February 2024

Stellar Cellars – Beacon of Flights

Unlike a traditional lighthouse that warns ships they are close to the shore, the beacon at Mike Paz’s home in Yorba Linda serves a completely different purpose – it’s time to make or drink wine.

When he’s in the cellar, the 15-foot-high tower built with stacked stone and adorned with the colorful bottoms of wine bottles, is illuminated signaling Paz is inside.

Curious neighbors had to know what was going on, so they stopped by and they were fortunate they did.

Not only does he make wine out of his 93 square-foot cellar located in his yard, he also has a wide selection of fine wine that will delight any palate.

“When the light is on, my wife knows I’m in the cellar,” Paz cracked. “Neighbors would come over to see what I was making and word started to spread.”

The cellar, which serves as a laboratory as well as storage, cost $5,000 to build and was partly inspired by Paz’s desire to make wine in 2010. As a member of the Orange County Wine Society, he and other members would go on trips to different regions in California to learn about winemaking.

“For me, it was about developing relationships with winemakers,” Paz said. “I want to know the latest and greatest techniques. They give you a lot of hints are are able to share ideas.”

His cellar can accommodate about 300 bottles and about 85 percent of his collection is wine made under his label — Paz-Espana.

Paz’s grandfather designed a house for a man in Mexico who opened his doors to those who were persecuted for their religious beliefs during the Cristeros War. In 1977, Paz was able to make the trek to Polanco, Mexico and visit the home.

When he knocked on the door to the tri-level house that sat on a corner (similar to the Flatiron Building), the man who was well into his 90s, let Paz inside for a tour. He also gave Paz a sheet with his grandfather’s original drawing that now serves as the design for the wine label along with the family coat of arms from Spain.

Paz makes about eight to 10 cases of wine a year, primarily reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah. He has quite a few medals from home wine competitions but maybe most impressive is winning a Double Gold and being named Best in Class at the California State Fair in 2017 for his Chardonnay.

“You eventually become your own critic,” Paz said of his wines. “I’ve learned you can’t make good wine from bad grapes.”

His cellar is always 85-90 percent stocked and the star of his collection is a bottle of the renowned Sassicaia. Much of the wine he produces he shares with others or gives away. His niece is getting married soon and take a guess what the guests will be drinking?

As for those neighbors, they not only drink the wine, they have helped Paz along the way.

“They feel like they are part of it. It’s something they would never experience,” Paz said. “There’s a whole romance to wine. It becomes a talking point, a conversation starter and it’s something we all enjoy.”

President’s Message

“Wine and friends are a great blend.” – Ernest Hemingway

 As we roll into March, I am reminded how truly lucky we are as an organization, built on and by volunteers and bound together by our love of wine (and food)! On the one hand, we enjoy wine with loved ones and friends, and on the other hand, we feel strongly about educating people about wine and supporting the California wine industry. They are but two sides of the same lucky coin for us. And this is what makes our organization so unique.

The OC Wine Society has so many types of events, from small gatherings at members’ homes or on Zoom, to larger events such as tastings at hotels, social functions at The Courtyard and wine auctions, to larger public events like the Wine Courtyard at the OC Fair. Each of these events provides us great opportunities to learn about wine, support our scholarship fund, drink and buy wines, and most importantly spend time together!

Volunteers are what make our organization work. It is not easy running an organization with over 1,000 members. And although I proudly lead this organization, I do not do it alone. Behind the scenes are groups of volunteers who keep things running smoothly, from our nine-member board of directors, to official committees that run events, to teams who help with year-round work. There are so many people to thank for their tireless commitment to our organization. Although I don’t have the space to name each and every person, as you read through the newsletter, you will see many of their names and images. You can also find the names of our top volunteers on our website. And next time you are at one of our events, please thank the volunteers you see there.

I invite all of you to volunteer for one or more of our upcoming events.  Doing so will help you get to know other members better, learn more about wine, and even rub elbows with some amazing winemakers.

Here’s a preview of what coming up in the next few months…

Winery Programs –  your chance to meet the winemaker or winery owner and enjoy dinner and a wine tasting at a local hotel – Double Bond Wine (March), San Pasqual Winery (April), San Simeon Wines (April).

Varietal Hours (Every other Monday evening through July) – educational and fun wine tastings via Zoom with informative topics, knowledgeable hosts, and a chance for everyone to share information on what they are drinking. This event goes on hiatus during the OC Fair.

Wine Auction (April) – a great event for a great cause, where you can purchase wine at a fraction of retail.  Tickets include wine and food throughout the event and a chance to bid on great California wines.  Volunteers are needed for this event as well.

Spring Social Event “Let The Good Times Roll” (April) – a celebratory member event with wine, food, music and dancing.

 Pinot Noir Mini-Tasting (April) – an exciting potluck event at members’ homes throughout the OC

 Winemakers’ Events – informative events to help hone your own winemaking skills – Wine Blending Seminar (April), and Kit Wine Class (May).

Bubbles ‘n’ Brunch at the OC Mining Company (May) – a Sunday brunch gathering where members share their favorite bubbly.

OC Fair Commercial and Home Wine Competitions (June) – Our flagship events that make the OCWS such a prestigious organization known throughout California! Please don’t miss your opportunity to volunteer for these amazing competitions!  You won’t regret it.  Preparations begin early for these events.  Watch for eblasts, newsletter announcements and postings on how to get involved!

 Wine Courtyard at the OC Fair (July & August) – Our other claim to fame running the Wine Courtyard for the entire length of the OC Fair with hundreds of volunteers! Make sure you get your RBS certification now and join us behind the counter at the Wine Courtyard!  Volunteering at the Wine Courtyard is one of the best perks of being a member of the OCWS! More information is in this newsletter.

Details for all the events mentioned above can be found in this newsletter and on our website at ocws.org (logon required).  Trouble logging on?  Please contact our office for assistance.

We look forward to seeing you at one of our future events!  Wishing you all the luck in the world this March!

Sláinte (Cheers)!

Carolyn Christian

“Luck is believing you’re lucky!” – Tennessee Williams


Fall Off the Bone

Babyback BBQ Ribs


Rack of Babyback ribs

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Equal parts sea salt and

ground pepper

Sriracha BBQ sauce or one

with a kick


PREHEAT oven to 275 degrees.

 RINSE and dry the ribs.

REMOVE any membrane material.

 COAT top side of the ribs with olive oil.

SPRINKLE with equal parts salt and pepper.

WRAP and seal ribs in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet.

 PLACE on center rack and back for 3 to 3.5 hours.

REMOVE and open the top of the foil.

SLATHER on the sauce and broil on center rack for 8 to 10 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling to a caramelized perfection.


Wine Wisdom – Montepulciano

Do you like Montepulciano? Are you talking about geography or wine?

If you are talking geography, the town of Montepulciano, located in the Tuscany region of Italy, makes beautiful Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines (locally called Prugnolo Gentile) using Sangiovese grapes.

There are two basic qualities of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano wines. The higher quality is Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) requiring a minimum of 70% of Prugnolo Gentile Sangiovese grapes whose taste is often referred to as combining the elegance of Chianti Classico and the power of Brunello.

The lesser quality wine, but still delicious, is referred to as Rosso di Montepulciano DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata).  More on the four types of classification for Italian wines (DOCG, DOC etc.) to come in a future article.

If you are talking wine, then that’s Montepulciano D’Abruzzo made from the Montepulciano grape in Italy’s central, eastern region of Abruzzo. In central and southern Italy, Abruzzo is the most productive region after Tuscany. In Abruzzo a majority of the wines are produced by co-ops. Most wines in this area are unremarkable and therefore more affordable, however, you can believe that efforts are being made to change that!

Montepulciano, are you talking geography or wine? Confused? Don’t be, if you like the wine then enjoy it. Cheers!

Do you have a question on wine, submit it to us at office@ocws.org

Linda Flemins, CL Keedy and the Wine Education Committee