December 2020

President’s Message

I want to wish you all a Happy New Year, as we all look forward to an ending to these pandemic lockdowns that we have all endured. This past year has certainly been one to remember, and we have all been saddened by the lack of social interaction with our friends and families, and get-togethers with our Orange County Wine Society family.

The year 2021 will bring us new concerns and yet plenty of hope. The U.S. Electors have voted for Joe Biden to be our new President on January 20, 2021. The long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine is now rolling out, which will be the beginning of the end of the “pandemic year from …” (you know what I mean).  Hopefully our social lives will slowly return to normal, but we probably won’t get all the way there in 2021.

Over the next few months, the OCWS Board is looking at starting up more modified activities, all dependent on State, local and OCFEC guidelines. I will keep you updated when we can start to schedule in-person events.

The OCFEC is still unsure of what the 2021 OC Fair will look like. From their recent articles published in newspapers, they are looking at an option of doing an 18-day OC Fair, limited to just 30,000 visitors per day to allow for social distancing. Their decisions directly affect the OCWS, and we are following their projections as we make plans for our 2021 wine competitions and the Courtyard during the OC Fair.

The news reports project that the COVID-19 vaccine will be readily available this coming summer. We hope that as more and more people get inoculated, we may look forward to the OCFEC opening the Fairgrounds to events next autumn or winter so we can start resuming our on-site activities. Time will tell, and in this case, we hope those times come quickly. 

Stay healthy everyone, and I look forward to “seeing” you all on our virtual seminars!   

 Kevin Donnelly, President

A Look Back—Fires Tear through California’s Northern Wine Region

“Wildfires have long been a fact of life in the American West,” said Caroline Beteta, CEO of nonprofit, Visit California. It has been known that harvest season in California’s wine regions are what dream weddings are made of—ripe grapevines and colorful sunsets that provide the perfect backdrop for a wedding ceremony. 

Scientists say warmer temperatures and a lack of rain are leaving plants and trees more flammable, creating the conditions for wildfires to grow quickly and burn with more intensity, with the fire season starting earlier and ending later. Last year’s unprecedented fire season began with a siege of lightning strikes; approximately 9,000.

A small fire that began on September 27, 2020 near the town of St. Helena, pushed by fierce, unrelenting winds across Napa Valley, burned hundreds of homes and burned or destroyed scores of wineries before making its way into Sonoma. The wildfires west of Sonoma and east of Napa were blanketed in thick smoke. Several hotels and resorts were also damaged, including Calistoga Ranch and Meadowood Napa Valley, home to the Restaurant at Meadowood. One week after the Glass Fire began its violent path, it would certainly be the most destructive fire in California’s most famous wine region. More than 30 people lost their lives as a result of fires across the state. We grieve for the lives lost, the people displaced and what was lost in the fires.

Food & Wine produced a documentary titled “Embers & Vines,” featuring members of the local community reflecting on the fires while they were still burning. This approximately 8 minute documentary can be found by a Google search. If you have not viewed the documentary, I highly recommend you do so. As difficult as this clip may be to watch, understand it was important to document what was unfolding in the moment.

The Sunday before Christmas, December 20, 2020, Kevin Donnelly presented the OCWS members an hour long presentation on topics covering terroir, the four seasonal impacts on the vineyard, and effects of smoke taint. All too often a story ends when a fire is contained and media coverage moves on, and we go back to business as usual. Kevin’s presentation closed with a partial list of wineries that were burned or destroyed—it was a sobering moment. During the seminar, Kevin promised this listing would be available for the entire membership to view. Reading through the list below, you will come across many wineries that may be familiar. Remember to support the California wineries, as they have supported the Orange County Wine Society over the years.

– Linda Mihalik, Editor

Wineries burned or destroyed as of October 12, 2020:

· Barnett Family Vineyards, damaged

· Behrens Family Winery, two buildings, including its main winery destroyed

· Burgess Cellars, barrel warehouse and the original winery burned

· Cain Vineyard and Winery, main winery burned

· Castello di Amorosa, farmhouse & buildings destroyed and 120,000 bottles destroyed

· Chateau Boswell, main building destroyed

· Cornell Vineyards, lost three houses

· Dutch Henry Winery, winery burned

· Fairwinds Estate Winery, winery burned

· Fantesca Estate, lost equipment

· Flying Lady Winery, winery building and 2016 and 2017 wines destroyed

· Frey Vineyards Winery Mendocino, largely destroyed

· Hourglass Winery, winery facility and guest house were demolished

· Hunnicutt Wines, offices and the winery’s
crushpad devastated

· Juslyn Vineyards Landscaping, outbuildings and
half of the grapevines gone

· La Borgata Winery, destroyed

· Melka Estates, house burned, most of the vineyard damaged

· Mendocino Oster Cellars, largely destroyed

· Merus Winery, winery damaged

· Newton Vineyard, winery nearly entirely destroyed

· Paradise Ridge Winery Sonoma, burned down

· Phifer Pavitt Winery, home mostly burned and winery damaged

· Ritchie Creek Vineyard, winery and home burned, much of the wine inventory destroyed

· Sarocka Estate, structures burned

· School House Vineyard, one structure destroyed

· Sherwin Family Vineyards, winery burned

· Signorello Estate, completely destroyed

· Soda Rock Winery Healdsburg, consumed by fire

· Spring Mountain Vineyard, home destroyed,
vineyard seriously damaged

· Stags’ Leap Winery Napa, buildings destroyed

· Sterling Vineyards, main winery safe, equipment damaged

· Terra Valentine Winery, house burned

· White Rock Vineyards, damaged significantly,
fire consumed winery 

· York Creek Vineyard, two houses, a barn and
equipment lost

“Best of” Recipe & Wine Pairings—January 2021

The holidays are over, 2020 is, thankfully, gone, and we are beginning a new year with great hopes for a happy, well year ahead for all. As much as I thought about highlighting a “comfort food” recipe to gently ease into the new year, the more I thought about it, I thought that it’s time to change it up and bring the new year in with amazing, fresh flavors and, to put it bluntly, a kick in the a** and the taste buds.

In November of 2019, Big Reds were featured at the Mini-Tasting, with the following three wines taking the top spots:

· 1st 2015 Mount Peak Zinfandel, Rattlesnake Vineyard, Sonoma

· 2nd NV Locations CA-7, Red Blend

· 3rd 2016 Jaffurs Petite Sirah, Santa Barbara County

With winning dishes such as Dino Amico’s Chicken Scarpariello with Pickled Peppers at the Kawai home, to June and Vince Porto’s BBQ Pepper Flank Steak at the home of Judy and Bob Koeblitz; and Zinfandel Braised Short Ribs ala Mary Giedzinski at Shelly and Ed Trainor’s place to desserts such as Mary Mulcahey’s Brownies at the home of Chris and Hank Bruce and Bread Pudding ala Rich Skoczylas at John and Denise Scandura’s, it was a slam dunk for me when I got to the Thai Curry Pumpkin Soup prepared by Laurie Preus. I thought, how lucky were the attendees at Cathy and Greg Risling’s home to taste that dish with luscious red wines? I only wish I’d been there! I sat down to write this article and opened a delicious Malbec and, while salivating through this writing, thought I’m putting my hand to this recipe just as soon as possible. 

For those of you with an adventurous spirit and palette, I hope you join me in attempting this award-winning recipe to help welcome in the new year with a flair. Thanks, Laurie!

Thai Curry Pumpkin Soup

1T olive oil

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 small onion diced

1 (15 oz) can pumpkin
3T Thai red curry paste
1 (13.5 oz) can coconut milk full fat

1T grated garlic

2 cups vegetable stock

1T grated fresh ginger

2T lime juice

2 stalks fresh lemongrass smashed

Cilantro chopped

1T chili garlic sauce

Pumpkin seeds

1 tsp curry powder

Salt to taste

Heat oil, add onions and sauté 5 minutes till soft. Add curry paste, garlic, fresh ginger, chili garlic sauce, curry powder, and turmeric. Mix to combine. Add smashed lemongrass, pumpkin, and stock. Bring to a boil then reduce heat  and simmer 20 minutes. Add coconut milk and lime juice and salt to taste. Remove smashed lemongrass. Wait 10 minutes then transfer to blender or use immersion blender and make smooth. Garnish with chopped cilantro and pumpkin seeds.

– Fran Gitsham, Contributing Writer

Shauna Rosenblum, a Legacy of Her Own

The Orange County Wine Society is greatly honored to have Shauna Rosenblum, winemaker and President of Rock Wall Wine Company, as our Virtual Winery Program presenter on January 22. As most of our members well know, Shauna comes with a history of wine in her blood as the daughter of well-loved and sorely missed veteran OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition judge, Kent Rosenblum, founder of Rosenblum Cellars. Today, Shauna heads up the Rosenblum family venture, Rock Wall, with the mission of having fun, while making the best wines from the best regions and sharing the experience with others.

Shauna, now also a veteran judge at the OCWS-run OC Fair Wine Competition, is creating her own legacy with award-winning wines such as her 2016 and 2017 Zinfandels which both garnered Gold medals at the 2019 commercial competition, followed by her 2017 Cabernet Franc, 2015 Syrah and 2015 Tannat all taking Silver.

Shauna was interviewed by Alameda Magazine in September of 2019 and has graciously consented to allow us to publish a portion of that interview for our members in our Wine Press. Following are excerpts from that interview that, interestingly and entertainingly, ask some out of the norm questions and give us a little more insight into a great winemaker’s passion and thinking:

“What’s the major difference between you and your dad’s winemaking styles?

I think my style is a little bit lighter and a little bit more restrained than my dad’s. He was definitely picking [grapes] based on ripeness and wanted to have alcohol content and maybe a little residual sugar, where what’s really important to me is the flavor in the wine, balance, and acidity. If a wine doesn’t have acidity, I don’t think it’s a successful wine. Acidity is the portion where when you put the wine in your mouth and your mouth waters. So for me, the wine has to have great aromatics. It has to be well balanced, but it has to have a really beautiful mouthfeel too.

Beer is having a huge moment. What can winemakers learn from brewmeisters?

As a lot of millennials are becoming winemakers, I feel we’re very cognizant of the fact that beer labels are a lot more fun than wine labels. So, I think my generation is really trying to make wine a little bit more casual, a little bit more approachable, and make it fun. I mean, wine is really fun.

What about canned wine? It’s out there, but are you ready to embrace it?

I think it’s a pretty genius approach to people who have active lifestyles. Millennials are all about the experience of going to the beach, or hiking, or this, that, or the other thing. It’s not always super convenient to lug a bottle of wine with you. So, I think cans are becoming really popular. I have yet to put wine in a can because I was waiting for the first generation of people putting wine in a can to figure it out. I think we’re almost there, so once the industry hits a healthy decision about canning wine, I would love to put some rosé in a can.

I remember when screw caps first came out in wine 15, 20 years ago, and people were horrified. Eventually they came around, and now Australia uses almost exclusively screw caps. All of my white wines except Chardonnay are in screw caps. It’s a convenient way to go, but the technology initially for screw caps was pretty bad. They were putting screw caps on the wine without the protective liner. Basically, people were figuring it out. So, I’m waiting for other people to figure it out so I can jump on the technology and do it right the first time.

How do you learn how to recognize notes of cinnamon, asparagus or whatever while imbibing a vintage? Is that even something the average wine drinker needs to worry about?

It’s super subjective. Basically, anything you read coming out of Rock Wall, I wrote. The tasting notes are something that are incredibly subjective because that’s what I smell and I taste in the wine that I’m making. Some people may smell and may taste those same things, but tasting is so personal, and some people don’t care at all. “Blackberry? I don’t get blackberry in this.” That’s OK. I think one of the best things going about wine tasting is you can’t be wrong. If you say, “This wine smells exactly like my grandmother’s attic,” there is nobody on Earth who can dispute that. If it smells like that to you, then that’s what it smells like.

There might be nobody on Earth who would want to drink it either. How was your palate trained?

My dad was training my palate my whole life. We would be camping in our vineyard when I was five or six years old, and we’d be roasting marshmallows. He’d grab a graham cracker and some marshmallows. We’d roast the marshmallows and put it on the graham cracker with the chocolate, and he’d say, “Smell that. That smells like an American oak barrel.” We’d put some fruit on the s’more and he’d say, “Smell that. That American oak barrel and those berries, that smells like Zinfandel.”

Just my whole life, everything was all about, “Smell this. Experience this. What does it smell like? Does it smell like fresh strawberries, strawberry jam? Does it smell like stewed strawberries? Does it smell like dehydrated strawberries?” So really deconstructing aromas in everyday life definitely informs the way we taste and interpret wine.

It is fascinating to see how some people do interpret drinking wine, and some people are like, “I don’t smell any of that, but I like the way it tastes.” That’s really all you need to know.”

As the winemaker at Rock Wall since 2008, Shauna’s wines have earned many 90+ point scores from such notable publications as Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast and Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wine. She was also recognized as one of the “Top 10 Female Winemakers in California” by Haute Living in 2017 and in 2018 was recognized as one of the “40 under 40” by Diablo Magazine, as one of the “Top 10 Spirited Women in the Bay Area” and was featured in the CBS special, “Women in Wine.” If these accolades are not enough to encourage you to reserve a spot for her presentation, then I suggest, if you are not already familiar with Rock Wall wines, you place an order, do some tasting, and confirm that attending this Virtual Winery Program is a MUST.

For information regarding sign-ups, please see the Winery Webinar Program article in this issue of The Wine Press. If you have any questions, contact

– Fran Gitsham, Contributing Writer

Is Wine and Cheese Good for an Aging Brain?

It appears a scientific study conducted
by Iowa State University and
published recently by Science Daily,
confirmed that what we eat may
have a direct impact on our cognitive
acuity in our later years. The
study’s findings show that cheese protects against age-related
cognitive problems, while consumption of red wine relates to
improvements in cognitive function.
We knew that! In fact, in some of our personal experience and
in the experience of all those who attended Dawn Iglesias’
Wine & Cheese Pairings Seminar last month, we can confirm
this— when pairing a glass of red wine with cheese, needless
to say, our cognitive acuity was off the charts.
We can all agree that we have had a lot of science thrown at
us recently, i.e., the pandemic and climate change, so without
further ado, we draw your attention to the article below.
Dawn’s seminar was so well received and attended that we
thought we would publish the contents from a few presentation
slides. A recording of Dawn’s seminar is also uploaded on the
OCWS website under the Webinar tab.

“Cheese is a living thing; it needs oxygen to breathe”

The Cheese & Wine Pairings Webinar which was held last month on December 13 is one of my favorite events to host, both in
person at the OC Fair Courtyard and on a virtual platform. Find below interesting tips and pairings to reference.

Cheese & Storage Tips:
• Cheese should always be served at room temperature for the best flavor.
• In general, red wines pair better with hard, stronger cheeses. White wines and sparklings with softer, creamier cheeses, but
not necessarily all of the time.
• It is always a good idea to pair a wine and cheese from the same region or origin (French cheese with a French wine, No. CA
cheese with a No. CA wine, etc.).
• Light cheeses go with light wines, heavier cheeses go with bold wines.
• Cheese should be stored in a crisper drawer that has temperature control & consistent humidity.
• If cheese is in a plastic wrap, it needs to be removed as soon as possible, and either put in another container, wrapped in
parchment paper, or in a Ziploc bag.
• Soft cheeses will last up to 2 to 3 weeks. Store soft cheeses in a long, rectangle sealed plastic/glass container. You can store
your goat, brie, and soft cheeses together.
• Hard cheeses will last up to 4 months (example: Parmesan) in a partially open Ziploc bag, to allow the cheese to breath.
• Blue cheese can affect other cheeses. Store this cheese separately, either in a container or Ziploc bag.

Dawn Iglesias, Seminar Committee Member

The Pairings:

Chardonnay &
Blanc de Blanc Champagnes:

• Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog goat
• Saint Angel Triple Cream
• Marin French Camembert or Brie
• Langre Fromage
• Brillat Savarin
• Cypress Grove Lamb Chopper
• Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam
Sauvignon Blanc:
• Chavroux spreadable goat cheese
• Ewenique sheep cheese
• Ewephoria sheep cheese
• Cablanca Goat Gouda
• Maytag Blue cheese
• Point Reyes Bay Blue
• Piave
Pinot Noir &
Blanc de Noir Champagnes:

• Saint Andre’ Triple Cream Brie
• Marin French Petite Breakfast Brie
• Vella Dry Jack
• Beecher’s Flagship Handmade
• Point Reyes Toma
• Tillamook White Cheddar
• Cambazola (brie & blue cheese)
• Cypress Grove Purple Haze
• BelGioioso Fontina
• The Drunken Goat
• Havarti with Dill
• Old Amsterdam Gouda
• Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar
• Blu di Bufala (buffalo milk)
• Le Gruyere Switzerland
• 12 Month Aged Manchego
• Winey Goat
• Beehive Barely Buzzed
• Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar
• Collier’s Welsh Cheddar
• Gorgonzola
Cabernet Sauvignon:
• Istara P’Tit Basque
• Isigny St. Mếre Mimolette
• Coastal British Cheddar
• Fiscalini Smoked Cheddar
• Castello Danish Blue
• Kerrygold Cashel Blue
• Saint Agur Blue