Members Corner

President’s Wine Snips – Passing the Torch

This is the last President’s article I will be writing. In accordance with our Bylaws, I am termed out of the Board after six years (two three-year terms). To be blatantly honest, I am not devastated to know that I will have more time on my hands and I can just be one hell of a great volunteer going forward. I look forward to sharing more time and laughs with so many of you whose paths have crossed mine, and because of my commitment to help run the organization precluded me from, more often than not, spending time just being and having more fun.

I am so very proud to have had the opportunity to serve the organization on the Board and to have been your President, if just for one brief year. I was mentored early on by smart, talented, and loving people and have watched this organization grow by leaps and bounds in just these past six years. We have implemented new technology, ramped up the business aspect of The Courtyard and created new membership drives that have brought us the next generation of dedicated volunteers who will see that the OCWS continues to thrive for many more years to come. New fundraising avenues have been tapped into for our scholarship fund, marketing efforts have enhanced the Commercial Wine Competition in more ways than just entries, and we have gained, thanks to an amazing OC Fair staff, new respect from the OCFEC as one of their nonprofit partners, all while trying to take into consideration those who have come before and created the foundation that it is today.

With the above being said, I ask all of you to remember that I was just one of nine and to please show the same support, compassion and understanding I have felt from you to those who are coming next. You have six truly amazing Board members going forward next year and now, as all three of the outgoing Directors have termed out, we have the opportunity to elect three new Board members to help run the OCWS. I have joked that we have 1,000 members at any given time and that 991 are in it for the fun and camaraderie, but nine members who, as Directors, give an exorbitant amount of their personal time and business expertise to run the OCWS. This is so true! It’s not always easy to keep in mind that we are a business and must be run as such taking into consideration finances, legalities, liabilities, insurance, etc. Your Directors give not only their time and talents, but their hearts. We have four people running for the three open Director positions. I strongly urge each of you to take the time to read their Statements of Candidacy and use your best discretion to vote for three people you consider most qualified to run the business. Statements of Candidacy can be located on the website.

I ask that you also remember that, although nine people essentially run the business, none of this would be possible without all of your support and efforts as volunteers doing the really hard work. I could not be prouder to have been a part of the business aspect, and now I look forward to being equally as proud to join the ranks as a dedicated volunteer.

Lastly, please remember, I will still do hugs! Thank you all for a great ride!

– Fran Gitsham, President

In Memoriam: Tony Marino


We are terribly sad to share the news that our colleague, mentor and friend, Tony Marino, passed away on Thursday, August 16, 2018. Tony was respected and appreciated across the OCWS for his wine knowledge, generosity, sense of humor, and passion. Tony will be remembered with great fondness, and as a good friend. We extend our deepest condolences to Tony’s wife, Janet, and to their families during this difficult time. A dedication to Tony will be featured in the October edition of The Wine Press and on the OCWS website.

– OCWS Board of Directors

President’s Wine Snips – From the Heart…

This will be my next to last President’s article, as I will have served six years as a Director and, under our Bylaws, will be termed out at the end of September. I have tried to use this column wisely as a forum to share with all of you some of the history of the OCWS, to take a peek at the behind the scenes workings, and to highlight the magnitude of what it takes to run this amazing organization. This article is going to be different in that I want to tell you why I think the OCWS is so incredible and why it holds a huge place in my heart.

To me, the Orange County Wine Society is a microcosm of what the entire world should be. We have members ranging from their 20s to their 90s, members of all races, religions, political affiliations, and sexual orientations. We have doctors, lawyers, white and blue collar workers. But none of that matters because what everyone in this organization has is heart and passion and, for the most part, they don’t care about the trimmings or the labels. They care about the success of the organization and its educational mission and the camaraderie that nowhere else in my life has something like this been found. This group has hundreds of people willing to go out of their way to hold others up and come together for a better cause than one’s self. Absolutely amazing in my estimation!

I have watched the people around me circle and embrace those in need of support as often as I have seen them laugh, dance, occasionally drink (okay, maybe that’s a bit of an understatement), and work their tails off to make every aspect of our eclectic group a raving success. On a personal note, this group has held my heart at the highest points in my life, the years after my husband and I joined, and at the lowest point, when I was widowed. It was people within the OCWS that encouraged me to get back out into the world again, lifted me up and gave me the courage to help lead this organization, if but for a brief time. I am so proud to have been a Director and having had the opportunity to be your President.

As those of you who led before well know, we do not go quietly, as we continue to be die-hard volunteers, and our faces pop up all year round in one capacity or another. I will be amongst great company as a past President. The only thing I ask of all of you is to show the support and compassion to those coming next as much as you have shown me and, for me personally, please don’t stop giving me hugs when our paths cross, which I hope will be often!

– Fran Gitsham, President

Volunteer Position for an Award Book Editor and Publisher

The OCWS is currently seeking a volunteer to serve as Editor and Publisher of the Commercial Wine Competition Award Book. The Award Book is created every June after the Commercial Wine Competition and is maintained in Microsoft Word, published in PDF format, and uploaded onto the website. The Book contains both text and photos. As a point of reference, this year’s Award Book can be located at within the Commercial Competition section.

As Editor and Publisher, you will be responsible for updating the Double Gold and Best of Class winners, as well as updating the Label and Bottle winners. All information and photos will be provided.

The successful candidate must have knowledge of and experience with Microsoft Word (for text editing and photo insertion) and Acrobat Pro (for final merge and publishing).

You will interface and work closely with OCWS committee members in the Bottle & Label Competition Group, the Bottle Photo Shoot Group and the Data Reporting Group.

It is expected that this task be completed within one week after the Commercial Wine Competition results are announced, usually the second week of June. This task will take approximately 8 hours to complete.

Interested candidates are encouraged to contact Stacey Taylor at 949.521.2228 or by email at

– Stacey Taylor, Director

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 to have products shipped directly to you.

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

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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In Memoriam – Suzy Skoczylas

Suzanne Skoczylas, beloved wife of OCWS Director, Rich Skoczylas, and long time OCWS member, sadly passed away on March 19, 2018.  Her amazing, upbeat attitude belied physical battles suffered for many, many years. Her love for her husband, and for life itself, sustained Suzy through 42 years of numerous bouts of cancer. She can first and foremost be described throughout those years as the epitome of a true survivor.

Born in Oklahoma City, Suzy became a medical secretary and was set up on a blind date with Rich, then a young Air Force officer, by her mother who worked with Rich at Tinker Air Force Base.

Suzy and Rich were married on May 3, 1972 and shortly thereafter moved to Boston, where Rich was transferred, before moving to California in 1978. After moving to California and settling in Fountain Valley, Suzy and Rich joined The Wine Society in the early 1980s.

Always at Rich’s side, Suzy supported him through many years of chairing numerous OCWS events, several stints on the board of directors, the creation of amazing desserts for events and, always when able, Suzy was found volunteering herself for many OCWS gatherings.

Suzy’s love of people and passion for helping others found her active with the Newcomers Clubs of Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach, CHOC, the American Cancer Society, the Breast Cancer Angels, and as a volunteer for several years at Orange Coast Memorial in Fountain Valley supporting cancer patients.

Suzy leaves behind her loving husband, a brother, a sister and a brother-in-law and many, many friends, along with an amazing legacy of strength and love. Suzy was an incredible woman whose memory will be treasured and held in many hearts.

In Memoriam – Christopher William Cunningham

December 19, 1949—March 4, 2018 It is with great sadness that I write of the passing of Chris Cunningham. Too often our paths cross with someone who is almost larger than life. Unfortunately, we do not know their whole story nor do we recognize their amazing attributes until they are gone. Chris, a member of […]
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In Memoriam: Dave Carter

Dave Carter passed away on November 27, 2017 after a long illness. He and his loving wife, Pam, joined the OCWS in 2006 and together they enjoyed participating in many OCWS events. One of Dave’s favorite events was working at the OC Fair, but he was particularly proud of taking home several ladles for his prize-winning chili […]
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Northern California Devastated by Fire: Giving Back

After many, many years of being supported by hundreds of Napa and Sonoma County wineries by wine submissions to the Commercial Wine Competition, it was our chance to support them in their time of need. The Orange County Wine Society has made donations totaling $11,000 toward relief efforts for the Northern California fire victims. A donation of $5,000 has been made to the Sonoma County Resilience Fund, with another $5,000 to the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund. Both of these relief funds came highly recommended by several renowned winemakers who, out of the goodness of their hearts, act as Judges for the Commercial Wine Competition.

After much research, and taking into consideration numerous potential donation sites, the Board, on behalf of the OCWS, chose these two organizations to receive donations. In addition, the OCWS has donated $1,000 directly to an employee of Carol

Shelton Wines. Carol and her husband, Mitch, having also lost their home and belongings to the fires, did not look for help for themselves, but rather selflessly requested assistance for an employee, who also lost everything. Knowing Carol Shelton’s truly lovely heart, and appreciating all she has contributed to the Wine Society over the years, the OCWS could do nothing less than to help when asked.

Besides requests for donations, the common message we received from hundreds of wineries is to support those areas hit hardest by the fires by continuing to visit the wineries and purchase wines. We have been told in any number of ways that the continued support of the wine country will be a huge boost to both the local economies and to the spirit of those communities. As OCWS members and wine lovers, the Board encourages you to visit the many wineries in Northern California, make a purchase to help boost the economy of the region and the many wineries who have supported the OCWS!

– The OCWS Board of Directors