Home Wine Competition

Event Wrapups

Commercial competition wrapup

The 48th annual Commercial Wine Competition was held on June 1-2 at the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa. The weekend found 88 professional winemakers and winery principals from throughout California judging 2,518 wines in the largest California-only wine competition in the world.

The high caliber of the wines was clearly evidenced by the awarding of 19 Best of Class designations, 147 Double Gold medals, 439 Gold medals, and a plethora of silver and bronze medals.

The Competition Committee worked tirelessly for nine months prior to the actual event to bring to fruition another unbelievably successful competition. Following are the committee members who put their hearts, sweat and tears into making the competition a reality:

Kevin Coy, Director of Judges

Bill Redding, Facilities Coordinator

Teri and John Lane, Head of Cataloging

Liz and Lloyd Corbett, Cataloging

Robyn and Dean Strom, Volunteer Coordinators

Rochelle Randel, Judges’ Liaison

Dave Stancil, Data Entry Supervisor

Marcy Ott, Scoring Verification Coordinator

George Ott, Move Coordinator

Dave White, Bagging

Greg Hagadorn, Sort Coordinator

George Cravens, Assist Extraordinaire

Carol Frank and Sam Puzzo, Label/Bottle Competition Coordinators

Carolyn Christian, Marketing

And the hundreds of volunteers who stewarded, staffed the kitchen, dried glasses, directed traffic, verified scores, input data entries, coordinated judges’ food, etc.

Each year I seem to marvel yet again at the dedication and cohesiveness of the hard-working committee members and volunteers. The competition is a living testament to what we can, and do, accomplish as a team. My heartfelt gratitude goes out to everyone who played any part in the success of the 2024 competition!

For competition results check out WineCompetition.com and look to enjoy some of the fruits of the labors of the winemakers who enter and support the competition and the OCWS.

Fran Gitsham, 2024 OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition Chair


 Home competition wrapup

The 48th annual Home Wine Competition was held on June 8 at the OC Fairgrounds Huntington Beach Building. Five-hundred and 21 wines were judged and 462 awards were handed out to 183 winemakers.

It is amazing how the overall quality of the wines get better and better every year, since our winemakers founded the OC Wine Society in 1976, and held our first competitions in 1977. Although home winemakers cannot sell their wines, we tell our judges to evaluate each home wine as if it had a retail value of $20.  Many of our wines would sell for far more, with some of them possibly even competing with wines selling for over $100.

This year, I am happy to announce our Best of Show winners in five categories:

Don Sowers, Newport Beach, Best of Show Red Wine, for his 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon
Adam Gomolin, Oakland, Best of Show White Wine, for his 2023 Chardonnay
Thad Rodgers, Auburn, Best of Show Dessert Wine, for his 2022 Merlot Port
Rochelle Randel, Huntington Beach, Best of Show Fruit Wine, for her 2024 Estate Lemon Wine
Chris Miller, Fallbrook, Best of Show Label, for his 2022 Cabernet Sauvignon label.

We had 78 judges taste the entries and were supported by 82 people who worked behind the scenes before, during, and after to support such a complicated event.

As in years past, our OC Wine Society Cooks’ Caucus provided a hot breakfast and lunch for our volunteers. Both were FABULOUS, and we want to thank the 12 people who started weeks ago preparing the menu, purchasing the supplies and starting out early in the morning to make our competition such an enjoyable event!

Thank you to all of you who helped us on competition day and the weeks before and after. And special thanks to our Home Wine Competition leadership group, including Stacey and Wendy Taylor, John and Teresa Lane, Ed Reyes, Cheryl Knapp and Lynda Edwards for their weeks of involvement.

Because of all of your contributions, we were able to, once again, provide the high-quality competition that we are so proud of.

Kevin Donnelly, OC Fair Home Wine Competition Chair

Wine Defect Identification Workshop Wrap-Up

The first OCWS Wine Defect Identification Workshop was held on June 15 with nearly 40 people attending. This event was designed to compare the Faulted “A” bottle, identified by the OCWS Commercial Wine Competition judges against the Non-Faulted “B” bottle. Attendees had the opportunity to experience 42 different faulted wines and learn about the defects. Working in groups, lively discussion ensued as the blind tasting made the identification of the faulted wine challenging. To make the task more interesting, each group also had to identify the varietal of the wine.

The collective energy of the groups was stimulating for everyone, regardless of the attendee’s experience level. Several members of the Winemakers’ Group attended as did several new and long-time OCWS members, all seeking to improve their wine knowledge. Each group collectively evaluated seven different wines, then all participants were invited to sample any of the 42 wines. The feedback from the participants was very positive, with a strong recommendation to make this an annual event.

Thank you to OCWS members CL & Adrienne Keedy, Mary Ann Mayer, Carolyn and Damian Christian, and Ed Reyes, who helped me make this inaugural event a great success. We hope to see you all at next year’s workshop.

 Don Mayer

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

Eight Medals Awarded to Allan Hancock College Winery

As the Scholarship Program Chair, I personally reached out to five of our viticulture and enology colleges and universities to encourage them to enter the 2021 Commercial Wine Competition.

Sadly, some replies were “maybe next year” due to recent pandemic and wildfire restrictions on campus. There has been excellent research, however, the revenue generated for wine and grape sales barely covered campus operational costs.

We were delighted that Allan Hancock College entered the Competition this year and congratulate them on their winning wines and contemporary label design.

This is the 100th Anniversary of Allan Hancock College, and they have entered wines in the Competition since 2016 and have been consistent medal winners. This year they were awarded seven wine medals, all 2019 vintages. Some were produced from vineyards in Paso Robles and Santa Ynez Valley, and some from their own on-campus vineyard in Santa Maria. Please visit their website at hancockcollege.edu/winery, (try their Centennial Blanc de Noirs).

The judges awarded Allen Hancock College two Gold Medals for their Chardonnay and Torrontes, and five Silver Medals for Albarino, Grenache, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Another Gold Medal was awarded in the Contemporary Design category during our Label Competition, which took place during the event.

While serving Allan Hancock College wines during the OC Fair, please remind our guests how especially proud the OCWS is to support the college and university scholarship programs and all the students who rose to the challenges.

– Leslie Hodowanec, Director & Scholarship Chair