President’s Message

President’s Wine Snips – Holiday Season

The Holiday Season is well under way, and our annual Holiday Dinner & Dance was once again enjoyed by our members to kick off the Season. Our members showed off their dance steps to the music of the “Three 2 Sevens” and generously donated gifts to the Costa Mesa Fire Department’s “Spark of Love” children’s gift drive. Many thanks to Brian and Sue McDonald for their outstanding efforts in arranging the event.

As a reminder, the Winemakers’ Group Holiday Party is just around the corner.

The Holiday Season is the perfect time to spend time with family and friends and enjoy wonderful food and, of course, wine!  Need a special wine to celebrate or for a gift? The OCWS website has a great tool to search for award-winning wines from the OCFEC Commercial Wine Competition hosted by the OCWS. Log into or to find that perfect wine.

The Director Responsibility list has been assigned, and you can find this information on the OCWS website under About >Our Organization and in this month’s Newsletter. Please contact the appropriate Director should you have any questions.

The OCWS will once again have a busy schedule of events in 2019. I encourage you to fill in the upcoming events on your personal 2019 calendars so you don’t miss out on the events of interest to you. The Save the Date column in each Newsletter provides the dates of all upcoming events.

On behalf of the Board of Directors, we wish you a happy Holiday Season and a healthy New Year.

Please remember to drink responsibly and consider using a designated driver or ride service. Cheers!

– Bill Redding, President

President’s Wine Snips – 2018 President’s Award

Every year the President has the privilege of awarding the President’s Award to people or persons who are the personification of amazing volunteers. This year, the President’s Award was presented to a couple who singlehandedly raised almost $6,000 for our scholarship fund at The Courtyard during the 2018 OC Fair by creating and running the Featured Winery Program.

Having been Directors on the Board at one time or another, both of them know exactly what they are doing when they commit to something, and they do it amazingly well. Together they took over receiving and cataloging wine entries for the 2018 Commercial Wine Competition and, for those of you who don’t know the magnitude of that commitment, they were responsible for 2,708 entries and 16,248 bottles of wine!

Together they recreated our OCWS merchandise sales program and have selflessly given their time to have a merchandise table set up at nearly all events, including during the Winery Programs, the Commercial Wine Competition, and Annual Business Meeting. These are just a few ways they have contributed to the organization over the years. Words cannot do justice to the kindness and love they exude. No matter how much they are thanked, it will never be enough. So when your paths cross with theirs, please say thanks for their dedication and commitment to the OCWS and, if given the opportunity, pour them just a tad of great wine and raise a glass to them.

Congratulations, thanks and cheers to Liz and Lloyd Corbett.

– Fran Gitsham, Past President

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

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

President’s Wine Snips – Gearing Up For Fair Fun

With the Commercial and Home Wine Competitions now just fading memories, the 2018 OC Fair is fast approaching, and the OCWS is geared up to run our most important fundraising effort of the year—The Courtyard at the OC Fair. This year’s Fair theme is “Free Your Inner Farmer,” and the Fair runs Wednesdays through Sundays, beginning on Friday, July 13 and concluding on Sunday, August 12. The Fair was attended by over 1,400,000 people last year, so The Courtyard clearly provides us with a perfect venue for reaching lots of people with our mission of wine education.

In exchange for running the OC Fair’s wine competitions, the Orange County Fair and Events Center affords us the opportunity to run The Courtyard and realize the income therefrom. In addition to the income received from The Courtyard funding the wine competitions, it also provides funds for our year round overhead and, by way of donations, for our Scholarship Program. So, it is of utmost importance to the organization that The Courtyard be a huge success! It takes over 300 OCWS volunteers to man The Courtyard during the Fair. Whether you are a new volunteer or a seasoned veteran at The Courtyard, this is your opportunity to support the fundraising efforts of the Orange County Wine Society.

In addition to hosting The Courtyard during the OC Fair, some of the most knowledgeable and experienced OCWS members will be conducting wine seminars on Saturdays and Sundays. Check out the seminar schedule on the OCWS website and come learn something new about wines and wine pairings that you may not know you don’t already know.

So, if you seek fun, don’t miss coming out and freeing your inner farmer with wine fun at the Fair! I look forward to seeing you there.

– Fran Gitsham, President

President’s Wine Snips – Behind the Scenes

Last month I wrote that we are in a very important partnership with the Orange County Fair & Events Center (OCFEC) which affords the OCWS the opportunity to run their wine competitions each year. What I didn’t touch on was the behind the scenes workings that make a competition a reality. Unless you’ve volunteered for these amazing, professionally run and labor intensive events, I assure you, it is mindboggling what it takes to run successful competitions. And, the fact that everything is done by volunteers is truly unbelievable!

About the time you read this, the 2018 Commercial Wine Competition will be taking place or has concluded. The Competition, traditionally held the first weekend of June each year, isn’t “technically” completed until the last bottles are sorted and the award medals are mailed toward the end of June. Planning actually begins barely two months after the prior competition has completed. The hotel contract for 2019 was negotiated at least two years ago. The first of a number of communications to over 4,000 wineries will be sent in September in preparation for the 2019 Competition. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Commercial Competition Committee is comprised of a number of people from the Chairperson, who heads (actually this could be herds, too) the rest of the committee for the year to the Head and Assistant Head of Judges, who contact and coordinate nearly 90 professional winemakers and winery principals to judge the Competition, to the tech coordinator, who oversees the software programs and equipment, to the hotel coordinator, who handles the rooms and meals, invitations, etc., to the volunteer coordinators, who schedule and direct over 300 volunteers in two days, to the coordinator of scoring and verification, and so on and so on. Impressed yet? No, just keep reading.

How about the most vital role as Head of Cataloging who oversee 2,700 wine entries? No, that is not 2,700 bottles, that is 16,200 bottles, as each entry consists of six bottles. Then take into consideration the bagging coordinators as the Competition is a blind tasting; one bottle of each entry has to be bagged and labeled for pouring at the Competition. Let’s think about not only transporting the wines to the hotel, but the glasses, racks, trays and towels, too. Also take into consideration that everything that is done has to be undone in closing for this year’s Competition – then prepare for next year. No sooner does the Competition itself end, a Steering Committee of six compiles all the information and confirms the awarding of medals. This is followed by each and every entry being photographed for publication on our results website ( and mailing notifications to the award winning wineries, followed by the medals.

This is just a brief glance into the Commercial Wine Competition. On a smaller scale, the Home Wine Competition is run with basically the same dynamics and is held on the Fairgrounds the weekend following the Commercial Wine Competition and receives over 650 entries a year.

Have I provided you with enough information yet to have your head spinning? I could continue to bore you with more statistics, positions and a list of the names of people who, out of their passion for this organization and goodness of their hearts, take these lead positions. Rest assured, this is just the tip of the iceberg wherein you hear about volunteers running this organization. I will close with exactly what I wrote last month, as I cannot possibly say it any better a month later.

All of this is accomplished at the hands of hundreds of dedicated volunteers without whom this organization would not be what it is today. Truly amazing in my opinion! I am so proud to be your President this year and have the opportunity to share stories of incredible people and events with all of you.

– Fran Gitsham, President

President’s Wine Snips – “The Side Our Bread Is Buttered On (or more appropriately…The Vines Our Grapes Thrive On)”

The Orange County Wine Society is known for running The Courtyard at the OC Fair each year and reaping the benefits, but most people don’t know how this came to be. Proceeds from The Courtyard, along with the Wine Auction each year, pay for running the Competitions and sustaining the organization; however, this does not come from the OCWS alone. The OCWS is in a very important partnership with the Orange County Fair and Events Center (OCFEC) which affords us the opportunity to continue running the Competitions and realizing the benefits.

The Commercial and Home Wine Competitions that we run each year are, in fact, owned by the OCFEC, not the OCWS. However, it was that small group of home winemakers that I wrote about just a few months ago in The Wine Press that not only began the organization 42 years ago, but also approached the OC Fair with the thought of running wine competitions at the OC Fair. Hence, with a single table and a handful of wines, the OC Fair wine competitions were born.

From that handful of passionate people and one small table, the OCWS now runs one of the most prestigious commercial wine competitions in the country. The OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition, which is held offsite over an entire weekend, finds entries of upwards of 2,500+ California commercial wines each year that are judged by a distinguished panel of nearly 90 judges comprised of mostly renowned California winemakers and winery principals. The Competition, which is traditionally held on the first weekend of June each year, finds over 300 OCWS volunteers working hard to make each competition more successful than the one before. The Winemakers’ Group of the OCWS, which is comprised of about 80 die-hard home winemakers, many of whom are award-winning winemakers in their own right, and a couple of hundred more supporters, run the OC Fair Home Wine Competition on the second weekend of June each year. This Home Wine Competition, which is held on the Fairgrounds, finds approximately 220 volunteers to make this event a success. Over 100 of these individuals are trained home wine judges who judge approximately 650 entered wines that are served by about 80 stewards. Behind the scenes finds scorers and glass washers, among many other supporting roles, as well as both breakfast and lunch created and served by the OCWS Cooks’ Caucus.

All of this culminates in The Courtyard during the OC Fair, where the OCWS has the pleasure of serving tastes of that year’s award winning commercial wines throughout the 23 days of the Fair, pouring glasses of other commercial wines and hosting a number of wine seminars in an effort to continue our organization’s mission of wine education. All of this is accomplished at the hands of hundreds of dedicated volunteers without whom this organization would not be what it is today. Truly amazing in my opinion!  I am so proud to be your President this year and have the opportunity to share stories of incredible people and events with all of you.

For more information about the Competitions and The Courtyard, please visit.

– Fran Gitsham, President

President’s Wine Snips – “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the HEART” by Elizabeth Andrew

When looking for motivation for this month’s article, I came across the above quote which made me think of all the people in the organization that I have had the privilege to meet and spend time with, mostly while volunteering at one event or another, and for the amazing friendships I have found. The Wine […]
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President’s Wine Snips – A Labor of Love

February is the time that we all instinctively think of “love” in one way or another. Loves that we currently celebrate with flowers, chocolates and champagne. Loves lost that many of us raise a toast to celebrate precious memories. Loves that have never been and great dreams that they are still yet to come. Love […]
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President’s Wine Snips – New Year’s Resolutions

It is that time of year again when I traditionally start out with all good intentions of losing those extra 15 pounds and spending less money on frivolous things. But, with all the years of breaking those very same resolutions, I have decided to become realistic for a change—chuck it all and focus on where […]
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