January 2023

Future Investment: Where Are They Now?

Scholarship Success – Story by Greg Risling

In a state overflowing with an abundance of wine, who doesn’t dream of dipping their toes in the world of winemaking?

For Robert Huff, that aspiration became reality thanks, in some small measure, to a $1,200 scholarship from the Orange County Wine Society.

Huff, 39, was studying at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, trying to cover his tuition and other expenses while splitting his time between school and working part time at a restaurant. Fortunately, he was awarded an OCWS scholarship that helped him graduate in 2017 with a degree in wine and viticulture.

“I was willing to learn whatever I could,” Huff says. “At Cal Poly SLO, I built a good base of wine research and how to solve problems, which has been helpful in my career. I learned in the winemaking industry there is no one size that fits all.”

Every year, OCWS awards scholarships at eight California colleges to aspiring students studying enology, viticulture, wine marketing or culinary arts.

The Santa Rosa native went on to work at esteemed Pinot Noir producer Kosta Browne, where he landed one of two prized internship positions out of a pool of 17 applicants. There, he learned the tools of the trade, eventually becoming cellar master, where he dabbled with high-end fruit and had the freedom to experiment.

For the past two years, Huff has been with Marine Layer Wines, a Sonoma winery that focuses on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. He now serves as assistant winemaker, running a 350-ton production facility.

Huff also has been afforded a side project: Joseph-Jibril Wines. Using both Huff and partner’s Jaam Moynihan’s middle names, they have been blessed to make their own wine. Their first vintage was a 2021 carbonic Pinot Noir and a 2021 Rose of Pinot Noir.

Jaam Moynihan (left) and Robert Huff take a break from production of their Joseph-Jibril Wines.

This year they plan to add an organic Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc to their portfolio.

Huff realizes he is fortunate to do what he loves the most and has some parting advice for those who want to be part of a flourishing industry and may need to rely on scholarships like the ones OCWS provides.

“Do your research and find the curriculum that has the most to offer,” he says. “Exploring all your options is helpful and putting in that little bit of extra work – especially finding available scholarships – will help you in the long run.”

To date, OCWS has awarded more than $740,000 through its scholarship program. In 2022, OCWS gave nearly $30,000 to eight institutions.

President’s Message

“Where there is love, there is life” – Mahatma Gandhi

February is that time when we all instinctively think of “love” in one way or the other. Some of us celebrate with flowers, chocolates and champagne. Some think of loves lost and raise a glass in gratitude and celebration of precious memories. Some think of loves who have never been and dream that they are still yet to come.

Valentine’s Day and the thought of love has been ingrained in us from the time we were old enough to go to school, our moms making sure we made enough cards so as to not exclude anyone in the class.

Valentine’s Day is a part of our culture, from our earliest days of homemade cards to extraordinarily expensive Hallmark cards to Hallmark movies that now look to bring love to every season of the year. Love comes in many ways to warm hearts.

In the case of the OCWS, love also comes in many forms and faces. People may initially join for the love of wine but, more often than not, I see people who just love life overall and extend that love to others. I have seen marriages and life-long friendships formed within the organization and have had the privilege of sharing more happiness than I could have ever imagined and, unfortunately, more sadness than I would have liked with people whose bonds have formed over that initial love of wine.

I have never met a less-than-loving heart within the OCWS. The people, and their loving hearts, is what has made the OCWS successful. The continuing success of the organization, in my mind, comes second only to the people who make our organization successful year after year.

I, for one, am grateful and my heart is warmed by the love I see in each and every member who crosses my path, whether their love be for each other or in the form of passion for a project, or as is usually the case, both. I LOVE that my path in life has brought me to the OCWS and wish that each of you experience passions that make your heart happy and many people for you to love and be loved by every day of the year!

—Fran Gitsham, President

Attention Commercial Wine Competition Volunteers

We are headed toward the 47th Commercial Competition this year, which will be held June 3-4 at the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa. Signups will begin in March online, same as in previous years.

We understand that these are ever-changing times and conditions, so please be flexible and we can work together to make this another fun, successful event. There are many areas where volunteer help is needed such as stewarding and glass washing and drying. In an effort to continue our level of experience and efficiency, the Data Input and Scoring Verification teams will again be pre-assigned positions.

A sign-up form will be posted on the website that identifies stewarding days, bagging nights and other work parties with times and dates. In order to qualify for stewarding, you are required to sign up for two additional work parties, which can be bagging or moving wine to and from the competition site and includes sorting. The Ribbon Mailing crew also will be pre-assigned.

We definitely need your support for our work parties to run a successful competition. The good news is that we will have hired help for heavy lifting. No training is necessary as newer members will be teamed with competition veterans.

A quick reminder: If you volunteer to steward, you will be required to carry trays of glasses. It’s physical and can get tiring. Along with stewarding, you need to be prepared to assist your Steward Captain with opening wine bottles, preparing glasses for tags and cleaning up the judges’ tables as needed, while listening to your Steward Captain for direction.

If you have any questions, please feel free to phone me at (562) 822-3382 or email me at strompharms@earthlink.net.

We look forward to your participation in this very important event. Thank you.

—Robyn Strom, Volunteer Coordinator

Notable Recipes

OCWS member Elee Phillips made the popular Cranberry, Brie and Pancetta Bites for the Winemakers Goup’s Christmas Party in December. By all accounts, it was a real hit.

“Baked brie is one of my—and many of my friends’—favorite appetizers,” Elee says. “But I wanted something different and easier to serve to a crowd. That’s when I came across the recipe on the Well Plated by Erin website.

The original recipe called for roasted pecans and rosemary sprigs and since Elee is allergic to nuts and “can’t stand biting into little leaves of rosemary,” she came up with an alternative—pancetta!

Cranberry, Brie and Pancetta Bites


1 sheet puff pastry

1 small round brie cheese

8 oz. cranberry orange sauce (I used this recipe: but you can use any jam

2 slices pancetta (approx. 1/8” thick)



PREHEAT oven to 375°; spray mini muffin tin with cooking spray.

ROLL OUT and cut sheet of puff pastry into 24 2” squares.

PRESS one square into each muffin cup.

CUT brie in half horizontally and dice the one half into about ½” cubes.

PLACE one cube in each cup.

DICE pancetta into small (approx. 1/8”) cubes.

SAUTEE small cubes in 1 tsp. of oil until crisp; drain on paper towel and wait until cool.

SCOOP 1 tsp. cranberry sauce into each cup (I use a small melon baller).

SPRINKLE pancetta over each cup.

BAKE for 18-20 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Serve and enjoy!

Got something delicious to share? Please send your recipes to George Cravens at george@ocws.org for possible publication on the OCWS website.