In Memoriam

In Memoriam— Remembering Jim Downey

This year’s OC Fair Home Wine Competition was a bit sadder and harder to organize without one of our longtime members, Jim Downey, who passed away in mid-May after a short battle with cancer.

Jim was a fixture in the Winemakers’ Group and is best remembered for organizing the Home Wine Competition volunteers. He was a “take charge and get it done” kind of guy. When we needed Competition volunteers he’d say, “Tell me what you need and I’ll get it done for you.”  Besides getting them, he himself was the consummate volunteer. He always worked the hardest, was one of the last to stay, and never complained about it.

I worked with him for many years helping to run that competition. He was well organized and very disciplined. He was also very firm and direct with someone when he wanted to make a point. One year I was Director of Judges and was short a few judges as the competition neared. I asked Jim for phone numbers of some stewards who had judging experience. He let me know in no uncertain terms that he did not want me stealing his stewards.

Jim and his wife, Linda, joined the OCWS in 2011. Besides being involved with the Winemakers’ Group, Jim enjoyed working the Express Bar at The Courtyard during the OC Fair. He stewarded at the Commercial Wine Competition. He was a regular at the Wine Auction and you could always find him behind a big crock pot serving his chili at the Chili Cook-off.

Jim and Linda enjoyed travel and brought back stories from their worldwide adventures. Jim especially liked Japan. Regular family visits to Northern California always included wine tasting side trips, particularly to Macchia.

Jim was very generous. He made a most delicious German potato dish or a crockpot of bratwurst sausages for potluck gatherings. He was also an excellent winemaker, reds and whites. One he was most proud of was a Riesling made from a kit.

I think the situation that most exemplified Jim happened while preparing for a Home Wine Competition. Jim was directing volunteers as if giving orders and Rob Romano made the comment, “that’s right, you used to be a Marine.” Jim whirled around, stood at attention, looked Rob in the eye and replied, “NO, you are ALWAYS a Marine.”

Recollections by Ed Reyes, with contributions from
Wendy Taylor, Rob Romano and David Rutledge

In Memoriam—Jim Graver

The OCWS Winemakers’ Group and the OCWS Society has lost a dear friend, Jim Graver. As one of the originators of the Orange County Wine Society and the founder of the OCWS Home Wine Group in 1980, Jim passed away on February 6.

Jim Graver was the first President of the OCWS and continued to lead the Winemakers’ Group and the OC Fair’s Home Wine Competition for many years, until he finally retired from these positions after 36 years in 2015.

In 2016, the OCWS recognized him by naming him an OCWS President Emeritus. He was a really good overall winemaker, but he was a fabulous fruit winemaker. Jim won the 2019 and 2020 Best of Show for fruit wines.

Legendary stories of Jim “taking” his wines out of consideration for Best of Show when he was the Home Wine Competition Chairman are retold often! Jim was so humble he did not feel that a wine that he had submitted should overshadow others!  He simply made his own wines ineligible to receive any Best of Show consideration!

View a short clip of an impromptu interview of Jim taken during a Home Wine Competition conducted by Wendy Taylor at:

He was a friend and a mentor to every single one of us, teaching us the intricacies of winemaking and bringing us up from mediocre quality from those early days to wines we are highly proud of in today’s Home Wine Competitions, matching and exceeding many commercial wines.

Jim was an avid photographer and nearly all of us through the years have received copies of photos Jim took of us at some event or competition that served to remind us of those wonderful times we had and allowed us to recall those fond memories.

As great a leader and mentor as Jim was for so many of us, he was also one of the finest “men” that we’ve ever met. Truly humble, genuinely sincere, and always engaged and interested in “you.” Jim will be so much missed, but will never be forgotten!

– Kevin Donnelly & Bill Forsch,
Thoughts and comments contributed by two friends

In Memoriam—John David Hirstein

November 26, 1943—December 24, 2021

We regret to inform the membership of the recent passing of Dave Hirstein, a 39-year member of the Orange County Wine Society.

David can be remembered by his past services to the Wine Society as a Director and Past President during Board years 2000-2002. During this time, he was most instrumental in designing the construction and layout for The Courtyard. He chaired many events including the Commercial Wine Competition for several years.

In his life outside the OCWS, Dave was a very talented engineer and senior business manager in the aerospace industry. He spent many years with Rockwell International and then the Boeing Corporation when they acquired Rockwell. He was the owner of seven patents while in the employ of Boeing. David was a life-long member of Orange County and graduated from Cal State Long Beach with his BS and MS in Electrical Engineering.

David had numerous hobbies and avocations. He enjoyed fine wines, fine dining, and had a huge collection of  Disney memorabilia, LGB trains, among others. His best passion was cruising the high seas of which I had the pleasure of accompanying him on 42 cruises alone!

David once told me he always wanted to be remembered as a “true gentleman.” As such, I can personally attest that you, Dave,  were in fact, always a perfect gentleman.

David’s first wife, Betty, preceded him in passing. He is survived by his current wife, Gail. He will be deeply missed by me and all who knew and loved him.

John Goodnight, OCWS President Emeritus