March 2021

President’s Message

As we enter April, our summer activities are coming more into focus. Although the COVID pandemic is still affecting our lives every day, we are beginning to focus on our OCWS summer activities. Our Board members and Committee Chairs have been working with OCFEC, and we were glad to hear an OC Fair executive confirm that “the Commercial Competition is very important to our program.” The OCWS Commercial Wine Competition is on track for June 5-6, and our Home Wine Competition is scheduled to be held on June 19. Marketing materials have gone out, and we will be contacting our members over the next few months asking for volunteers.

We also now have our OCWS in-house office once again staffed Monday through Friday by Lynda Edwards and Rochelle Randel, and Liz and Lloyd Corbett will be working in Building 15 to receive wines for both of our Competitions. Thank you for continuing to work with us and helping us move back into the OCWS groove

During April, we are continuing our virtual seminars, with several Monday night “Varietal Hours,” starting April 5 with Sangiovese. On April 9, we have our Winery Webinar program with Russian River Vineyards, and on April 21, we have a Wine Education Seminar on “Wines of Central Coast.” Further information is available in articles in this edition of the newsletter and on our website at under the Events tab. 

As I have discussed in the past two months, after suspending annual fees for the past year, we are resuming asking for annual membership fees of $40 for singles or $60 for doubles this month. I hope this will not inconvenience anyone, and I look forward to seeing everyone “re-upping” when your month comes up and participating in our events this year and next year!

Thank you all for your continued support during these difficult times, and I look forward to actually SEEING you in the not-too-distant future.

Kevin Donnelly, President

The Courtyard at the OC Fair IS returning this summer!

OC FAIR, July 16 through August 15. Volunteer sign-ups starting May 1. Detailed information coming soon.

Although slightly modified, under OC Fair rules to meet Covid guidelines at fair time, we expect fun to be had by all and hope all our volunteers consider coming back to the Courtyard to help begin bringing real life fun back to the OCWS.

The Courtyard is the center of membership events throughout a normal year and, during the OC Fair, is the site of our biggest annual fundraiser and, needless to say, having been cancelled last year, we will be working to make 2021 a huge, and much needed, success!

There’s a Story Behind Every Wine

The OCWS Winery Webinar program is thrilled to be presenting Giovanni Balistreri, co-owner and winemaker of Russian River Vineyards, on Friday, April 9. After listening to Gio and hearing the excitement in his voice and seeing the look of sheer pleasure on his face, it was clear to see why he feels that “wine is fun and it’s a passion.” He explained that to him, “there’s a story behind every wine,” and that his philosophy and style is that he makes wine by taste, touch and feel. With this love of his, it’s easy to understand how Russian River Vineyards garnered three awards at the 2019 OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition and overall, how RRV wines have won more than 200 medals, 75 of them gold.

From fifth generation Sonoma farmer to impassioned winemaker, Gio wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to his passions. As a three-year-old learning at the knee of his grandmother to tend her vegetable garden, to a newly graduated high school student in 1999 planting his first four-acre vineyard of Pinot Noir on his family’s farm with his father, to his first vintage in 2004, having just graduated college, Gio exudes passion when he speaks of everything from his upbringing to his family and his love of the wine making process.

When asked of his favorite aspect of the wine industry, Gio says that “wine is fun and not work” and that he loves to “control every aspect of growing the grapes, watching them all summer long and then harvesting them” so he can “control the quality, get the most premium fruit and make that into wine.”  He also loves the social side and tries to be in the tasting room as much as possible, speaking to every single person.

Russian River Vineyards has generously offered their wines at a 30% discount, with wine sales extending from March 1st to April 12th. The three wines that will be presented are: 2019 Chardonnay/Bacigalupi, 2017 Pinot Noir/Classic Cuvee, and 2016 Red Blend/Confluence and can be purchased for just $100 for all three. Information on ordering wines can be found on the OCWS website.

This brief article cannot possibly convey the passion emitted from the man himself. Don’t miss the opportunity to see and hear Gio live!  Sign-ups close at 5 pm on Wednesday, April 7 and remember, purchasing wine does not automatically sign you up for the Zoom webinar. You must sign into your account and sign up to attend under the “Events” tab at If you have any questions, please contact Rich Skoczylas at

– Fran Gitsham, Contributing Writer

Cannonball Wine Company—Scavenger Hunt

For our March Winery Webinar with Cannonball Wine Company, winemaker Ondine Chattan invited every member to participate in a “Scavenger Hunt.” Ondine would award the winner of this “hunt” with a special gift. A series of questions were posed about her winery, with the answers to be learned from Ondine’s presentation or information to be researched and submitted online. Several members participated and found the answers about the Cannonball and Angels & Cowboys wine brands and related winery questions. Attendees also heard about the High Dive Napa Valley collaboration between Share A Splash and the Astrolabe brand from New Zealand, two exciting additions to the wine company.

One member’s knowledge came out above the rest—Kevin Coy. Congratulations, Kevin, we are confident that your special gift is on its way.

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

“Best of” Recipe & Wine Pairings—April 2021

The Comfort Food and Wine Pairings seminar presented on February 21st by Ed Reyes and Sara Yeoman had a lot of us salivating and ready to comfort eat our way through several days to come. For me personally, the highlight was watching and listening to Ed describe his Chicken Pot Pie recipe. By the look on his face and the tone of his voice, I knew this one was a winner, as it’s obvious that this dish is among his favorites and most soothing. For anyone who is fortunate enough to know Ed, you know he’s not only one of the nicest people in the world, but an accomplished home winemaker and cook extraordinaire. He has the innate sense of taste and smell that makes the world’s finest chefs stand out above the rest.

Ed Reyes

Many of us have had the pleasure of attending seminars presented by Ed on various wines and wine pairings. His understanding and explanations of what wines pair with what foods never ceases to amaze me. 

For this recipe, Ed paired a Sauvignon Blanc for the herbal notes of the wine as the recipe is creamy and rich and the SB cuts through the richness. Ed further suggests a Pinot Noir, for red lovers, for the exact same reason. I’d wager that a lot of us will be trying this recipe soon. Thanks, Ed, for your willingness to always share your knowledge, love and enthusiasm for food and wine.

Chicken Pot Pie ala Ed Reyes

Makes 6 servings

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large shallot, finely chopped

1 tablespoon chopped thyme

½ cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio)

½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

3 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

1/8 teaspoon dry mustard

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

1 large sprig fresh rosemary

2 bay leaves

2 medium carrots (about 6 oz), peeled, chopped

1 medium russet potato, peeled, cut into ½-inch dice

4 cups coarsely chopped or shredded rotisserie chicken meat (from 1 small rotisserie chicken)

1 ½ cups frozen pearl onions, thawed

1 ½ cups frozen peas, thawed

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400°. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and thyme and cook, stirring often until shallot is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add wine and continue stirring until wine is reduced by half. Add ½ cup flour and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is pale golden, about 5 minutes.

Whisk in broth, ½ cupful at a time, incorporating completely before adding more. Whisk in cream and dry mustard. Season with salt and pepper, add rosemary sprig and bay leaves. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat as needed to maintain a simmer and add carrots and potatoes. Cook until vegetables are nearly tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove rosemary sprig and bay leaves. Mix in chicken, pearl onions and peas. Add Worcestershire sauce, taste and adjust salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer mixture to a shallow 2quart baking dish.

Unfold pastry and gently roll out on a lightly floured work surface just to smooth out creases and, if needed, make it large enough to fit over dish. Drape over baking dish and trim pastry so it is slightly larger than the dish (you want a little overhang). Brush with egg and make 2 or 3 slits in the pastry with a sharp knife.

Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any filling that may drip over) and bake until puff pastry is golden brown, and filling is bubbling through slits, about 20–30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue to bake until crust is deep golden and cooked through, 30–35 minutes longer. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

– Fran Gitsham, Contributing Writer

2021: 40 Years of Scholarship Awards

The OCWS Board of Directors is pleased to announce the 2021 Scholarship Awards to our eight OCWS colleges and universities totaling $5,830.01. Since 1996, the OCWS Scholarship Account has generated $712,511.

We are thankful for the support from our members, and especially the BOD this past year, making sure that our scholarship students, on and off campus, have a reason to celebrate after extreme wildfires and pandemic challenges.

2021 funding is only a fraction of last year mainly because we lost our COVID-cancelled events which generated donations and also membership dues extensions. The Chris Cunningham Endowment gets the Gold as the OCWS did not miss any opportunity for scholarship allocations this special 40th year.

Also, the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities Act) from 2020 has been extended with specifics through 2021. The IRS now allows an above the line tax deduction toward charitable 501(c)(3) organizations, including the OCWS, for individuals up to the amount of $300 and $600 for those who file jointly. Please contact your tax professional for advice.

Members may officially make qualifying OCWS scholarship contributions on our website at the following link, with the option to designate a donation to all or individual colleges of your choice. After your selection and payment, you can print a receipt for your records.  

Any amount is appreciated!  With the promising gradual re-openings and your continued support, another valuable goal of our organization this year is to encourage additional funding toward our Scholarship Account for 2022.

Cheers to 40 Years of providing OCWS scholarship awards and enjoying each of the many more award-winning college wines!

– Leslie Hodowanec, Scholarship Chair