August 2022

President’s Message

Beautifully Hard Decisions

As President, I have the honor and challenging task of presenting the President’s Award at the Annual Business Meeting to a person whose commitment to the OCWS is on a scale par to, almost, none. It seems the list of potential candidates is the same each year, but mostly with people whose names show up all year long in one volunteer capacity or another. These people are the glue of the organization and what keeps us functioning at what on the surface seems to be effortless, which is as far from the truth as you can get. Many of these people are past directors and well know what they have gotten themselves into by volunteering on an almost full-time basis and taking responsibility for major portions of the organization. These are the people who, besides your Board of Directors on any given year, play an integral part in running the business of the OCWS.

This accolade is due to many, and many of the people whose names you see below have already received this honor in the past, but I would be remiss if I didn’t publish a list of people who put their hearts and souls into the Orange County Wine Society just this year.

Just 2022 alone, the following people have my thanks for more reasons than there is room to list:

  • Liz & Lloyd Corbett – Head of Cataloging for the Commercial Wine Competition and creators of the Featured Winery Program at the OC Fair, which brought in almost $17,000 this year for the scholarship fund.
  • Kevin Coy – Head of Judges for the Commercial Wine Competition, CWC Move and Sort, and Wine Cellar Supervisor throughout the year, among anything else he sees that needs to be done.
  • Leslie Hodowanec – Chair of the OCWS Scholarship Fund, Set-Up and Tear-Down Coordinator for The Courtyard at the OC Fair.
  • Teri & John Lane – Successors to the Corbetts in Cataloging for the Commercial Wine Competition, Lead Coordinator and trainer for ABC RBS training for The Courtyard at the OC Fair (Teri), Head of Judges for the Home Wine Competition (John).
  • Bill Redding – OCWS Cellarmaster, which is a year-round job coordinating wines and all associated event functions, i.e., sorting wine lots for the Auction, etc., and Facilities Coordinator for the Commercial Wine Competition.
  • Stacey Taylor – Technology oversight and creator of and Commercial Wine and Home Wine Competition software programs.

And, although current Board members, the following people well deserve acknowledgement:

  • Carolyn Christian – OCWS Marketing, which is a year-round job for the overall organization and wine competitions. Carolyn did an amazing job this year on implementing social media campaigns.
  • Rich Skoczylas – Winery Program Coordinator, Volunteer Scheduler for The Courtyard at the OC Fair, Cooks Caucus member, among other things.

These people are just the beginning when it comes to the magnitude of volunteerism it takes to make things run smoothly and continue to bring you, our members, events to enjoy. Every member who volunteers, whether it be on a full-time basis or just a few hours a year at one event makes a major contribution to the functioning of the OCWS and are desperately needed to continue our success in the future.

My thanks to these people for what they do and to all of you for considering helping in some small way.

– Fran Gitsham, President

Let’s Make Some Wine

You are a purveyor of great tasting wine and everything about it, right?  You wouldn’t be reading this newsletter if that were not true. You buy the good stuff. You go with friends to drink wine. You might even limit your friendships to fellow wine drinkers. If someone calls you a “wineaux” it’s a complement!

So why haven’t you taken the next step and start making your own wine?

In my case, making wine was thrust upon me. Back in 2009, my exceptional son, knowing my strong interest in wine, set it upon himself to give me a basic home winemaking kit as a birthday present. Except for when I lived and worked in the Middle East, I have been making wine at home ever since. I did get even with my son though. I gave him a beer making kit, which he used for several years.

And on that note, with my many years of experience with kit wines, this article is for those who want to give it a try. If you are fortunate enough to have a neighbor or friend that makes wine, you are way ahead of the game, but if you’re venturing out on your own, let’s talk. And keep in mind OCWS has a subgroup of very experienced home winemakers that can support you along the way.

So, here it is. With all that comes with a kit, making wine at home is actually very easy and it does not take up that much space. For years, I started it in my kitchen, then moved the fermenter/carboy to a location in my spare room for further processing and aging. Just make sure you work over a big plastic sheet because you are going to spill some!

After the first day of effort to get everything clean, sanitized and the fermentation started, your time commitment is anywhere from around ten minutes to about an hour per day for the first seven to ten days. Then occasional time to check, filter and, when ready, bottle your product. If you get fancy, you can take a little more time to create your own special labels.

So let’s get you your first kit. I happen to get my supplies at a company out of Massachusetts called Beer and Wine Hobby, Inc. ( A closer option is More Wine Professional in Pittsburg, California ( In both cases, shipping is involved. In Southern California, there are a number of places to get supplemental equipment and replacement supplies.

A quick online search will help you find something near you. A local provider might even have starter kits and there is the added advantage of getting some additional advice.

Although one-gallon kits are out there, the five bottles of wine you make will not satisfy you. I recommend going right to the six-gallon/23-liter kit as once you fall in love with winemaking, besides making thirty bottles of wine, this will be your basic size from then on. The image shows a complete starter kit available from Beer and Wine Hobby that comes in at $180. It’s very good quality and will last you for years. I still have much of my original equipment, which I have supplemented from time to time.

This kit I am showing will have everything you need including corks and a corking tool. But it is missing two items: bottles, which you can reuse from your own wine consumption, and the grape must itself! FYI, in the winemaking parlance, “must” is the resulting grape juice after being pressed.

And what about that? This is where the challenge begins. There are so many choices out there for red, white or other wine preferences such as dessert wines, port-style wines and some amazing fruit wines. Again, these kits are readily available from online suppliers and, very likely, from your local supplier. The selection is huge.

For a six-gallon kit, you have two size choices. You can get a fully ready-to-go six gallon bucket of must or you might want to start with a 2½-gallon box of grape must concentrate. To this, you will add about 3 ½ gallons of drinkable (but not distilled) water to make up the difference. The advantage here is that it is cheaper if you are shipping it and the must itself tends to be less expensive. So if it’s your first time, you might not want to go all out in this grand experiment.

One thing to keep in mind down the road – the more expensive the kit, generally the better the quality of the must. As any winemaker will tell you, you can only make really great wine from really great grapes. But if you are a novice, you might just want to begin with less costly must and learn from your experiences.

Both kit sizes will also come with detailed instruction as well as all the necessary supplemental items, such as metabisulfite for sterilization, potassium sorbate to finalize fermentation, a recommended yeast, and filtering agents. As you get familiar with the process, you might do like I do and experiment with different yeast options… but again, that’s later.

One other piece of equipment that I highly recommend that you will never find in a kit is a squeeze bulb food baster.   This is a clean and easy way to take samples from your fermenter or carboy. I stole my wife’s baster early on and still use it extensively to this day. They cost as little as $2, but, like the iPhone, you will wonder how you could have lived without it.

While you can make your wine from kits anytime of the year, here in Southern California, I recommend you do like the professional winemakers do and wait until October or November. You want the coolest environment for both the fermentation and initial aging. But if you do everything in your air conditioned home, you could do it whenever you want.

Here are a few more words of advice: First and foremost, clean, clean, clean and then clean again. Follow all cleaning and sterilizing directions provided with the must. And by the way, about half your winemaking efforts will be spent in cleaning your equipment and bottles!

And second, take copious notes of all your actions and results. Winemaking tends to be an annual event. As you begin a new effort each year, you will tend to forget some of those valuable lessons from those great or educational years. It’s a lot easier to go back and look at your notes before you get started on your new batch. I continually refer to prior years’ notes as I plan my next vintage.

Lastly, a book that came with my first kit has been my home winemaking bible:  The Encyclopedia of Home Winemaking by Pierre Drapeau and André Vanasse. If it doesn’t come with your kit, or something like it, I urge you to find a copy on line. Of course, other winemakers will have their favorite books so do ask around, which brings me to my concluding encouraging comment.

When I started, I was wholly on my own. I didn’t know anyone that made wine at home and I did not learn of OCWS for many years after I started. But if you are just getting started or have a ton of questions, you are in the right place. The OCWS Winemakers’ Group is here to help and they very much want to help!  I did not have that when I started. But several of us in the group would love to offer advice, help out, and even share the tools to get you through your first effort.

Talk to any of us in the months to come, but for right now, you can reach me, Scott Harral, for any questions you might have about kit winemaking.

I can best be reached at email address

– W. Scott Harral, Winemakers’ Group

2022 Annual Business Meeting

Our Annual Business Meeting is scheduled for Friday, September 9 at 7 pm. In order to continue our practice of being fiscally responsible and to reach the most members possible, this year’s meeting will be presented over Zoom.

During this meeting, viewers will hear updated information about the current state of the Wine Society, including our financial condition. We will highlight what has been accomplished during the past year, including a recap of our two wine competitions and the OC Fair, and discuss the upcoming events we have planned for the remainder of the year.

Our Annual Election of three members for the Board of Directors is coming up, and we will introduce you to candidates who will present their qualifications and interests as potential Board members live. There will be time set aside for questions and  answers and Committee Chairs available to provide more insight.

Sign-up for attendance is currently open through our OCWS website under the Events tab. Reminder announcements will also be pushed out to the membership during September. There is no cost to attend this Zoom meeting.

The 2021/22 OCWS Board of Directors looks forward to you attending as we review our past year and look forward to the 2022/23 calendar year. The meeting will be concluded in accordance with OCWS Bylaws and government regulations for 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations.

We look forward to having you log into this important event!

– Fran Gitsham, President

2022 Courtyard at the OC Fair

The 2022 OC Fair, now just a fading memory, is still fresh in the minds and hearts of the 212 OCWS volunteers whose dedication and enthusiasm brought success to this year’s Courtyard. With over 1,340 shifts worked and thousands of hours spent behind the scenes before and after the Fair, the Fair came and went like a breeze on the wind.

As a partner to the Orange County Fair & Events Center, we run both the Commercial and Home Wine Competitions. In return, we are given the opportunity to run The Courtyard, with income therefrom paying for both Competitions and covering OCWS’ overhead for the following year. The Featured Winery Program and donations from the general public raise funds that are contributed directly to our Scholarship Fund.

The success of The Courtyard is due, in no small part, to The Courtyard Committee, cash verifiers behind the scenes, seminar presenters, the set-up and tear-down crews, the Featured Winery Program, and too many other positions and programs to name and, needless to say, all the OCWS volunteers who manned or maintained The Courtyard in a number of capacities.

It takes every one of our volunteers, their time, their hands, and their hearts, to tackle the tasks, no matter how great or small, to make The Courtyard a success and provide the OCWS with a fabulous foundation going into next year. Thank you to each and every one of you who volunteered this year!

– Fran Gitsham and the entire Courtyard Committee

2022 Courtyard Fun Facts

Here are a few “fun” facts that The Courtyard Committee thought you might enjoy knowing:

  • Largest Day—Friday, July 29: $23,461 and 2,098 Transactions 
  • Most Register Transactions—Saturday, July 23 for Awards: 1,000
  • Featured Winery Program— Scholarship Fund Contributions: $16,760
  • Largest Scholarship Day—Friday, July 15: $1,182 (First day of the Fair!)
  • #1 Best Selling Item—Korbel Sparkling Splits
  • #2 Best Selling Item—Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay: 2,070 Bottles = 8,280 Glasses
  • Govino Glasses Sold: 3,869
  • Total OCWS Volunteers: 212
  • Total Shifts Worked: 1343 (Managers – 21; Cashiers – 43; Stewards – 30; Servers – 126)
  • New Memberships: 180 Dual Memberships= 362 and 34 Single Memberships = Total New Members 396


OCWS Board of Directors Election

Oversite of the OCWS is seen by a nine-member Board of Directors, which finds three members’ terms ending each year. The organization, as you all know it, does not run itself. Needless to say, intelligent, innovative, open minded, problem solving, and results oriented people are the key to the leadership of the group. The majority of our members have these skills already, and it’s that time of year to consider stepping up to help lead the way. If you know the organization and have been a volunteer along the way, you just might be among the people to take a lead position.

The beginning of a three-year term on the Board of Directors, according to the By-Laws, shall be staggered such that three members’ terms expire each year. The three vacated positions are filled each year by a vote of the OCWS membership, following the Annual Business Meeting which, this year, will be held on Friday, September 9, 2022, and will be held virtually via Zoom.

The overall time commitment for a member of the Board varies, based upon assignments and participation. The ultimate goal of the Board is for members to run OCWS programming, with the Board acting as mentors and liaisons regarding budgets, event timing and placement, and for the Board to function as an oversight committee, focusing on compliance with the By-Laws, insurance, OC Fair compliance, liability exposure, etc., and generally running the business of the organization.

A candidate, ideally, should possess some of the following skills:

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

To declare candidacy for a position on the Board of Directors, a candidate must present a Declaration of Candidacy, in writing, by mail or via electronic media to the Election Chair no later than fourteen (14) calendar days (which is August 26, 2022) prior to the scheduled Annual Business Meeting.

Statements of Candidacy will be posted on the OCWS website and, during the Annual Business Meeting, declared candidates will have an opportunity to address the attending membership. A written Statement of Qualifications is required to be presented to the Election Committee no later than five (5) calendar days after receipt by the Election Chair of a Declaration of Candidacy.

The OCWS continues to thrive thanks in great part to the leadership of the organization over the last 47 years. If helping take the helm of this amazing group is of interest to you, please feel free to contact Sara Yeoman at with any questions related to Director Responsibilities, the election process or anything else. Thank you.

– Sara Yeoman, 2022 Election Chair