June 2023

Behind the Counter

When the waft of funnel cakes hits your nose, the music lineups are all set and you see the giant Ferris wheel off the 55 Freeway, you know it’s time for the OC Fair.

An integral part of the fair is The Courtyard, where attendees get an experience they can’t quite find anywhere else – sampling an array of wines from across California all in one place.

Eighteen devoted OCWS members sit on a committee that gets The Courtyard’s wheels in motion months in advance of the fair.

“It takes an immense amount of planning, from the training to lining up volunteers to work the fair,” said Fred Heinecke, OCWS Director and Courtyard Chair. “Once it’s here, it’s like coming home and I enjoy getting to see all the excitement among the members.”

There are about 250 volunteers needed to work more than 1,200 shifts over 23 days, Wednesday through Sunday. Whether it’s being a server, cashier, steward or manager, each position is critical to The Courtyard’s success. The busiest times are usually on the weekend and depends on who is performing at the Pacific Amphitheatre and The Hangar.

Besides getting a fleet of volunteers to work behind the counter, one of the other biggest undertakings is having enough wine for the entire fair run. About 60 cases of wine and 40 cases of champagne splits are purchased every week to meet the demand, said Cellarmaster Bill Redding.

But for all that hard work during a three- or four-hour shift, volunteers are aptly rewarded. They receive a badge that allows free entry and parking during the fair and those highly valued drink tickets that get them a full pour, split or tasting of award-winning wines. That doesn’t even include the possibility of attending a wine-oriented seminar or brushing elbows with winemakers as part of the Featured Winery program every weekend.

If this is your first time volunteering at the fair or it’s been some time since you have, here are wise words from a few of our veterans:

Cashiers – Don’t leave your register unattended and if you have to step away; make sure a manager or assistant manager can fill in for you. Be accurate with your handling of money and encourage patience. And maybe best of all, you get to sit during your shift.

“Cashiers are the ringmasters of the courtyard,” said Cheryl Knapp. “They are the ones who keep the wine bar running smoothly by keeping track of which servers are next to be rung up, training servers how to relay sales to the cashier and to know when to call a manager.”

Servers – Make sure customers have wristbands. Look at what is available to pour before your shift starts. When all else fails, ask a manager.

“This is the main opportunity to share what OCWS is and how we’re different from other concessions at the fair,” said Marcy Ott. “Have a great attitude and a willingness to learn.”

Stewards – Make sure each station is stocked with wine and replace award-winning wines with the same varietal. The wine fridge also needs to be filled so volunteers don’t run out during a rush. Communication is key between servers and stewards to ensure that things run efficiently.

“My best advice is work with an experienced steward; that way they can help you when you need it,” said steward extraordinaire Kevin Lite. “Ask questions and enjoy yourself. Remember, we are a society and working together is fun.”

Managers – Ensure full staff is there for your shift. Check with the outgoing manager to see what duties still need to be done. Pass out those drink tickets to volunteers or you may have a mutiny on your hands.

“I enjoy the opening morning shift as it gives me time to discuss with volunteers any changes or updates in The Courtyard,” said Maia Pehrson. “The benefit of the weekend shift is you get an opportunity to talk to the volunteers and get to know them.”

President’s Message

Another One For The Record Books

The 47th Annual OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition was held June 3 and 4 at the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa. The amazing weekend found upward of 90 professional winemakers and winery principals judging 2,260 wines.

The Competition Committee worked tirelessly for the prior nine months to make this happen and will now have just enough time to take a deep breath before beginning again this September in anticipation of the 2024 competition.

As the competition chair, as well as the current organization president, THANK YOUs from me are not worthy enough words to express my appreciation, coupled with my awe and respect for the following committee members who put their hearts, sweat and tears into making this competition a reality and a raving success:

  • Kevin Coy, Director of Judges
  • Rochelle Randel, Judges’ Liaison
  • Teri & John Lane, Wine Cataloging Leads
  • Bill Redding, Facilities Coordinator
  • Robyn & Dean Strom, Volunteer Coordinators
  • Chris Bruce, Scoring Verification Supervisor
  • Dave Stancil, Data Entry Supervisor
  • Stacey Taylor, Competition Software and Results Website Creator and Mentor
  • Greg Hagadorn, Wine Sort and Move Coordinator
  • Dave White, Wine Bagging Coordinator
  • Carol Frank & Sam Puzzo, Label/Bottle Competition Coordinators
  • Carolyn Christian, Marketing
  • George Cravens, Assistant Extraordinaire in Everything

Although, not technically on the committee roster, I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out to:

  • Helga Hrowel, Judges’ Scoring Coordinator
  • Jane Goodnight, Assistant to Director of Judges

And to the hundreds of volunteers who stewarded, manned the kitchen, dried glasses, verified scores, verified and entered data, coordinated judges’ food, etc., etc.

Every year I continue to be amazed at what a cohesive, accommodating and hard-working committee we have and one that makes me feel great about what we accomplish as a team. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to everyone who had anything to do with the resounding success of the competition and for personally holding mine and each other’s hands and hearts!

For competition results check out WineCompetition.com and look to enjoy the fruits of the winemakers’ labors.

Fran Gitsham, President & 2023 Commercial Wine Competition Chair

Huge Success at 47th OC Fair Home Wine Competition

We are proud to report that the annual OC Fair Home Wine Competition was held June 10, celebrating our 47th year as the longest-running amateur wine competition in California. The competition, which is open to all California residents, is co-sponsored by the Orange County Wine Society and the OC Fair. We judged wines from 163 winemakers from all parts of California who entered a total of 599 wines. From those wines, judges awarded 68 Double Gold, 95 Gold, 177 Silver and 129 Bronze medals. Our Best of Show winners included:

Red Wine: Don and Pam Brennan from Chino — 2021 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Petite Syrah Blend

White Wine: Brad Bunkelman from Santa Maria – 2019 100% Torrontes GRE from Allan Hancock College Vineyards

Fruit Wine: Robert Joakimson from Concord — 2023 Black Raspberry Wine

Dessert Wine: Carmen Babcock from La Mesa – 2022 Black Forest Style Wine

Label Winner: Lora and Jeffrey Sanders from Temecula – 2020 Sangiovese

This year there were a total of 83 judges with several coming from Northern California and 87 volunteers who supported the event. A special thanks to the 14 people from our Cooks’ Caucus, who provided two AWESOME hot meals for breakfast and lunch! Thank you to all who gave up several days, and in some cases, weeks of preparation for this one-day event.

Our 2023 Home Wine Competition Committee includes Kevin Donnelly – Competition Chair, John Lane – Judging Chair, Ed Reyes and Cheryl Knapp – Volunteer Coordinators, Stacey Taylor – Wine Administration and Competition Database Developer, Jerry Guerin – Judge Seminar Instructor, Kim Guerin – Scoring Chair, Wendy Taylor – Label Competition, Carolyn Christian – Marketing, Lynda Edwards and Sally Toth – Award Mailing, and Fran Gitsham – OCFEC Liaison.

A big THANK YOU to all who contributed this year, and I hope to see you all again at the 2024 OC Fair Home Wine Competition!

A complete list of award winners and competition photos may be found on our website at hwcr.ocws.org.

Kevin Donnelly, OCWS Director and Home Wine Competition Chair

Chefs of the Evening

Deborah Webber’s First Lady took home Chef of the Evening honors at a recent OCWS mini-tasting. Deborah, a six-year member of the OCWS along with husband Michael, had never tried the recipe.

“The original recipe said to use crackers for the dip,” Deborah says. “I like the idea that the guests can just pick up a baguette with the dip already on it and not hold up others while you take the time to put the dip on yourself.”

First Lady Dip


4 ounces Cream Cheese

1 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

1 cup dried and sweetened cranberries

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup shredded Swiss cheese

1 cup chopped cooked bacon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Sour dough or ciabatta baguette, sliced into approximately ¼ to ½ inch thick pieces

Extra Virgin Olive Oil


MIX together at high speed the Cream Cheese and mayonnaise in a large bowl until a creamy consistency.

STIR the onion, cranberries, walnuts, Swiss cheese, bacon, salt and pepper into the creamed mixture until thoroughly combined and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight

Just prior to serving.

BRUSH the sliced baguettes on both sides lightly with extra virgin olive oil.

TOAST the Oiled Baguettes in a sauté pan over medium heat until golden on both sides.

SPOON the dip mixture onto the toasted baguette.

SERVE immediately.



2 lbs. ground turkey (or beef)

1 cup breadcrumbs (preferably seasoned)

2 eggs

½ cup chopped parsley (dried parsley is ok)

1/3 cup ketchup

3 TBSP minced onions (I usually use fresh onion and sauté)

2 TBSP soy sauce

¼ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp pepper


16 ounce can jellied or whole cranberry

12 ounce chili sauce

1 TBSP brown sugar

1 TBSP lemon juice


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine ingredients for sauce and mix well.

Pour a small amount into a casserole and then place the meatballs on top.  (just cover the bottom of the dish with the sauce.)


In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, breadcrumbs, parsley, eggs, ketchup, onion, soy sauce, garlic powder and pepper.  Mix well and form into small balls.  Cover the meatballs with the rest of the sauce and cook at 350 for about 30 – 45 minutes depending on the size of the meatballs.

Courtesy OCWS member Shelley Cohen, who says this recipe is easy to prepare and can be frozen or served fresh.




It’s time to charge up and bring your power drills and step stools!  Over three days—July 5, 6 and 7 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., we will be transforming The Courtyard into a favorite location at the OC Fair.

The Courtyard is a place our dedicated members are very fond of all year long for so many years and for so many reasons. Our work keeps The Courtyard ready for upcoming OCWS events after the fair ends.

You can be a part of our amazing setup crew and don’t need to be a server or RBS certified to help. Plus, we will be providing snacks and lunch every day.

If you are available on any or all three days, contact me so I can plan for lunches and parking, or if you have any questions at Les@ocws.org. Thank you, crew!

Leslie Hodowanec, Courtyard Setup/Tear Down Coordinator and Scholarship Chair

Scholarship Thank You

Dear Mrs. Hodowanec :

I’m sending this letter to express how thankful I’m for being chosen to receive the ” Orange County Wine Society ” scholarship. This is truly one of the most valuable gifts I have received during the past year

I have enrolled in Orange Coast College since 2022 and actually did change my major once in the beginning. At first, I majored in Food and Nutrition but I realized it was actually not for me when I saw and noticed how passionate I’m with cooking. The moment I spot a head chef right in front of me during the meal. I know for sure that I need to be awake and really chasing my true dream. As it’s, I’m currently majoring in Advanced Culinary Art/ AAS degree. My plan is to complete the degree in the Spring of 2025 and open a fusion fine-dining restaurant. Nevertheless, the scholarship means a lot to me. It helps me pay for my class bill and acts like a gift from a fellow member to help me be more motivated to achieve my goals.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your gracious generosity and support in my education.  You have inspired me to help others and give back to the community one day.   I promise to work hard and hope I will be able to help other students achieve their goals just as you have helped me.


Ngoc Hoang

Westminster, CA