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President’s Wine Snips – Gearing Up For Fair Fun

With the Commercial and Home Wine Competitions now just fading memories, the 2018 OC Fair is fast approaching, and the OCWS is geared up to run our most important fundraising effort of the year—The Courtyard at the OC Fair. This year’s Fair theme is “Free Your Inner Farmer,” and the Fair runs Wednesdays through Sundays, beginning on Friday, July 13 and concluding on Sunday, August 12. The Fair was attended by over 1,400,000 people last year, so The Courtyard clearly provides us with a perfect venue for reaching lots of people with our mission of wine education.

In exchange for running the OC Fair’s wine competitions, the Orange County Fair and Events Center affords us the opportunity to run The Courtyard and realize the income therefrom. In addition to the income received from The Courtyard funding the wine competitions, it also provides funds for our year round overhead and, by way of donations, for our Scholarship Program. So, it is of utmost importance to the organization that The Courtyard be a huge success! It takes over 300 OCWS volunteers to man The Courtyard during the Fair. Whether you are a new volunteer or a seasoned veteran at The Courtyard, this is your opportunity to support the fundraising efforts of the Orange County Wine Society.

In addition to hosting The Courtyard during the OC Fair, some of the most knowledgeable and experienced OCWS members will be conducting wine seminars on Saturdays and Sundays. Check out the seminar schedule on the OCWS website and come learn something new about wines and wine pairings that you may not know you don’t already know.

So, if you seek fun, don’t miss coming out and freeing your inner farmer with wine fun at the Fair! I look forward to seeing you there.

– Fran Gitsham, President

Commercial Wine Competition Judges Go Over & Above

The support of the Judges at the 2018 Commercial Wine Competition knows no bounds. In addition to the Judges, with the exception of a small stipend, paying their own way to attend and judge, each year a handful donate back their stipends to create a Judge’s Scholarship, which is then granted in their honor by the OCWS. This year, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to those Judges who, collectively, donated $2,000 toward our mission of scholarship fundraising for grants in enology, viticulture and culinary arts.

Special thanks to the following judges for their kindness and generosity: Brent Amos from Las Positas Vineyards; Joseph S. Franzia from Forest Glen Winery; Ondine Chattan from Cannonball Wines; Jessica Gasca from Story of Soil; Alfredo Koch from Allen Hancock Community College; Steve Lohr from J. Lohr Winery; Stephen Rasmussen from Westgate Cellars; H. Marty Spate from Meridian; Fred Weibel, Jr. from Weibel Family Vineyards & Winery; and Evelyn White.

We urge all our OCWS members to support their businesses, and if your paths cross with these generous people in your travels, to please thank them personally and relay to them just how much their caring ways mean to all of us. Thank you.

– 2018 Commercial Wine Competition Committee

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 Competition for many years. As you know, palate assault can be extreme even though wine judges may expectorate every sip. The acidity in white wines and tannins in red wines can be a painful experience after a full day of tasting. A small cup of Graber olives placed alongside each judge neutralizes the elements in both reds and whites, work wonders for the palate and taste fantastic, too.

Graber olives are hand-picked when they’ve ripened to a cherry-red color, then “cured in covered vats without being oxidized,” according to Graber Olive House. After the curing and canning processes, the olives are of varying shades of nutlike color.

Graber Olive House is located in quiet, serene surroundings. Visitors will be delighted to discover a bit of early California when they visit. Along with olives, Graber Olive House offers many other products, such as crisp California almonds and pistachios, California dessert fruits, olive oils and elegant gift baskets. When in or driving through Ontario, visit Graber Olive House and pick up a few cans of olives and other items. You can also visit their website at GraberOlives.com to have products shipped directly to you.

Graber Olive House is located at 215 E. Fourth Street,
Ontario, CA 91764.

President’s Wine Snips – Behind the Scenes

Last month I wrote that we are in a very important partnership with the Orange County Fair & Events Center (OCFEC) which affords the OCWS the opportunity to run their wine competitions each year. What I didn’t touch on was the behind the scenes workings that make a competition a reality. Unless you’ve volunteered for these amazing, professionally run and labor intensive events, I assure you, it is mindboggling what it takes to run successful competitions. And, the fact that everything is done by volunteers is truly unbelievable!

About the time you read this, the 2018 Commercial Wine Competition will be taking place or has concluded. The Competition, traditionally held the first weekend of June each year, isn’t “technically” completed until the last bottles are sorted and the award medals are mailed toward the end of June. Planning actually begins barely two months after the prior competition has completed. The hotel contract for 2019 was negotiated at least two years ago. The first of a number of communications to over 4,000 wineries will be sent in September in preparation for the 2019 Competition. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Commercial Competition Committee is comprised of a number of people from the Chairperson, who heads (actually this could be herds, too) the rest of the committee for the year to the Head and Assistant Head of Judges, who contact and coordinate nearly 90 professional winemakers and winery principals to judge the Competition, to the tech coordinator, who oversees the software programs and equipment, to the hotel coordinator, who handles the rooms and meals, invitations, etc., to the volunteer coordinators, who schedule and direct over 300 volunteers in two days, to the coordinator of scoring and verification, and so on and so on. Impressed yet? No, just keep reading.

How about the most vital role as Head of Cataloging who oversee 2,700 wine entries? No, that is not 2,700 bottles, that is 16,200 bottles, as each entry consists of six bottles. Then take into consideration the bagging coordinators as the Competition is a blind tasting; one bottle of each entry has to be bagged and labeled for pouring at the Competition. Let’s think about not only transporting the wines to the hotel, but the glasses, racks, trays and towels, too. Also take into consideration that everything that is done has to be undone in closing for this year’s Competition – then prepare for next year. No sooner does the Competition itself end, a Steering Committee of six compiles all the information and confirms the awarding of medals. This is followed by each and every entry being photographed for publication on our results website (www.WineCompetition.com) and mailing notifications to the award winning wineries, followed by the medals.

This is just a brief glance into the Commercial Wine Competition. On a smaller scale, the Home Wine Competition is run with basically the same dynamics and is held on the Fairgrounds the weekend following the Commercial Wine Competition and receives over 650 entries a year.

Have I provided you with enough information yet to have your head spinning? I could continue to bore you with more statistics, positions and a list of the names of people who, out of their passion for this organization and goodness of their hearts, take these lead positions. Rest assured, this is just the tip of the iceberg wherein you hear about volunteers running this organization. I will close with exactly what I wrote last month, as I cannot possibly say it any better a month later.

All of this is accomplished at the hands of hundreds of dedicated volunteers without whom this organization would not be what it is today. Truly amazing in my opinion! I am so proud to be your President this year and have the opportunity to share stories of incredible people and events with all of you.

– Fran Gitsham, President

The Courtyard Setup & Teardown

Setup for The Courtyard is scheduled for Saturday, July 7. We need to move all of The Courtyard material from the storage trailer, clean the refrigerator, clean the counters and shelving, hang posters and signs, etc. The setup will start at 9:00 am and will end by 2:00 pm so everyone going to the Gold […]
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In Memoriam: Carolyn Wolsfelt

Carolyn Wolsfelt, a beloved OCWS member, sadly passed away on May 4, 2018 surrounded by her husband, Richard, daughter, Cheryl, and son, Rich. The Wolsfelts joined the OCWS in 2000 and Carolyn quickly became known and loved by many for her ever-present smile and gregarious laughter. Over the years, Carolyn brought smiles by volunteering to […]
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President’s Wine Snips – “The Side Our Bread Is Buttered On (or more appropriately…The Vines Our Grapes Thrive On)”

The Orange County Wine Society is known for running The Courtyard at the OC Fair each year and reaping the benefits, but most people don’t know how this came to be. Proceeds from The Courtyard, along with the Wine Auction each year, pay for running the Competitions and sustaining the organization; however, this does not come from the OCWS alone. The OCWS is in a very important partnership with the Orange County Fair and Events Center (OCFEC) which affords us the opportunity to continue running the Competitions and realizing the benefits.

The Commercial and Home Wine Competitions that we run each year are, in fact, owned by the OCFEC, not the OCWS. However, it was that small group of home winemakers that I wrote about just a few months ago in The Wine Press that not only began the organization 42 years ago, but also approached the OC Fair with the thought of running wine competitions at the OC Fair. Hence, with a single table and a handful of wines, the OC Fair wine competitions were born.

From that handful of passionate people and one small table, the OCWS now runs one of the most prestigious commercial wine competitions in the country. The OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition, which is held offsite over an entire weekend, finds entries of upwards of 2,500+ California commercial wines each year that are judged by a distinguished panel of nearly 90 judges comprised of mostly renowned California winemakers and winery principals. The Competition, which is traditionally held on the first weekend of June each year, finds over 300 OCWS volunteers working hard to make each competition more successful than the one before. The Winemakers’ Group of the OCWS, which is comprised of about 80 die-hard home winemakers, many of whom are award-winning winemakers in their own right, and a couple of hundred more supporters, run the OC Fair Home Wine Competition on the second weekend of June each year. This Home Wine Competition, which is held on the Fairgrounds, finds approximately 220 volunteers to make this event a success. Over 100 of these individuals are trained home wine judges who judge approximately 650 entered wines that are served by about 80 stewards. Behind the scenes finds scorers and glass washers, among many other supporting roles, as well as both breakfast and lunch created and served by the OCWS Cooks’ Caucus.

All of this culminates in The Courtyard during the OC Fair, where the OCWS has the pleasure of serving tastes of that year’s award winning commercial wines throughout the 23 days of the Fair, pouring glasses of other commercial wines and hosting a number of wine seminars in an effort to continue our organization’s mission of wine education. All of this is accomplished at the hands of hundreds of dedicated volunteers without whom this organization would not be what it is today. Truly amazing in my opinion!  I am so proud to be your President this year and have the opportunity to share stories of incredible people and events with all of you.

For more information about the Competitions and The Courtyard, please visit.

– Fran Gitsham, President

Hotel Reservations for Commercial Wine Competition

If you plan on staying at the Costa Mesa Hilton Hotel for the weekend of the Commercial Wine Competition, please make reservations no later than May 20. The OCWS has booked a block of rooms for OCWS members at a discounted rate and this rate is guaranteed only until that date. The special rate does […]
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The Courtyard Setup & Teardown

Setup for The Courtyard is scheduled for Saturday, July 7. We need to move all of The Courtyard material from the storage trailer, clean the refrigerator, clean the counters and shelving, hang posters and signs, etc. The setup will start at 9:00 am and will end by 2:00 pm so everyone going to the Gold […]
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The Courtyard Sign-Ups

Sign ups for The Courtyard will be online starting May 1. Shifts are generally filled on a first-come basis, so if you have favorite shifts, it is best to sign up early. All volunteers will be issued an OC Fair pass that is good on any day of the Fair and an off-site parking permit with […]
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