California has so many amazing wineries that have won medals at the OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition. Help us get the word out about our prestigious wine competition. Next time you are at a winery that has our medals or awards posted, take a picture with the awards and post it to social media (Facebook or Instagram). You can let people know they can find all the winners at WineCompetition.com. Make sure you tag it with @ocwinesociety and use the hashtags #ocfairwinecompetition and #ocwsloveswineries. Each month, we will draw a winner for a bottle of wine from the previous month’s posts!
The OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition has long been a cornerstone of the Orange County Wine Society. What started out as a humble endeavor to feature California’s burgeoning wine industry has blossomed into one of the most revered competitions in the nation – due in no small part to the steady stream of volunteers who make each edition a success.
Now in its 47th year, the competition is more than winemakers anxiously waiting to see if their beloved handiwork will be rewarded with a medal. It’s a festive, yearly gathering of OCWS members that culminates with the big event the first weekend of June.
“It’s really very satisfying to see it all come together,” said Leslie Brown, who has served on the competition committee for 15 years. “I’ve never seen volunteers anywhere who have the devotion like ours do. It’s really enjoyable to be with all those people come competition weekend.”
The amount of time spent to successfully pull off the competition truly is a Herculean effort. Leslie estimates roughly 6,000 volunteer hours are needed from a couple of hundred volunteers along the way, beginning in the late summer/early fall when preparations begin for the next competition.
It wasn’t always that way. Only two varietals were judged at the first competition: Chenin Blanc and Gamay Beaujolais. At the time, the competition was created to mirror what was being done at the Los Angeles County Fair.
But while other competitions have wilted away, the OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition has navigated its way through hardships, including a global pandemic, to continue to serve as a shining beacon in the world of winemaking.
“No one dreamed of this in the beginning,” said Jane Goodnight, a longtime OCWS member who has been on the competition’s steering committee that is primarily responsible for tallying the judges’ scores and determining if a wine receives a medal. “It’s amazing to me that it’s still here. It has survived and thrived.”
In planning any big event, details are crucial. For the competition, updating the computer program for data entry was a monumental task but has been tremendously beneficial. Swapping out traditional wine glasses with Austrian crystal several years ago clarified the scores of good wines going up and bad wines going down.
“Good wines showed better and we started seeing more Double Golds,” Leslie said.
Beside the camaraderie, one of the biggest benefits is getting to take home recently opened bottles of wine to taste. As Brown puts it, “People really work hard for a third to a half bottle of wine.”
“It’s like you get a sneak peek of what’s going to be poured at the fair,” said Ms. Courtney, who has been a steward at the competition over the past five to six years. “At the end of each day of the competition, it’s like a treasure hunt during the bottle grab.”
Jane suggests members who haven’t yet experienced competition weekend give it a try because you not only are rewarded with free wine and the opportunity to rub shoulders with winemakers but you can create new friendships.
“I always recommend doing it because the organization was put together to run this competition,” she said. “It’s fun, it’s work and you may be tired because you were on your feet most of the day but if you are really interested in wine, you become more interested after talking to people.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to your participation in this very important event. Thank you.
—Robyn Strom, Volunteer Coordinator
The 46th Annual Commercial Wine Competition was held on June 4 and 5 at the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa. The weekend found 85 professional winemakers and winery principals judging 2,516 wines, and the OCWS resoundingly rebounding from a couple of strange COVID restricted years and, although we were still in the midst of a milder variant outbreak, hundreds of volunteers braved the current COVID environment to bring a successful end to another amazing Competition.
The Competition Committee worked tirelessly since last September to make this happen and will have just enough time to take a deep breath before beginning again this September in anticipation of 2023.
Following are the Committee members who put their hearts, sweat and tears into making this Competition a reality and a raving success:
- Kevin Coy, Head of Judges
- Liz & Lloyd Corbett, Wine Cataloging Leads and Mentors
- Stacey Taylor, Tech Lead/Competition Software and Results Website Creator
- Robyn & Dean Strom, Volunteer Coordinators
- Rochelle Randel, Judges’ Liaison
- Bill Redding, Facilities Coordinator
- Chris Bruce, Scoring Verification Lead
- Greg Hagadorn, Move Coordinator and
- Dave White, Wine Bagging
- George Cravens, Assist Extraordinaire
- Carolyn Christian, Marketing
- Sam Puzzo & Carol Frank, Label/Bottle Competition
And, although not technically on the Committee roster, I would be remiss if I did not mention:
- Dave Stancil, Data Entry Coordinator
- Leslie Brown, New Committee Chair Mentor
- Jane Gold, Head of Judges’ Assist
- Teri & John Lane, Cataloging Understudies
And the hundreds of volunteers who stewarded, manned the kitchen, dried glasses, directed traffic, verified scores, and data entries, input data entries, coordinated judges’ food, etc., etc.
As a first year Competition Chairperson, I couldn’t have imagined a more cohesive, accommodating, and hard-working Committee to make me feel really great about what we all accomplished as a team! My heartfelt gratitude goes out to everyone who had anything to do with the 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 some of the fruits of the winemakers’ labors.
– Fran Gitsham, 2022 Commercial Wine Competition Chair
All of our OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition judges have huge hearts, but there are always a few whose love and support of the OCWS goes above and beyond.
This year three judges donated their stipends back to the OCWS as contributions to our Scholarship Fund. Thanks to the following judges, our Scholarship Fund now has an additional $900 to grant to students in the future.
- Joseph S. Franzia, Forest Glen Winery
- Jessica Gasca, Story of Soil
- Fred Weibel, Weibel Family Vineyards & Winery
Should you have the good fortune to cross paths with any of these amazing people, please remember to thank them for their kindness and generosity on behalf of the OCWS.
– Rochelle Randel,
Commercial Wine Competition Judges’ Liaison
Help us get new wineries registered for the 2022 OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition!
On March 17, the Orange County Wine Society sent you an email entitled: “2022 OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition – Help Us Get the word out …”
Here are the easy steps for you to take to earn extra drink tickets:
- Forward the email mentioned above to your favorite wineries that have not signed up for the Competition before; and
- Make sure to blind copy Liz Corbett (Liz@ocws.org) on your emails so that we can give you credit when they sign up.
If your winery enters their wines in this year’s Competition (and they are new to our Competition), you will be rewarded with additional drink tickets during the OC Fair. Your efforts will also be recognized in the OCWS Wine Press newsletter.
Thank you for supporting the OCWS and getting the word out about the OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition which is the largest competition of wines from California grown grapes.
Questions, contact Liz at the above email address.
– Liz Corbett,
2022 Commercial Wine Competition Administrator
This year is speeding by so quick, it is hard to believe we are preparing for the 46th Commercial Wine Competition this year!! The sign up is on our website, (must be login), released Friday, March 11.
We appreciate your flexibility in w/2022-commercial-competition-volunteers/orking together to make this another fun event. There are many areas where volunteer help is needed such as stewarding, glass washing and drying, as well as a handful of positions for computer verification. Continuing the efficiency of the past, the computer input positions will be assigned. A sign-up form is included on the website that identifies stewarding days, bagging nights, and other work parties with times and dates. In order to qualify for stewarding, it is required that you to sign up for a minimum of two additional work parties. We offer bagging and moving of wine to and from the Competition site, and including sorting day later in June. We need your support for our work parties in order to run a successful Competition. The good news is that we will have some hired help for heavy lifting. No training is necessary, as newer members will be teamed with Competition veterans.
As a heads up, if you volunteer to steward, it means carrying 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 cleanup of the judges’ tables as needed, under the direction of your designated Steward Captain. Please dress accordingly, using your OCWS apron is recommended. Sneakers or shoes you can walk (forward, always forward…not against traffic) comfortably in all day.
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 making this very important event as successful as ever.
.– Robyn Strom, Volunteer Coordinator