2021 Orange County Fair Commercial Wine Competition Recap

The 45th OC Fair Wine Competition was held June 5-6 at the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa. After having to cancel the 44th Competition due to the pandemic, the Committee was not certain we would be able to hold this year’s event. We were notified in late March that the Fair had decided that the Event could go forward. The Committee had approximately nine weeks to plan, advertise, promote, obtain and catalog wines for the event. This was a monumental task, and there is no way it could have occurred without the hard work of the Committee, as well as many other OCWS members.

The Committee deserves credit for working diligently and under difficult conditions to ensure that the event was a success. Virtual meetings, COVID-19 mitigations and a shortened timeline were all obstacles to be overcome. The Committee did an excellent job. Each committee member went above and beyond in their efforts this year.

During the weekend, we remembered two of our members and one judge who sadly are no longer with us.

Dennis Esslinger served as Director of Judges for several years, and Bob Trout led the Label Competition. Both worked closely with their wives, Carol and Marj, who continued to volunteer this year.

We also remembered Don Galleano who sadly passed away June 2. His wines won two Double Gold awards this year—a fitting tribute.

Many other OCWS members were instrumental in making this year’s event a reality.

An impressive 1,400 phone calls were made by volunteers to wineries to personally request that they enter the Competition. Without these phone calls, we would not have had a sufficient number of entries to hold the event. Thank you to all of our members who made these calls—they were invaluable.

Thank you to all the volunteers who helped Liz and Lloyd Corbett with cataloging over 2,440 wines in such a brief period of time.

Of course, a major thank you to all the volunteers who worked the event, a task made more daunting due to mask-wearing and other COVID-19 mitigations.

I would also like to thank the computer entry and verifying people working with Dave Stancil who came in early on Sunday morning of the Competition weekend to catch up due to an internet issue on Saturday. And another “thank you” to Dave for doing computer entry during the Steering Committee meeting following the Competition.

Integral to the success of the event are our judges, all winemakers or winery principals. They agreed to judge even as conditions were uncertain. We are very fortunate that Orange County was in the yellow tier which allowed more flexibility for the venue and more confidence in being together in groups.

It was a pleasure to work with the staff at the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa. They know our event and were extremely accommodating in working with us.

I would love to list the names of everyone who made the weekend a success, but this article is way too long as it is. Please know that your efforts are appreciated, and I cannot express my gratitude enough.

All 2021 Commercial Wine Competition results can be accessed on

– Leslie Brown, 2021 Commercial Wine Competition Chair