January 2021

President’s Message

January has sure started off with a “bang,” and not just with New Year’s fireworks! We have a new United States President, and time will tell how this will all play out over the next months and years.

During the past 10 months, the Wine Society has been paying a lot of ongoing expenses, which has tapped into our financial reserves. We understand that since we have not had in-person activities, members have not had the usual events that our membership offers. Last March, the Board of Directors chose to suspend membership renewal fees starting April 1, 2020, and as a result, we have retained all of our members. The Board has now decided that after 12 months, we will resume requesting renewal fees starting April 1, 2021. If your renewal was April 1, 2020, we will request you renew on April 1, 2021. If your renewal was June 1, 2020, we will request you renew on June 1, 2021. 

The Wine Society continues to have our social events virtually since we are still under pandemic restrictions. We know that several of our OCWS members have contracted COVID-19, and we wish them all fast and complete recoveries.

We have several Sunday sessions planned, which are always entertaining and well attended. In January, we added new events, our “Varietal Hours,” which are conducted as Zoom meetings (as opposed to Zoom webinars), allow us to see everyone on the screen. Our first two Varietal Hours were on January 11 and January 18 and were well received by everyone. We can all use more social interaction in these trying times, and we hope to see a lot more of you in the coming weeks! 

We are still making preparations to conduct our Commercial Wine Competition and Home Wine Competition in June, pending opening up our environments as we approach these events. The Orange County Fair & Event Center (OCFEC) is making their plans for the 2021 OC Fair, and we plan to be fully involved, so keep the dates open. I will keep you informed as we hear more information from the State and the OCFEC for any updates to the situation.

The vaccinations for COVID-19 are now available for many people, with more of us becoming eligible every week. We hope that as more and more people get vaccinated, the OCFEC and the whole world will start opening up, and we can begin to resume our OCWS activities. 

In the meantime, I hope everyone stays healthy and safe in these trying times.   

 Kevin Donnelly, President

Facts and Wine Movies

A Couple of  Wine Facts

 Though likely invented decades earlier, the world’s first corkscrew patent was filed in 1795 by English Reverend Samuel Henshall. To make a firmer fit with the cork, he added a flat button of metal to the helix. His corkscrew was so useful that it has been widely utilized for over 100 years.

 A person who collects corkscrews is a Helixophile.

A Few Worthy Wine Movies to Consider

Let’s get serious:

 A Year in Burgundy (2013) – watch on Amazon Prime

 A Year in Champagne (2014) – watch on Amazon Prime

 Barolo Boys (2014) – watch on Amazon Prime

Decanted (2016) – watch on Amazon Prime

A little romance with wine:

 A Good Year (2006) – watch on Amazon Prime/Hulu

 A Walk In the Clouds (1995) – watch on Amazon Prime

 A Heavenly Vintage (2009) – watch on Amazon Prime

For a little humor or a classic caper:

 Wine Country (2019) – watch on Netflix

 Year of the Comet (1992) – watch on Amazon Prime

OCWS Winery Webinar—Mineral Wines Winemaker

Friday, February 12, 2021 @ 6:30 pm

Via Zoom Webinar Platform

Brett met future wife Andrea Henkel in 1993 while working at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley. Brett was not much of a wine drinker back then, but Andrea cured him of that, introducing him to red wine. Andrea’s family had just planted a small vineyard, and after Brett and Andrea were married in 1995, Brett decided to forgo his college studies for Hospitality Management and changed majors to Enology and Viticulture. As he worked his way through college, Brett continued to work as Sommelier and/or manager at several upscale restaurants while attending Fresno State University, earning his degree in Viticulture and Enology in 2003. Upon moving back home to the small gold rush town of Angels Camp, Brett assumed management of the family’s four acre Cherokee Creek Vineyard, which originally grew exclusively Merlot grapes. When a movie with an unmentionable name decimated demand for Merlot grapes, Brett grafted three acres of the vineyard to Roussanne, Viognier, and the specialty of the vineyard, Petite Sirah. These are the grapes that now define the Mineral Wines’ brand! For the first three years of business starting in 2012, wine tasting was offered on the patio overlooking the grounds of the estate. In winter, room was made to taste inside the barn among the barrels. It was a very small operation and has grown to now making about 1,800 cases a year.  

About the Winemaker—Brett Keller:

A Unique Philosophy of Winemaking:

Brett’s lovely wife Andrea loved to travel to the Napa Valley to taste the great Cabernets back in the day. She always encouraged Brett to make 3 or 4 wines that were always top quality, in the tradition of Caymus and Silver Oak. Brett’s answer to this was to make no less than a dozen different varieties, all small production between 40 and 150 cases of each. You will hear him say “I did not spend six years in college to only master a few wines—I worked to master every wine I could make!”  

Brett’s style of winemaking focuses on two things: First, EVERY wine must taste as the variety should. Therefore each wine has to be made in a way that the varietal character speaks loudly. Barbera should NOT taste like Zinfandel. This means that every wine must be made individually. Yeasts, barrels and different vineyards are selected for each variety according to what it will do for the characters of the wine. Many vintners just do not understand that to give wines their individual identity you cannot make them the same way with the same barrels, yeasts, and cellar treatment. 

The second key to the success of Mineral Wines is to make these wines distinctively California in style. California makes arguably the best wines in the world. In Calaveras County, we have a predictably long, dry harvest season which yields fully-ripe grapes with rich fruit flavors that make big, fruit forward wines. The thought is this … to make a great wine memorable it takes time. Yup, the longer you can taste it the better impressed is the wine lover. Big, rich wines that carry varietal character inherent to the grape are our specialty. 

Is it Science or Art?

One other thing, it takes an artist to make great wine. An artist has tools to make something beautiful. Whether a painter with their art palette of colors to mix and different media to make a beautiful painting—or a chef with their spices and different techniques to make great food. Science is the language of the art of making wine. Different yeasts, barrels, grapes, clones of grapes, climate change, smoke during harvest, viticulture practices, and too many more tools to mention all contribute to the essence of great wine. These all interact to make something beautiful, to create an experience like no other, when the fruit of the vine is crafted and nurtured to give pleasure in its enjoyment.


· 2017 Cabernet Franc $32

· 2016 Meritage $32

· 2016 Merlot $28

Log in to Mineralwines.com and use Promo Code OCWS20 at checkout for 15% off the tasting package above. Brett is also offering discounts as follows: 20% off for 6-11 bottles of current releases and 25% off for a case or more bottles purchased, including “Library” wines. All shipping is half-price. Remember, members will have to sign up on the OCWS website for the Winery Webinar to watch via Zoom. Buying the wines does not automatically sign you up for the webinar. If you have any questions, contact Les@ocws.org.

We have adjusted the content of this presentation to three bottles. A five-bottle blending webinar viewed at multiple households online present certain challenges in judging the winner. Brett is creating a blending video available for future viewing and will be presenting a blending demonstration at a Courtyard Seminar at the OC Fair in the future.  

Cheers! Looking forward to seeing all of you online.

– Liz Corbett, Contributing Writer

Calling on Volunteers for the 2021 Commercial Wine Competition

The Commercial Wine Competition Committee has decided to move forward with the planning of the 2021 Commercial Wine Competition scheduled for June 5-6, 2021. We understand that this has been a challenging time in so many ways, and the coming months will likely bring more challenges our way. Be assured that we prioritize the safety of all of our members, and want you to know that concern for our volunteers is at the forefront. We will adhere to and follow all guidelines, rules and regulations as set forth by the national, state, or local government and health department.

Since we are in the early planning stages for the event, there will be many questions you may have – we only ask that you be flexible, as nothing has been etched in stone at this point in time. Preparation will be key to our success, as there are many logistical and operational aspects of the Competition that cannot wait until the 11th hour.

The Commercial Wine Competition volunteer page on the ocws.org website will be open in March, and you will be able to sign up at that time – your assistance is vital to our success! This event offers many opportunities: meet the winemakers and winery principals, increase your wine knowledge, and enjoy getting to know your fellow OCWS members. We understand and acknowledge that no one’s plans are definite at this time.

There are many areas where volunteer help is needed: stewarding, glass washing and drying, and computer verification. Continuing with the efficiency of the event, computer input will also be assigned. A sign-up form is included on the website that identifies stewarding days, bagging nights, and other work parties with times and dates. As in the past, in order to qualify for stewarding, we need you to sign up for two additional work parties. We can offer bagging, and moving of wine to and from the Competition site, including sorting. We will also be assigning a ribbon mailing crew.

We definitely need your support in order to run a successful Competition. The good news is that we will hire help for heavy lifting. No training is necessary, as newer members will be teamed with Competition veterans.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at 562.822.3382 or email me at Strompharms@earthlink.net. We look forward to your participation in this very important OCWS event!

– Robyn Strom, Volunteer Coordinator
Commercial Wine Competition Committee

“Best of” Recipe & Wine Pairings—February 2021

What started out as an idea to create a monthly culinary column highlighting the best of OCWS Mini-Tastings’ award-winning recipes and wine pairings has now become, thanks to great interest in recipes from the Seminar Series’ wine and food presentations, a Best of OCWS Recipes and Wine Pairings. I will continue to review Mini-Tastings from the past but will now venture into Seminar pairings, and anything else from a culinary standpoint, that may appeal to our members. This is an ever-evolving column and suggestions are always welcome, so please don’t hesitate to email me at Fran@ocws.org. I would love to hear from those of you who love food and wine as much as I do, and I know there are a lot of kindred spirits out there.

There is one recipe in particular that has recently been requested time and again. It was featured in the holiday Sparkling and Sweets seminar held in December, and since I happen to love Champagne and this treat in particular, I’m publishing the recipe for this yummy dessert before the taste leaves my memory. I am usually the recipient of this dessert when asked by my daughter, Sara Yeoman, what I would like from her, as it is her recipe and is totally amazing in my book. I hope you find it as scrumptious as I do.

I find that too much chocolate paired with a dry sparkling, which is my drink of preference, leaves me with a heavy head, but a cream-based dessert fits the bill and satisfies my urge for sweets perfectly. Extra Dry, Extra Brut and Brut sparklings have a natural acidity that cuts through cheese, butter and cream and pair well with desserts such as Panna Cotta, crepes, shortbread and, my favorite, Lavender Cheesecake. I hope you will be drooling by the time you finish perusing the recipe and consider putting it on your “must try” list.



1 3/4 cups shortbread cookie crumbs

1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

Pinch of salt

1 1/2 cups sugar, divided

4 (8-ounce) bricks Neufchatel (low-fat) cream cheese, softened

1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

2 Tbsp. fresh lavender buds, finely chopped (measure first, then chop the buds)

4 eggs


2 cups heavy cream

Powdered sugar

1 Earl Grey tea bag


Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9-inch springform pan. Crumble the shortbread cookies into crumbs and whisk with butter, salt and 1/4 cup of the sugar together in a medium bowl until combined. Press firmly onto bottom of the pan (or up the sides, if desired). Bake for 10 minutes, remove, and let cool. Reduce oven heat to 325°F .

Once the pan reaches room temperature, carefully wrap the outside of the pan in 2 layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil, being sure that there are NO gaps where water could seep through. Place the pan in a large roasting dish (or any pan larger than the springform) and bring a tea kettle or pot of water to boil in preparation for the water bath. Set aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed for 3 minutes until smooth. Add the remaining 1-1/4 cup sugar and beat for an additional minute until well blended. Add Greek yogurt, vanilla and lavender, and beat for an additional minute, stopping partway to scrape the bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on low speed after each addition just until blended. Do not overbeat! Pour into crust.

Place the double pans in the oven on a shelf on the bottom third of the oven. Very carefully use a tea kettle (or large measuring cup) to pour the boiling water in the larger pan to form a water bath around the springform, so that it comes up about 1-inch around the springform.

Close the oven door, and bake about 1 hour 40 min, or until center is almost set. (The center of the cake should still jiggle ever so slightly.) Turn oven off, and open oven door slightly. Let cheesecake set in oven 1 hour. Then remove cheesecake from oven, carefully run a knife around the edges of the cake, and then let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove springform rim, and top cheesecake with whipped cream just before serving. Store leftover cheesecake in refrigerator.


To make earl grey homemade whipped cream, first bring the heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add a tea bag and steep for 4 minutes, then remove the tea bag. Refrigerate cream until cool.

You can make homemade whipped cream with a:

Stand Mixer: Make sure that your bowl and whisk attachment are nice and chilled, as well as your heavy whipping cream. That’s the main thing to remember — you want everything nice and COLD for making whipped cream. Add in your heavy whipping cream and some powdered sugar to the bowl of the mixer and whisk it together on high speed until soft to stiff peaks form, your choice.

Food Processor: Same steps, just pulse the cream and powdered sugar together until stiff peaks form.

Blender: Same steps, just blend the cream and powdered sugar together until stiff peaks form

Mason Jar: This one takes quite a bit more muscle. Place a mason jar (along with its lid) in the freezer for about 15 minutes. Then remove it, add the whipped cream and powdered sugar (you only want the jar about half full, since the whipped cream volume will expand), and then shake the heck out of it for about 5 minutes until stiff peaks have formed.  

Bowl + Whisk: Or of course, you can make whipped cream the truly old-fashioned way. Just grab a mixing bowl (metal, preferably, or glass) and place it in the freezer until it’s nice and chilled. Then remove it, add the whipped cream and powdered sugar, and use a large whisk to whisk the cream by hand until stiff peaks form.

– Fran Gitsham, Contributing Writer