June 2021

President’s Message

After more than a year of almost no activities, we have just been through two of the hardest events of our “normal” OCWS year, our two Competitions! And yet as hard as we work to accomplish these monumental events, they are also the most rewarding for our members, both in the feeling of accomplishment at the end, and also in the ability to actually see each other, and not just “Zee” each other over the computer screen. We saw a lot of hugs and heard “It’s so good to actually see you!” greetings, and it was so good to again see so many of our members! Our Commercial Wine Competition was held June 5-6 at the Hilton Orange County Costa Mesa hotel on Bristol Street, and we were ecstatic to receive 2,440 entries! We welcomed back many of our returning judges, and a few new ones. Congratulations to Liz and Lloyd Corbett for your months of work beforehand, Leslie Brown and Kevin Coy for your leadership, and to all of you who volunteered to make this such a wonderful event. Visit WineCompetition.com for results from the Competition.

It always amazes me to see the “OCWS machine” that receives, prepares, and transports the wines to the hotel, and then the organization and execution of the Competition.

This was followed by our Home Wine Competition on June 12, where wines were judged from amateur winemakers. 624 wines were judged, which actually exceeded the number of wines we received in 2019. Thanks to Bill Forsch, David Rutledge, Rob Romano, Jim Downey, and Sam Clark for your leadership, and to all of the volunteers for your hard work. Congratulations to all of our entrants, both commercial and amateur, who submitted their wines. Without you, there would be no OCWS.

Next up is the OC Fair from July 16 through August 15, and all the efforts we are currently putting forth, our latest major work activity to make the OC Wine Society what it is today!

The Courtyard will be looking a little different this year, but we’ll make it happen! Thanks to Fran Gitsham for your leadership on The Courtyard Committee, Rich Skoczylas for organizing the volunteers, Rochelle Randall for leading the TIPS training, and all the other committee members who are backing them up. We are still looking for more volunteers to staff the wine bar!

Because of the great work you have all put in during past years, we were able to survive the past year with no income or in-person activities. We look forward to welcoming you all back and seeing all of our friends, as we will be beginning our social events this coming fall!

Kevin Donnelly, President

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 WineCompetition.com.

– Leslie Brown, 2021 Commercial Wine Competition Chair

Annual Wine Label Competition Results

For any members who were at the Commercial Wine Competition the weekend of June 5 and 6, it is hoped you participated and enjoyed the Annual Wine Label Competition. We judged up to 10 labels in each of 12 categories. All participants voted on their favorite labels, and now the winners can be revealed. From the Gold Medal winners, the Label Committee selected a Best of Show. The Label Committee will present a display at the OC Fair similar to prior years with pictures of the labels. Best of Show winner is voted by members of the Label Committee from the Gold Medal winners. RB Cellars from Thematic Category Labels include:



Roussane, Lake County         2013 Zinfandel, Napa Valley          Bourdeaux Style Blend, Napa Valley           Methode Champemoise, Lodi

Gold Medal winners by Category, voted on by all present for 2021 OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition:

  • Architecture/Scenery: Catalina View, 2017 Chardonnay, Paso Robles
  • Best Use of Color: Macchia, 2019 Notorious
  • Bottle Display: Carol Shelton, 2019 Wild Thing Rendezvous Rose
  • Contemporary: Allen Hancock College Winery, 2019 White Wine
  • Fauna: Mira Laguna, 2018 Drift
  • Figurative: Kelsey See Canyon, 2020 Orange Muscat
  • Flora: Aloria, 2018 Syrah/Grenache
  • Lettering/Caligraphy: Harney Lane, Petite Sirah, Lodi
  • Name Representation: Big Nose, 2018 Meritage
  • Special Effects: Ron Noble, 2018 Chardonnay, Steiner Vineyard
  • Thematic: Tie: RB Cellars and Second Line Wines
  • Whimsical: Lost Hog, 2020 Sauvignon Blanc, Lake County

– Sam Puzzo, Label Competition Chair

Graber Olive House, a Valued Supporter of the OCWS

The Orange County Wine Society would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge Graber Olive House for their friendship, generosity and continued support over the years.

Graber Olive House has provided their specialty olives to the Commercial Wine and Home Wine Competitions for many years, and this year was no different.

As you know, palate assault can be extreme even though wine judges may expectorate every sip. The acidity in white wines and tannins in red wines can be a painful experience after a full day of tasting. A small cup of Graber olives is placed alongside each judge, and the olives neutralize the elements in both reds and whites, work wonders for the palate and taste fantastic, too.

Graber Olive House is located in quiet, serene surroundings. Visitors will be delighted to discover a bit of early California when they visit. Graber Olive House is located at 215 East Fourth Street, Ontario, CA 91764.

OCWS Board of Directors Election

Well, wasn’t that fun being able to get together with your friends and fellow members at the Commercial Wine Competition? If you missed it, we missed seeing you.

With that being said: it’s time to think about running for the OCWS Board of Directors. As you all know, our year has been a struggle. We have three great people whose terms are up this year.

Have you thought about getting more involved with the OCWS outside of volunteering for or attending various OCWS related events? If you are innovative, open-minded, possess good interpersonal skills, are results oriented and a problem solver, then a position as a Director of the OCWS just might be right for you.

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 on September 10. The meeting will be held virtually again this year.

The overall time commitment for a member of the Board varies, based on assignments and participation. We are moving from having the Board manage some events to having our members run the event with a Board coordinator being the liaison to the Board regarding budgets, event timing and placement.

A candidate should possess some of the following skills and experience as well:

  • General knowledge of OCWS events and activities
  • Experience as a volunteer in some events
  • The ability and time to organize events during the year
  • Selected event and budget management skills
  • Be a member in good standing

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 no later than fourteen (14) calendar days prior to the scheduled Annual Business Meeting which is Friday, August 27, 2021.

During the Annual Business Meeting, you will have the opportunity to speak 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.

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, 2021 Election Chair

– Leslie Brown 2021 Election Committee Member

– Jolen Zeroski 2021 Election Committee Member

Judges with Hearts of Gold

All of our OC Fair Commercial Competition judges have huge hearts, but there are always a handful whose love and support of the OCWS goes above and beyond. This year six judges donated their stipends back to the OCWS as contributions to our scholarship fund. Thanks to the following judges, our scholarship fund now has an additional $1,800.00 to grant to students in the future.

  • Joseph S. Franzia, Forest Glen Winery
  • Linda McWilliams, San Pasqual Winery
  • Joel Peterson, Once and Future Wines
  • Oscar Ramos, Ramos Torres Wines
  • H. Marty Spate, O’Neill Vintners & Distillers
  • Fred Wiebel, Weibel Family Vineyards & Winery

Should you have the good fortune to cross paths with any of these amazing people, please remember to thank them for their kindness and generosity on behalf of the OCWS.

– Fran Gitsham, Commercial Wine Competition Committee

Eight Medals Awarded to Allan Hancock College Winery

As the Scholarship Program Chair, I personally reached out to five of our viticulture and enology colleges and universities to encourage them to enter the 2021 Commercial Wine Competition.

Sadly, some replies were “maybe next year” due to recent pandemic and wildfire restrictions on campus. There has been excellent research, however, the revenue generated for wine and grape sales barely covered campus operational costs.

We were delighted that Allan Hancock College entered the Competition this year and congratulate them on their winning wines and contemporary label design.

This is the 100th Anniversary of Allan Hancock College, and they have entered wines in the Competition since 2016 and have been consistent medal winners. This year they were awarded seven wine medals, all 2019 vintages. Some were produced from vineyards in Paso Robles and Santa Ynez Valley, and some from their own on-campus vineyard in Santa Maria. Please visit their website at hancockcollege.edu/winery, (try their Centennial Blanc de Noirs).

The judges awarded Allen Hancock College two Gold Medals for their Chardonnay and Torrontes, and five Silver Medals for Albarino, Grenache, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Another Gold Medal was awarded in the Contemporary Design category during our Label Competition, which took place during the event.

While serving Allan Hancock College wines during the OC Fair, please remind our guests how especially proud the OCWS is to support the college and university scholarship programs and all the students who rose to the challenges.

– Leslie Hodowanec, Director & Scholarship Chair