an article in The Wine Press calling on members who have an interest in running for a OCWS Board seat to do so.

The What. In recent articles, we have outlined the overall time commitment, possession of certain skills and experience, and seeking individuals who are innovative, open-minded, results oriented, and problem solvers. All of these requirements are not unique, and most of us possess them.

We want you to seriously consider, and encourage you, to run for a seat on the OCWS Board!

The Why. As we see it, there are four major benefits of serving on the Board:

1. You play a key role in strategizing. When you serve on the Board, you have the honor, challenge, and responsibility of understanding how everything needs to work together to accomplish the OCWS’ goals and mission. It’s invigorating.

2. Giving of your time and talents, it’s really important, but also incredibly rewarding.

3. Your voice is heard, and it has an impact. And you will hear the impactful voices of other members, too.

4. Like most everything else in life, you find that you get what you give. You will care more than you thought you could, and as you grow into your role on the Board, you will contribute more. “To contribute to something is meaningful . . . to allow something meaningful to contribute to you.” It certainly does work both ways!

The Who. The beginning of a three-year term of the nine members of the Board of Directors, according to the Bylaws, shall be staggered such that three members’ terms will expire each year. The three vacated Board positions will be filled each year by a vote of the OCWS membership, following the Annual Business Meeting in September. We have two members that cannot run again so two positions will need to be filled by new members.

The When. Time is running out as we are approaching the deadline of receiving your written Declaration of Candidacy statement which is due no later than August 28th. To declare your candidacy for a position on the Board, the candidate must present their Declaration of Candidacy in writing, by mail or via electronic media to the Election Chair.

The Where. During the Annual Business Meeting, you will have the opportunity to present yourself to the membership and present your qualifications. A written Statement of Qualifications must be presented to the Election Committee no later than five (5) calendar days after your Declaration of Candidacy.

The How. If being an OCWS leader interests you, feel free to contact Greg Hagadorn with any questions related to Director responsibilities, the election process or anything related to the election. I can be reached at 714.388.8803 or at Greg@ocws.org.  

-Greg Hagadorn, 2020 Election Chair

Leslie Brown & Jolen Zeroski,
2020 Election Committee Members

Wine Education 101: Pour Me Another Glass of Vitis Vinifera

Grapes that are made into wine are often referred to as “Vitis vinifera”.  But are all wine grapes Vitis vinifera?  Can wine be made from grapes that are not Vitis vinifera?  To understand what Vitis vinifera means, we should first understand the basics of Taxonomy, the science involved with the classification of organisms.  We can thank Aristotle for first creating the classification of things as either animal, plant or mineral and further subdivisions based on how they looked or behaved.  However, it was in the 1700s that Swedish scientist Carl Linnaeus developed our current binomial system of Taxonomy.  The Linnaean Classification system has every animal, plant or microbe given a two-part name.  The first part is Genus (broad) and the second part is Species (specific).  Some familiar binomial names you may be familiar with include:  Tyrannosaurus rex, Gorilla gorilla, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Oenococcus oeni.  Linnaean taxonomic ranks further divided all living things into increasingly more specific divisions such as:  Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, and Species.

So, with this basic understanding of Taxonomy we know that Vitis is the genus (grapevines), and vinifera is the specific species of this grapevine. Vitis vinifera is a member of the Vitaceae family of woody, climbing vines and is native to the Mediterranean, Central Europe and southwest Asia.

Vitis vinifera is known as the “wine grape” because it is believed to produce some of the best tasting wine.  Most of our well-loved varietal wines belong to this Genus/species:  Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Syrah, Malbec, Grenache, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Mourvedre, Zinfandel, etc.  Our favorite table grape, Thompson Seedless, is also of the Vitis vinifera species and while it doesn’t produce a favorable wine, is great for snacking and dried to raisins.

While the Mediterranean and Europe have their native Vitis vinifera, North America has its own native grape varietals.  The “genus” is the same Vitis, however, the “species” are different from the European vinifera.  Unfortunately, these native American vines often produce a less favorable wine, having an unpleasant “foxy” taste. Because the wines from native American vines are not as pleasant tasting as the European Vitis vinifera, there is less demand and popularity among wine connoisseurs for these varietals.  However, many of these wines are still found in the East Coast or Midwest, where the vines originated from.

The main native American vine species include:

  • Vitis labrusca – produces Concord, Niagara, Cayuga, Catawba and Antoinette varieties.
  • Vitis riparia – a Midwestern variety that produces Bacchus, Baco Noir, Elvira, Frontenac, Marechal Foch, and Triomphe d’Alsace.
  • Vitis rotundifolia – a Southeastern variety that produces the Muscadine grape.
  • Vitis aestivalis – a Midwest favorite that produces the Norton grape – possibly the best tasting wine of the native American varietals.
  • Vitis rupestris – an Eastern variety with high disease resistance and produces Vignoles, Vidal Blanc, Aurore, DeChaunac, Chancellor (French-American hybrids)

While Vitis vinifera wines may taste better than other Vitis species, they also have roots that are susceptible to the root-damaging louse, phylloxera.  In the late 19th century, phylloxera devastated the vineyards in Europe when they were accidentally brought in from imported American grapevines.  These American grapevines had long ago adapted to phylloxera and became resistant to the root-damaging louse.

To overcome the damaging effects of phylloxera, many grape growers experimented with cross-breeding of Vitis vinifera and the phylloxera-resistant American varietals.  These varietals became known as “French-American hybrids”.  While these hybrids were successfully phylloxera-resistant, they didn’t match up to the same high quality taste of the European Vitis vinifera

To solve this problem, grape cultivators found that they could graft the Vitis vinifera vine onto the rootstock of the phylloxera-resistant native American varietals.  This solution produced the same high-quality tasting European Vitis vinifera grapes on phylloxera-resistant native American rootstocks.  To this day, this is still common viticulture practice for Vitis vinifera vines in Europe, America, and other areas where phylloxera is a problem.  In sandy soils where phylloxera is not a problem, you may still find Vitis vinifera grapevines on their own rootstock (some connoisseurs believe this results in better tasting wine).

So, enjoy your glass of Vitis vinifera, while giving thanks to the native American varietals that saved this great-tasting species from extinction!

Irene Scott, WSET-3, CSWS

UC Davis Winemaking Certificate

OCWS Wine Education Chair

Wine Education 101: Wine Trivia and other interesting tidbits!

· Most domesticated grapevines have both male and female reproductive structures and are self-pollinated by wind. [1]

· The first U.S. AVA region was the Augusta AVA in Missouri. This AVA was federally approved on June 20, 1980, eight months before the Napa Valley AVA in California. [2]

· During Prohibition, Alicante Bouschet was the most popular grape varietal for winemaking because of its darker color and its thicker skins allowed for more successful train transportation to the East Coast. [3]

· The Norton grape varietal is thought to be the oldest American grape used for commercial production. This grape varietal also has the highest levels of resveratrol – a beneficial antioxidant. [4]

· The oldest-known winery is the “Areni-1” cave, discovered in Armenia in 2007. This winery is dated to c. 4100 BC and contains evidence of a wine press, fermentation vats, drinking cups and storage jars.  Scientists also discovered evidence of Vitis vinifera seeds and grapevines. [5]

– Irene Scott, WSET-3, CSWS,
UC Davis Winemaking Certificate 2020
OCWS Wine Education Chair


[1] Jackson, R.S., Wine Science: Principles and Applications, Fourth Edition, Academic Press 2014

[2] Missouri Wines: History and AVAs, 2018, https://missouriwine.org/about-us/history-and-avas

[3] Lukacs, P., American Vintage: The Rise of American Wine, W.W. Norton & Company LTD, 2000

[4] Wine Searcher: Norton Wine, 2015, https://www.wine-searcher.com/grape-901-norton

[5] Wikipedia: History of Wine, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_wine

Slip in Virtually to the Fall OCWS Winery Webinars

As you may recall, due to the COVID-19 pandemic we had to cancel two excellent and highly anticipated events as part of our regular 2020 Winery Program. We will now be evolving into conducting the OCWS Winery Program virtually! We anticipate starting this program in the fall of this year. You will be able to view each seminar presentation using the Zoom virtual platform from the comfort of your own home. You will learn about each winery and the wines they produce. Members will have the option to purchase the wines. As our planning progresses, we will keep you updated.

– Leslie Hodowanec, Director
– Rich Skoczylas, Director & Winery Program Chair

In Memoriam: Dennis Esslinger

The OCWS has lost one of its most significant members, Dennis Esslinger, due to cancer and unrelated to the COVID pandemic. In 2017 during the Annual Business Meeting, Jim Beard, then President, awarded Dennis the highest award an OCWS President can bestow, the President Emeritus Award. Past President, Fran Gitsham, eloquently stated in 2017 that the President Emeritus title “denotes the perpetual status of an individual who has helped move the organization to new heights as a former key member on the Board of Directors. In this case, as President an unprecedented four terms (2000-01, 2002-03, 2008-09, 2013-14), with none of those terms consecutive . . . Dennis Esslinger joined the ranks of just a few who have garnered the President Emeritus title. He joins a small, elite group of past Presidents who not only gave their time and effort over a number of years, but continues to do so.”

As a recipient of the highest level year end awards, along with his wife Carol who worked with him side by side, Dennis passed away Monday, July 6, at his home.

Dennis was a longtime employee of Hughes Corporation, then Raytheon in Fullerton, working as a Project Manager until he retired. These skills served him well in various organizational and administrative capacities with the OCWS. He served on the Commercial Wine Competition Committee for well over 20 years working with others in developing the format for cataloging wines. He then took over as Chairman of the Competition and then Chairman of Judges for 10 years before turning that position over to Kevin Coy.

Dennis was very highly regarded by winemakers and winery owners which showed in the respect they have for the Commercial Wine Competition and their desire to appear for our winery tasting programs for which Dennis was in charge for a few years.

Dennis traveled the world with Carol and their children for many years in his position with Hughes. The traveling never stopped once he became active with the OCWS as he embarked upon a number of wine trips with friends to wineries, wine tastings at ZAP, and meeting with family winemakers as a member of the Commercial Wine Competition. He maintained a close circle of OCWS friends throughout the years who enjoyed his kindness, generosity, and reverence.

Raised in Kansas and a graduate of Kansas State, his work ethic and skills were valued in the OC Fair Courtyard where he and Carol put in many hours in preparing The Courtyard, setting up the wine cellar, maintaining, stewarding, managing and teaching about wine. His calm demeanor allowed him to deal with honesty and humor any time problems or disagreements arose in the OCWS or during the OC Fair. Dennis’ activities preparing for and working the Annual Wine Auction allowed this event to be our biggest single revenue producer outside The Courtyard during the OC Fair.

It would be impossible to say just how many accolades Dennis received from the OCWS, Judges, friends and co-workers. What he has contributed to the OCWS will be evident once the pandemic is under control and we return to normal activities with the OCWS.

We ask you to raise a glass of wine for Dennis and in support of Carol and the family who will need all our good thoughts and prayers.

Dennis, we will miss you terribly.

– Sam Puzzo