Finding Frisby

When Josh Frisby decided he wanted to make wine commercially, his vision was simple: to bring his love of Central Coast wines – particularly those from Paso Robles – to […]
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President’s Message

The Orange County Wine Society is known to the general OC Fair-going public for running the Courtyard at the OC Fair. Proceeds from the Courtyard, along with the annual Wine Auction, pay for running the wine competitions and sustaining the organization; however, this does not come from the OCWS alone.

The OCWS has a very important partnership with the Orange County Fair and Events Center (OCFEC) that affords us the opportunity to continue running the wine competitions and reaping the benefits. The Commercial and Home Wine competitions that we run each year are, in fact, owned by the OCFEC, not the OCWS.

It was a small group of home winemakers who not only began our organization 48 years ago but approached the OC Fair at the time with the thought of running wine competitions at the fair. Hence, with a single table and a handful of wines, the OC Fair wine competitions were born.

From that handful of wine-passionate people and one small table, the OCWS now runs one of the most prestigious commercial wine competitions in the country and the largest California wines-only competition in the world. The OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition, which is held over an entire weekend, finds entries of upwards of 2,500-plus California commercial wines each year that are judged by a distinguished panel of 90 judges comprised of renowned California winemakers and winery principals. The competition, which is traditionally held on the first weekend of June each year, enlists more than 300 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 the weekend following the commercial competition. Over 100 of these individuals are trained home wine judges who judge 650-plus wines entered.

The two competitions culminate with the Courtyard at the OC Fair, where the OCWS has the pleasure of serving tastes of that year’s award-winning commercial wines to the general public throughout the 23 days of the fair, pouring wine by the glass and hosting a number of wine seminars in an effort to continue our organization’s mission of wine education. All of this is accomplished by hundreds of dedicated volunteers without whom this organization would not be what it is today. You, our members, are what sustain the OCWS by volunteering at our various events throughout the year and who continue to make this the amazing organization we are!

For more information about the upcoming competitions and the Courtyard, please visit our website at

Fran Gitsham, President

OC Fair promises good times for all

The OC Fair has, once again, set the Orange County Wine Society up for fun all summer long (apologies to The Beach Boys)! The fair runs Friday, July 14, through Sunday, Aug. 13, with Monday and Tuesday dark. This year’s theme, “Happy Together,” fits not only the fair but the whole atmosphere of The Courtyard.

The Courtyard at the OC Fair is our major fundraiser for the entire year. Not only does it provide operating revenue for OCWS, it is the face of our organization to the fairgoers (more than 1 million in 2022)! The fair is also the source of many new OCWS members each year. When some attendees see how much fun the OCWS is, they join on the spot.

The Courtyard runs on volunteers and is a rewarding and fun opportunity. Rich Skoczylas is again coordinating the volunteer sign-ups. Invitations for managers, stewards and cashiers will be sent via email in April. Server sign-ups will open up the OCWS website May 1. Volunteers must sign-up for a minimum of four shifts. If you have not previously worked as a cashier or a steward and have previous experience working in The Courtyard and would like to cashier or steward, contact Rich at We will consider your experience for these positions. Leslie Hodowanec is the set-up/tear-down crew chair and will announce the dates as the fair opening approaches.

This summer, the fair is requiring everyone who works at The Courtyard to complete the Responsible Beverage Service (RBS) training that the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) requires for alcoholic beverage service. This is an online training class followed by a test. Teri Lane is the coordinator for training and more information will follow with links to the class and ABC. The certification is valid for three years and everyone who completed the class last year is still good to go.

At this writing, it looks like The Courtyard will have a summer run much like last year. We are planning on serving varietal wines by the glass, tastes of the award-winning wines and having the Express Bar. The fun and popular Featured Winery Program hosted by Liz and Lloyd Corbett (that earned more than $15,000 in scholarship donations) will be back. The ever popular, often- sold-out wine seminars also will return.

Don’t forget the added benefits of working shifts over the four-week run. Your credentials will give you access to the fair any day it is open (even sold-out days) and your parking pass also is valid. The big pluses are the wine tickets that equate to two glasses of varietal wine or eight tastes of award winners per shift worked. You can pour the two glasses into a Govino glass and head to a show. The lists the concert events at both The Hangar and the Pacific Amphitheatre.

If you haven’t volunteered for The Courtyard in a while, consider returning this summer for some of that summer fun. If you are new to The Courtyard, come on down. Fran Gitsham and I are co-chairing The Courtyard this year and we will see you at the Orange County Fair!
—Fred Heinecke,
OCWS Director

The Results Are In – Rhone Mini-Tasting

The March Rhone Wine Mini-Tasting was held at eight sites (members’ homes) across the county, with 125 people enjoying 10 Rhone-style wines paired with dishes prepared by the attendees. The wines were served in five blind flights of two wines each and the attendees judged each wine and voted for their favorites.

The featured wines started with two Rhone white blends – Carol Shelton’s Coquille Blanc and a French Rhone white blend. The Coquille Blanc came in 3rd overall and was the favorite wine at one site, second favorite at another and third favorite at three more sites. It is unusual for a white wine to be so well-liked since many of our members prefer red wines.

The next four flights were all reds, with three from California, three from the Rhone Valley in France, one from Australia, and one from Spain. The California wines did quite well overall, with one from Paso Robles being the overall favorite by a large margin (placing first at six of the eight sites, second at one, and fourth at the final site). The second place wine overall was in the top four selections at six of the eight sites. The three top wines also happened to be three of the least expensive (and one of the most expensive came in eighth, in spite of its 95 point rating by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate).

The four favorite wines across the seven host sites:

1st Place
2020 McPrice Myers
Rhone Red Blend
High on the Hog
Paso Robles, CA
The 2020 High on the Hog has a deep ruby color and scents of tar, iron,
underbrush and cured meats with a core of red cherries and potpourri. The
medium-bodied palate is soft, supple
and alluring with a long, floral finish.
This is delicious and very easy to drink!
Best after 2023.
Blend: 48% Grenache, 26% Petite Sirah,
7% Syrah, 7% Zinfandel, 5% Mourvèdre,
5% Malbec and 2% Lagrein
Accolades: 93 RP (Wine Advocate)

2019 Christo
Marietta Cellars
Rhone Red Blend
North Coast, CA
A blend of Syrah,
Grenache, Petite Sirah
and Viognier, the 2019 Christo has a
deep ruby-purple color and alluring
scents of blueberry jam and cassis with
accents of loamy earth, violet, coffee
beans and iron. The full-bodied palate
is powerful yet silky with seamless
acidity and gobs of pure violet perfume
on the long, layered finish. It’s easy to
drink now but offers a decade or more
of cellaring potential.
Accolades: 96 RP (Wine Advocate)

2021 Carol Shelton
Rhone Wine Blend
Coquille Blanc
Paso Robles, CA
Enticing nose of spicy pears and
white peaches, almond paste/
marzipan, a touch of honeysuckle
perfume. Multi-dimensional
(many layers),
a hard-to-describe range of
aromatics, intriguing, almost
mysterious. In the mouth, it
is crisply dry yet creamy and
round and full-bodied with nice almond
paste on crisp-yet-juicy pear fruit.
Blend: 30% Grenache Blanc, 30%
Roussanne, 30% Viognier, 10%

4th Place
2021 John Duval
Plexus Red
Barossa, South Australia
A classic Barossa blend crafted
from John Duval’s old vine Shiraz,
Grenache and Mourvèdre. Shiraz
provides rich, dark fruits and mid-palate
weight, whilst Grenache delivers
a bright flavor spectrum of red fruits
and spiced notes. Old vine Mourvèdre
is integral to the blend, ensuring
a good firm backbone
of savory tannin and a
long finish.
Blend: 45% Shiraz,
32% Grenache, 23%
Accolades: 96 RP (Wine

Chefs of the Evening

In addition to tasting fabulous wines, the March Rhone Wine Mini-Tasting attendees brought a delicious dish to share and then voted on a Chef of the Evening. The results of the Chef of the Evening at each host site are:

Hosts: Kathy Krieger & Lynda Edwards
Chef: Tamera Reddy—Chocolate Cassis Flourless Cake

Hosts: Kathy Nalty
Chef: Adrienne & Ray Davis—Pork Sliders

Hosts: Elee & Don Phillips
Chef: Beth & Craig Stark—Tri-Tip

Hosts: Greg & Cathy Risling
Chef: Magda El Zarki—Endive & Apple Salad

Hosts: Rob & Germaine Romano
Chef: Wendy & Stacey Taylor—Cassoulet

Hosts: Frank & Pat Solis
Chef: Jim Burk—Short Ribs Braised in Wine

Hosts: Beverly Genis & Bob Topham
Chef: Beverly Genis—Honey Baked Ham & Split Pea Soup

Hosts: Dave & Barb White
Chef: Deborah Webber—Balsamic Roasted Tomato & Mushroom Tartines

Congratulations to all the winners and a big thank you to
the Mini-Tasting hosts! Look for recipes at

—George Cravens, OCWS Director

Recipes of the Month – Winning Recipes

Congratulations to all of the winners and a big thank you to the hosts. Please send your recipes to George Cravens at for possible publication on the OCWS website.

Deborah Webber’s Balsamic Roasted Tomato & Mushroom Tartines took home Chef of the Evening honors at last month’s OCWS mini-tasting. Deborah, a six-year OCWS member along with husband Michael, adapted this recipe from one she found years ago in a magazine.

Balsamic Roasted Tomato &Mushroom Tartines


1 lb. multi-hued tomatoes, halved

6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil plus

some for brushing

2½ Tbsp. quality balsamic vinegar

1½ tsp. sugar

2 tsp. sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lb. large mushrooms, halved

Freshly ground black pepper

4 slices sourdough or rustic bread

6 Tbsp. pesto

8 oz. fresh mozzarella

Fresh basil leaves, for garnish


Preheat oven to 325˚F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

SPread tomatoes out in a single layer on one of the prepared pans. Drizzle tomatoes with 3 Tbsp. olive oil and 1½ Tbsp. balsamic vinegar.

Sprinkle with 1 tsp. sugar, ½ teaspoon sea salt and a generous grind of freshly ground black pepper.

Spread mushroom halves in a single layer on the second prepared

pan. Drizzle mushrooms with 3 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon sugar, ½ teaspoon sea salt and a generous grind of freshly ground black pepper.

Roast tomatoes and mushrooms 60-75 minutes or until most of the liquid has disappeared. Gently stir every 15 minutes during roasting time. Mushrooms will be finished about 10-15 minutes before tomatoes.

Remove from oven when veggies are deep golden and caramelized. Set aside, but leave oven on.

Brush both sides of bread slices lightly with olive oil. Place in a sauté pan and cook over medium heat until golden on both sides. Cook in batches, if needed.

Place bread slices on a sheet pan.

Top each bread slice with 1½ Tbsp. pesto. Spread pesto to edges of bread slices. Slice or tear mozzarella into small pieces. Top pesto layer with torn mozzarella. Add tomatoes and mushrooms, dividing evenly between the tartines.

Return to oven and bake until cheese is melted, about 6-8 minutes. Scatter with fresh basil leaves and serve.


New OCWS member and Chef of the Evening Magda El Zarki dazzled mini-tasting guests recently with her endive salad.

El Zarki says she got the recipe from a French friend, and that it’s her go-to for summer lunches or as an appetizer for an evening meal.

“I love its crunchiness, the slightly bitter taste of endive, with the sourness of Granny Smith apple combined with the salty rich taste of gruyere,” El Zarki says. “Walnuts add some depth. The combo is a favorite of mine, also easy to prepare.”

Endive & Apple Salad


4-5 plump endives

2 green Granny Smith apples

8 oz. aged gruyere

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Vinaigrette salad dressing

(1/3-1/2 cup)


Slice the endive into 1/3” slices, toss into a salad bowl.

Peel, core and chop the apples into bite-size pieces; add to salad bowl.

Cut the gruyere into small 1/3” cubes; add to salad bowl.

Add the chopped walnuts to the salad bowl.

Mix all the ingredients; add vinaigrette dressing and toss

OCWS Wine Auction Great Wines For a Better Cause

Many of us look forward to the OCWS Wine Auction each year. It is a time to see friends, share some great wine and food and fill our personal cellars with California wines at unbeatable prices.

While you might think the wine auction is held just to empty out the OCWS cellar in preparation for this year’s wine competition, it is our second most important fundraiser of the year, just behind the Wine Courtyard during the OC Fair. As a reminder, the OCWS is a non-profit 501c(3) organization with a mission to support wine education. We do this through our programming at the OC Fair (wine tasting, seminars, featured wineries); winery programs during the spring; and, which features all of the winners from the OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition.

But by far our biggest support of wine education is the OCWS Scholarship Fund, which this year surpassed the $750,000 mark in donations to eight California colleges and universities with wine and culinary arts-related programs.

For those who have never attended the event, here is what to expect:

  • Over 1,000 silent auction lots placed in order on tables that span the event venue.
  • Over 100 verbal auction lots auctioned off randomly by our professional auctioneer.
  • Lots consist of four bottles of quality California wine curated by our own cellarmaster and his team who have spent weeks putting together the lots.
  • Printed and electronic catalogue of the auction lots available for attendees a few weeks before the event.
  • Mystery lots of wine available at crazy low prices and can be ordered at the beginning of the event, guaranteeing you will go home with something.
  • Food and wine served throughout the event in several courses (appetizers, entrees and desserts).
  • Doors open at 11 a.m. and bidding starts immediately.
  • Silent auction lots picked up randomly throughout the event until 4:30 p.m.
  • Checkout process begins shortly after 5 p.m. and concludes when all wines have been paid for and picked up. No early checkout is available under any circumstances. Please plan to stay until 6 p.m.

So whether you are looking to fill your wine cellar with some great deals on California wines, enjoying time with friends or great wine and food, or you want to support the wine industry by contributing to the OCWS Scholarship Fund, the OCWS Wine Auction has you covered.

OCWS members attend the annual wine auction featuring more than 4,400 wines in search of good deals and fun times.

The OCWS has been pairing wine education and fun for decades and this event is no exception. At only $20 per person for wine, food and a chance to get some great deals on wine, the wine auction is a bargain.

You can get even more involved by contributing your time as a volunteer during part of the event.

Please join us on Saturday, April 22, at the OC Fair and Event Center for our annual auction (a members-only event). Thank you in advance for your support of the OCWS and our mission to promote wine education.

Carolyn Christian – Event Chair

Presidents Message

The cog in the wheel is one who holds a minor but most necessary post in a large organization. The cogs who run the Orange County Wine Society are our volunteers.

As a volunteer, I have had the privilege to meet and spend time and work side by side with amazingly wonderful people who, like me, love the OCWS not just for what it can give us, but what we can do to give back and help in the successes of an incredible volunteer organization.

For me, it took just raising a hand to volunteer at the courtyard at the OC Fair 23 years ago and I was hooked. I had so much fun and met so many kind, intelligent, heartwarming and fun-loving people that, most likely, I wouldn’t have crossed paths with in this life. Volunteering hasn’t always been fun, since I have the tendency, like many of us, to raise my hand just a bit too often. But it most certainly has always been fulfilling.

This brings me to the point that the OCWS runs on volunteerism and the old adage that “many hands make for light work.” There are a number of people who have the time to volunteer on a regular basis, but it is also the people who have but a few days or even just hours a year that we would not exist without.

With each new year, OCWS starts planning for the annual major events that make this organization what it is – the Commercial and Home Wine competitions, wine auctions, the Courtyard at the OC Fair and, lest we forget, the numerous other membership events throughout the year. All of these are successful because of volunteers.

One thing you can be assured of is that you will be asked repeatedly to volunteer. Volunteering is not a requirement of membership and solicitation to volunteer does not mean you are obligated. But I promise you, if you have not thrown your hat into the volunteer pool, try it; you will not regret it. You will meet people you otherwise might not meet; you will share stories and laughter; and, I hope, you will find as much enjoyment in volunteering as I have and that your heart will be equally filled.

I urge all of you who can make the time, even for just one hour at an event, to give volunteering a try. It is truly addictive; just ask anyone who has tried it. It is as much a social experience as any event you attend.

John F. Kennedy once said, “Every person can make a difference and every person should try.” I say every member should volunteer at least once and I hope you have as much fun as I do.

Fran Gitsham, President



New Member Mixer

Meet other new members and the OCWS Board of Directors as well as learn more about what the Orange County Wine Society has to offer at the New Member Mixer […]
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