Members Corner

Commercial Wine Competition Volunteers Needed

We’re still calling all volunteers! The 2021 Commercial Wine Competition will be held early June 2021 (June 5-6) and volunteers are crucial to its success! Please note the date change this year and save the date! This event offers many opportunities to enjoy getting to know your fellow OCWS members and experience some great California […]
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The Courtyard at the OC Fair IS returning this summer!

OC FAIR, July 16 through August 15. Volunteer sign-ups starting May 1. Detailed information coming soon.

Although slightly modified, under OC Fair rules to meet Covid guidelines at fair time, we expect fun to be had by all and hope all our volunteers consider coming back to the Courtyard to help begin bringing real life fun back to the OCWS.

The Courtyard is the center of membership events throughout a normal year and, during the OC Fair, is the site of our biggest annual fundraiser and, needless to say, having been cancelled last year, we will be working to make 2021 a huge, and much needed, success!

There’s a Story Behind Every Wine

The OCWS Winery Webinar program is thrilled to be presenting Giovanni Balistreri, co-owner and winemaker of Russian River Vineyards, on Friday, April 9. After listening to Gio and hearing the excitement in his voice and seeing the look of sheer pleasure on his face, it was clear to see why he feels that “wine is fun and it’s a passion.” He explained that to him, “there’s a story behind every wine,” and that his philosophy and style is that he makes wine by taste, touch and feel. With this love of his, it’s easy to understand how Russian River Vineyards garnered three awards at the 2019 OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition and overall, how RRV wines have won more than 200 medals, 75 of them gold.

From fifth generation Sonoma farmer to impassioned winemaker, Gio wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to his passions. As a three-year-old learning at the knee of his grandmother to tend her vegetable garden, to a newly graduated high school student in 1999 planting his first four-acre vineyard of Pinot Noir on his family’s farm with his father, to his first vintage in 2004, having just graduated college, Gio exudes passion when he speaks of everything from his upbringing to his family and his love of the wine making process.

When asked of his favorite aspect of the wine industry, Gio says that “wine is fun and not work” and that he loves to “control every aspect of growing the grapes, watching them all summer long and then harvesting them” so he can “control the quality, get the most premium fruit and make that into wine.”  He also loves the social side and tries to be in the tasting room as much as possible, speaking to every single person.

Russian River Vineyards has generously offered their wines at a 30% discount, with wine sales extending from March 1st to April 12th. The three wines that will be presented are: 2019 Chardonnay/Bacigalupi, 2017 Pinot Noir/Classic Cuvee, and 2016 Red Blend/Confluence and can be purchased for just $100 for all three. Information on ordering wines can be found on the OCWS website.

This brief article cannot possibly convey the passion emitted from the man himself. Don’t miss the opportunity to see and hear Gio live!  Sign-ups close at 5 pm on Wednesday, April 7 and remember, purchasing wine does not automatically sign you up for the Zoom webinar. You must sign into your account and sign up to attend under the “Events” tab at If you have any questions, please contact Rich Skoczylas at

– Fran Gitsham, Contributing Writer

“Best of” Recipe & Wine Pairings—April 2021

The Comfort Food and Wine Pairings seminar presented on February 21st by Ed Reyes and Sara Yeoman had a lot of us salivating and ready to comfort eat our way through several days to come. For me personally, the highlight was watching and listening to Ed describe his Chicken Pot Pie recipe. By the look on his face and the tone of his voice, I knew this one was a winner, as it’s obvious that this dish is among his favorites and most soothing. For anyone who is fortunate enough to know Ed, you know he’s not only one of the nicest people in the world, but an accomplished home winemaker and cook extraordinaire. He has the innate sense of taste and smell that makes the world’s finest chefs stand out above the rest.

Ed Reyes

Many of us have had the pleasure of attending seminars presented by Ed on various wines and wine pairings. His understanding and explanations of what wines pair with what foods never ceases to amaze me. 

For this recipe, Ed paired a Sauvignon Blanc for the herbal notes of the wine as the recipe is creamy and rich and the SB cuts through the richness. Ed further suggests a Pinot Noir, for red lovers, for the exact same reason. I’d wager that a lot of us will be trying this recipe soon. Thanks, Ed, for your willingness to always share your knowledge, love and enthusiasm for food and wine.

Chicken Pot Pie ala Ed Reyes

Makes 6 servings

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large shallot, finely chopped

1 tablespoon chopped thyme

½ cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio)

½ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

3 cups low sodium chicken broth

1 cup heavy cream

1/8 teaspoon dry mustard

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

1 large sprig fresh rosemary

2 bay leaves

2 medium carrots (about 6 oz), peeled, chopped

1 medium russet potato, peeled, cut into ½-inch dice

4 cups coarsely chopped or shredded rotisserie chicken meat (from 1 small rotisserie chicken)

1 ½ cups frozen pearl onions, thawed

1 ½ cups frozen peas, thawed

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed in refrigerator

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 400°. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and thyme and cook, stirring often until shallot is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add wine and continue stirring until wine is reduced by half. Add ½ cup flour and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is pale golden, about 5 minutes.

Whisk in broth, ½ cupful at a time, incorporating completely before adding more. Whisk in cream and dry mustard. Season with salt and pepper, add rosemary sprig and bay leaves. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thick enough to coat a spoon, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat as needed to maintain a simmer and add carrots and potatoes. Cook until vegetables are nearly tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Remove rosemary sprig and bay leaves. Mix in chicken, pearl onions and peas. Add Worcestershire sauce, taste and adjust salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer mixture to a shallow 2quart baking dish.

Unfold pastry and gently roll out on a lightly floured work surface just to smooth out creases and, if needed, make it large enough to fit over dish. Drape over baking dish and trim pastry so it is slightly larger than the dish (you want a little overhang). Brush with egg and make 2 or 3 slits in the pastry with a sharp knife.

Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet (to catch any filling that may drip over) and bake until puff pastry is golden brown, and filling is bubbling through slits, about 20–30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue to bake until crust is deep golden and cooked through, 30–35 minutes longer. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

– Fran Gitsham, Contributing Writer

Hotel Reservations for the 2021 Commercial Wine Competition

If you plan on staying at the Hilton Hotel located at 3050 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa, for the weekend of the Commercial Wine Competition, please make reservations no later than May 15, 2021. The OCWS has booked a block of rooms for OCWS members at a discounted rate and this rate is guaranteed only until that […]
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2021: 40 Years of Scholarship Awards

The OCWS Board of Directors is pleased to announce the 2021 Scholarship Awards to our eight OCWS colleges and universities totaling $5,830.01. Since 1996, the OCWS Scholarship Account has generated $712,511.

We are thankful for the support from our members, and especially the BOD this past year, making sure that our scholarship students, on and off campus, have a reason to celebrate after extreme wildfires and pandemic challenges.

2021 funding is only a fraction of last year mainly because we lost our COVID-cancelled events which generated donations and also membership dues extensions. The Chris Cunningham Endowment gets the Gold as the OCWS did not miss any opportunity for scholarship allocations this special 40th year.

Also, the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Securities Act) from 2020 has been extended with specifics through 2021. The IRS now allows an above the line tax deduction toward charitable 501(c)(3) organizations, including the OCWS, for individuals up to the amount of $300 and $600 for those who file jointly. Please contact your tax professional for advice.

Members may officially make qualifying OCWS scholarship contributions on our website at the following link, with the option to designate a donation to all or individual colleges of your choice. After your selection and payment, you can print a receipt for your records.  

Any amount is appreciated!  With the promising gradual re-openings and your continued support, another valuable goal of our organization this year is to encourage additional funding toward our Scholarship Account for 2022.

Cheers to 40 Years of providing OCWS scholarship awards and enjoying each of the many more award-winning college wines!

– Leslie Hodowanec, Scholarship Chair

Calling on Volunteers for the 2021 Commercial Wine Competition

The Commercial Wine Competition Committee has decided to move forward with the planning of the 2021 Commercial Wine Competition scheduled for June 5-6, 2021. We understand that this has been a challenging time in so many ways, and the coming months will likely bring more challenges our way. Be assured that we prioritize the safety of all of our members, and want you to know that concern for our volunteers is at the forefront. We will adhere to and follow all guidelines, rules and regulations as set forth by the national, state, or local government and health department.

Since we are in the early planning stages for the event, there will be many questions you may have – we only ask that you be flexible, as nothing has been etched in stone at this point in time. Preparation will be key to our success, as there are many logistical and operational aspects of the Competition that cannot wait until the 11th hour.

The Commercial Wine Competition volunteer page on the website will be open in March, and you will be able to sign up at that time – your assistance is vital to our success! This event offers many opportunities: meet the winemakers and winery principals, increase your wine knowledge, and enjoy getting to know your fellow OCWS members. We understand and acknowledge that no one’s plans are definite at this time.

There are many areas where volunteer help is needed: stewarding, glass washing and drying, and computer verification. Continuing with the efficiency of the event, computer input will also 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. As in the past, in order to qualify for stewarding, we need you to sign up for two additional work parties. We can offer bagging, and moving of wine to and from the Competition site, including sorting. We will also be assigning a ribbon mailing crew.

We definitely need your support in order to run a successful Competition. The good news is that we will hire help for heavy lifting. No training is necessary, as newer members will be teamed with Competition veterans.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at 562.822.3382 or email me at We look forward to your participation in this very important OCWS event!

– Robyn Strom, Volunteer Coordinator
Commercial Wine Competition Committee

Is Wine and Cheese Good for an Aging Brain?

It appears a scientific study conducted
by Iowa State University and
published recently by Science Daily,
confirmed that what we eat may
have a direct impact on our cognitive
acuity in our later years. The
study’s findings show that cheese protects against age-related
cognitive problems, while consumption of red wine relates to
improvements in cognitive function.
We knew that! In fact, in some of our personal experience and
in the experience of all those who attended Dawn Iglesias’
Wine & Cheese Pairings Seminar last month, we can confirm
this— when pairing a glass of red wine with cheese, needless
to say, our cognitive acuity was off the charts.
We can all agree that we have had a lot of science thrown at
us recently, i.e., the pandemic and climate change, so without
further ado, we draw your attention to the article below.
Dawn’s seminar was so well received and attended that we
thought we would publish the contents from a few presentation
slides. A recording of Dawn’s seminar is also uploaded on the
OCWS website under the Webinar tab.

“Cheese is a living thing; it needs oxygen to breathe”

The Cheese & Wine Pairings Webinar which was held last month on December 13 is one of my favorite events to host, both in
person at the OC Fair Courtyard and on a virtual platform. Find below interesting tips and pairings to reference.

Cheese & Storage Tips:
• Cheese should always be served at room temperature for the best flavor.
• In general, red wines pair better with hard, stronger cheeses. White wines and sparklings with softer, creamier cheeses, but
not necessarily all of the time.
• It is always a good idea to pair a wine and cheese from the same region or origin (French cheese with a French wine, No. CA
cheese with a No. CA wine, etc.).
• Light cheeses go with light wines, heavier cheeses go with bold wines.
• Cheese should be stored in a crisper drawer that has temperature control & consistent humidity.
• If cheese is in a plastic wrap, it needs to be removed as soon as possible, and either put in another container, wrapped in
parchment paper, or in a Ziploc bag.
• Soft cheeses will last up to 2 to 3 weeks. Store soft cheeses in a long, rectangle sealed plastic/glass container. You can store
your goat, brie, and soft cheeses together.
• Hard cheeses will last up to 4 months (example: Parmesan) in a partially open Ziploc bag, to allow the cheese to breath.
• Blue cheese can affect other cheeses. Store this cheese separately, either in a container or Ziploc bag.

Dawn Iglesias, Seminar Committee Member

The Pairings:

Chardonnay &
Blanc de Blanc Champagnes:

• Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog goat
• Saint Angel Triple Cream
• Marin French Camembert or Brie
• Langre Fromage
• Brillat Savarin
• Cypress Grove Lamb Chopper
• Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam
Sauvignon Blanc:
• Chavroux spreadable goat cheese
• Ewenique sheep cheese
• Ewephoria sheep cheese
• Cablanca Goat Gouda
• Maytag Blue cheese
• Point Reyes Bay Blue
• Piave
Pinot Noir &
Blanc de Noir Champagnes:

• Saint Andre’ Triple Cream Brie
• Marin French Petite Breakfast Brie
• Vella Dry Jack
• Beecher’s Flagship Handmade
• Point Reyes Toma
• Tillamook White Cheddar
• Cambazola (brie & blue cheese)
• Cypress Grove Purple Haze
• BelGioioso Fontina
• The Drunken Goat
• Havarti with Dill
• Old Amsterdam Gouda
• Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar
• Blu di Bufala (buffalo milk)
• Le Gruyere Switzerland
• 12 Month Aged Manchego
• Winey Goat
• Beehive Barely Buzzed
• Trader Joe’s Unexpected Cheddar
• Collier’s Welsh Cheddar
• Gorgonzola
Cabernet Sauvignon:
• Istara P’Tit Basque
• Isigny St. Mếre Mimolette
• Coastal British Cheddar
• Fiscalini Smoked Cheddar
• Castello Danish Blue
• Kerrygold Cashel Blue
• Saint Agur Blue

OCWS Volunteer Opportunities

The Orange County Wine Society has always been an organization with countless volunteer opportunities throughout the year. Despite the cancellation of many of our events due to the pandemic, we are moving forward with the planning for 2021 activities. We invite all OCWS members to consider volunteering for one or more of the organization’s committees. […]
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Do You Want to Write About It?

Wine itself is obvious. It represents so many things—contents of the bottle reach out to a time, to a place, to people, to food and to hospitality. To be engaged with this special life force, to connect through our senses and know others connect with it in the same way, is a reason why we all like wine! What are your thoughts on the matter?

Greek poet, Homer, said it best, “it is the wine that leads me on, the wild wine that sets the wisest man to sing at the top of his lungs, laugh like a fool—it drives the man to dancing…it even tempts him to blurt out stories better never told.” Contrary to Homer, The Wine Press wants you to share your story, your experience, that moment in time when your travels have taken you across the California wine regions to a new discovery.

There is a very good chance that most of us have heard of or visited the most well-known wine regions of California, or the world for that matter—Napa and Sonoma. Have you reached beyond the hub of California wine tourism and escaped into and experienced other wine regions? Talk about it, put pen to paper and share it.

The Wine Press would like to publish your story, even if it’s just a one time contribution. The decision is yours. Topics should be California-inclusive. A few suggestions you might like to think about:

· Hidden gems of California’s lesser known wine regions

· An area that captured your attention with its natural beauty, or a town stuck in time

· Incredible California wineries that have been producing some of the best wine for decades

· A unique wine event

· A varietal that literally took your breath away

· A relationship that began as a wine match

There are endless possibilities of what you can write about.

Contact me at to get the conversation started!

– Linda Mihalik, Editor

A little Wine Trivia:

Keep an Eye on Those Bubbles. Bubbles in wine have been observed since ancient Greece and were superstitiously attributed to evil spirits or the phases of the moon!