Graber Olive House, a Longtime, Valued Supporter of the OCWS

The 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. As you know, palate assault can be extreme even though wine judges […]
Login required in order to make a purchase

President’s Message

Over the years, many members have asked, what happens to all of those bottles? They are, of course, referring to the wines that are entered into the OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition which is co-hosted by the OCWS. The entries take quite a journey from wineries to a multitude of uses once they arrive at the Orange County Fair & Event Center (OCFEC). Each winery submits six bottles so each step involves a lot of duplicate maneuvers. Last year there were over 2,700 entries with 126 varietals!

The wines are received by the Wine Competition Committee and then cataloged and labeled in preparation for the judging in June. The entry to this competition is free! Bottles are labeled with a unique code for each bottle. The bottles that will be judged are “bagged” and labeled, sorted by sugar level and price categories so that wines are judged fairly to ensure a high priced wine is not judged against a low priced wine. Two of these six bottles are then sorted and put into judging categories, e.g. Cabernet Sauvignon (CS-1) bottles “A” and “B.” The bottles are then judged in a blind tasting by a panel of five judges with the “B” bottle held in reserve in the event the judges wish to re-judge a wine.

After the Competition, the remaining wines are then sorted again by varietal and placed into groups—those that were awarded a medal and those which were not. These wines are put into the OCWS Cellar and are offered to the public at The Courtyard during the annual Orange County Fair. Some are available as “Award” winning wines for taste. Others are used and poured on the “varietal” side for sale by the glass. This is a great opportunity to try many wines in one location, so come on by and tell your family and friends to come to The Courtyard and support the OCWS.

The remaining bottles are then re-sorted by varietal, medal and price and placed into either verbal lots or silent auction lots. This is the second fundraising event that makes the Commercial Wine Competition possible. This year’s Auction is Saturday, April 6; sign up online or even at the door. Cheers!

– Bill Redding, President

Pinot Noir Mini-Tasting Wrap Up

Nearly 100 members and guests attended the March 2 Pinot Noir Mini-Tasting at six host sites. Five flights of wine came from various locations including Arroyo Grande Valley, Carneros, Central Coast, Sonoma, Sonoma Coast, Santa Maria Valley, and Willamette Valley (Oregon).

The overall favorite was from Patz & Hall in Carneros; second place was Aequorea’s Seafarer; third was Fort Ross’s Sea Slopes; and fourth was very close to third, from Capiax.

The three favorite wines across the six host sites plus the fourth place which was very nearly tied for third:

Place Winery Name Year Price Description
1st Patz & Hall; Hyde Vineyard
2016 $55.99 WINE ADVOCATE 93+ —Medium ruby-purple colored, profoundly scented of black cherries, black raspberries, and red currants with touches of forest floor, black soil, stewed tea, and lavender.
2nd Aequorea Seafarer
Central Coast
2014 $34.95 The aromatics are intense – redolent of dried cranberry, red apple skin, white pepper, and Earl Grey tea. The palate is bright and vibrant, with a core of dark red fruit, uplifted spice, grated chocolate, roasted nuts, dried orange rind, and toasty oak.
3rd Fort Ross Sea Slopes
Sonoma Coast
2014 $29.95 ROBERT PARKER 90 POINTS—The 2014 Pinot Noir Sea Slopes gets its name from overlooking the Pacific Ocean at an elevation of 1,200 to 1,700 feet. This wine offers loads of Chinese black tea, pomegranate, floral notes, and a hint of raspberry in a medium-bodied, fresh, lively, Côte de Beaune style.
4th Capiax Chimera
Sonoma Coast
2016 $29.95 ANTONIO GALLONI 90 POINTS—Laced with essence of sweet red cherry, underbrush, dried herbs, orange zest, and exotic floral notes. Plump and juicy, yet also very much medium in body and gracious, with terrific freshness.

In addition, attendees brought a delicious dish to share and then voted on a Chef of the Evening. The results of the Chef of the Evening at each host site are:

  • Hosts Germaine & Rob Romano: Bill & Noel Forsch with their “Appetizer Feast”
  • Hosts Pat & Frank Solis: Eberhard Neutz with his “Lebirkaefe with caramelized onions”
  • Hosts Marcia & James Vaughan: Rich Skoczylas with his “Hazelnut Cake”
  • Hosts Barbara & David White: Paula Becker with her “Mediterranean Chicken”
  • Hosts Betty Jo & Jay Newell: Jean Rico with her “Chicken Tortilla Casserole”
  • Host Mike Del Medico: Lynda Edwards with her “Spinach Dip”

The detailed scores by site will be posted on the OCWS website. Congratulations to all the winners!

A big thank you to the hosts! Please send your recipes to George Cravens at George@ocws.org as a possible recipe to be published on the OCWS website.

– George Cravens, Director










The Good, the Bad & The Wine Tasting Room

Visiting a tasting room is an excellent way to experience the diverse selection of a winery’s wines in a relaxed, fun, and social environment—albeit a foreign territory for those of us who live outside of wine country.

Insiders have shared some “do’s” and “don’ts:

  • Do try a wine you don’t think you might like – this is what tastings are for
  • Do refrain from openly criticizing wines; wine tasting is subjective (to a degree)
  • Do ask for seconds if you are seriously considering buying the wine
  • Do moderate your intake – spit if you are visiting quite a few tasting rooms
  • Don’t wear perfume or cologne – 80% of our sense of taste is experienced through our noses; be considerate with wearing as little scent as possible
  • Don’t ask for “in the industry” discounts
  • Don’t ask for the “good stuff” – it implies you are not being served any good wines; do inquire about reserve wines or library wines
  • Don’t haggle on the price; it’s not a car dealership

The Orange County Wine Society supports all California winemakers and principals. Each year during the OC Fair, we proudly introduce award-wining wines as well as feature all wines from the Commercial Wine Competition for tasting by the general public at The Courtyard.

Membership in the OCWS does not include representing oneself as “industry” or an “industry winemaker.” The OCWS is a non-profit brand and we have established trust with many external audiences in the wine industry. We have a clear mission and vision and are strategic in our marketing and branding initiatives. Every member visiting a California winery should introduce themselves as an Orange County Wine Society member—be a proud marketer for the OCWS.

– The OCWS Board of Directors

Congratulations Are in Order

Congratulations to all who won door prizes at the Frances Ford Coppola Winery Program tasting that was held on Friday, February 22.

A special “congratulations” goes to Arnie Gamboa who won the top Coppola prize by naming the most winners of the Oscars, getting 16 out of 24 answers correct. Arnie received a special Coppola Care Package which included Coppola food items, wearables, and wine.

Unfortunately, we do not have a photo of Arnie with his Coppola prize; however, we would like to share with you several photos of prizes won by members present at the Coppola tasting, along with Bill Redding presenting winemaker, Francois Cordesse, with a plaque. Log in to the OCWS website to view many more photos taken at this event.

– Rich Skoczylas, Winery Program Coordinator

President’s Message

We are off to another busy year, and a lot of work is already being done by our member volunteers for the OCWS major events. The Wine Auction group is busy working on getting wines sorted, bagged and ready for our annual Wine Auction, one of only two revenue sources for our organization. The OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition, co-hosted by the OCWS, has begun its work of soliciting entries, arranging for judges, and planning the 2019 Wine Competition. If that isn’t enough, The Courtyard Committee is also hard at work planning to open and operate The Courtyard during this year’s OC Fair. This year’s theme is “Acres of Fun,” and the OC Fair runs from Friday, July 12 through Sunday, August 11.

There are hundreds of members who make the OCWS the successful organization that it is. I am constantly amazed at our members’ willingness to help out, even for events that they may not be able to attend. It is our members who make this organization great!   Many of these people do so in the background contributing hundreds of hours utilizing their skills and their passions to our benefit.

This month I would like to recognize Linda Mihalik who has taken on the responsibility of putting together our superb newsletter,  The Wine Press. Each month she receives numerous articles highlighting our activities. Linda then deftly weaves these together, receives input from our sharp-eyed editors and gets the final edition ready for publication on our website and to be sent to the printer for mailing. Linda, on behalf of the Board of Directors, Committee Chairs and members, thank you for a job appreciated by all. Cheers!

– Bill Redding, President

2019 Courtyard News: Required Training

As you may have heard, we will be using new cash registers at The Courtyard this year. The credit and debit card reader will be connected directly to the register so credit and debit card sales will not have to be entered twice. This change should really speed things up!

All managers, assistant managers, and cashiers will have to be trained on the new registers. We anticipate scheduling training sessions to begin in early February through the end of March.

We hope to have two sessions per week (depending on what is happening at the OC Fairgrounds), one on a weekday evening and one on a weekend afternoon.

We also anticipate that a training session will be no longer than 30 minutes. We are planning on having multiple sessions each day.

Please be on the lookout for an e-blast as to the training schedule.

If you are interested in being trained as a cashier, please reach out to either Fran at Fran@ocws.org or Brian at Brian@ocws.org.

Fran Gitsham & Brian McDonald, Courtyard Chairs

2019 Courtyard: TIPS Training Alert!

Members, it’s time to start thinking about recertifying your TIPS (Alcohol Server Training) certificate. TIPS certification is valid for three years.

If you are a new member, or have never taken a TIPS training class, you will need to attend and become certified if you plan to volunteer at The Courtyard during the 2019 Orange County Fair.

As a concessionaire of the OC Fair, the OCWS must adhere to contractual requirements established by the OC Fair Board of Directors and Staff. Before any volunteers work in The Courtyard during the OC Fair, everyone must be “professionally trained and certified in alcohol awareness techniques.”

Click here for Class schedules.

– Rochelle Randel – TIPS Trainer
– Marcy Ott – Badging Coordinator

President’s Message

2019 is now upon us and New Year’s resolutions have been made by many. My New Year’s resolution is to attempt “new” things. I am going to work towards discovering a new wine I haven’t tried, visiting new wineries that I haven’t yet been to, making a wine out of a varietal that is new to me. You get the idea. Fortunately, my membership in the OCWS is going to help make this resolution a reality. I invite you to share in this new journey. There are a host of activities and events to choose from with details of upcoming events in this edition of The Wine Press.

Your OCWS is also working on “new.” Wine Education Chair Irene Scott, along with Director Leslie Hodowanec, are busy working on wine education seminars and articles that will help members to learn, understand, and enjoy wine. With so many new members, some who are new to wine, these seminars will be a great opportunity for something new and even for existing members to expand their wine knowledge and fine-tune their wine palate. Additional details on the seminars can be found in this edition of The Wine Press.

In addition, Leslie Hodowanec along with member Greg Risling, will be working on wine field trips to Orange County wineries. Please stay tuned for more information as these trips develop this year. Any guesses as to how many wineries are located in the OC? 

The first Winery Program for this year was held last month at the Avenue of the Arts Hotel featuring Buttonwood Farm Winery & Vineyard. Winemaker Karen Steinwachs gave an incredible, fun, and informative presentation on the wines with interesting commentary on the Santa Barbara Region, the Santa Ynez Valley, and Los Olivos District AVAs. In keeping with the “new” theme, 19 of our new Members attended this event and were treated to Karen’s humor and love of wine as well as two wines that had their premier at the tasting. Don’t miss out on future Winery Programs this year. Cheers!

– Bill Redding, President