Fellow OC wine enthusiasts, you bared with me a few issues back as I relayed my anniversary/wine tasting experience in Northern California. Perhaps I can keep your interest as I tell you of Manuela’s and my six-week trip tip through France, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic and, of course, Manuela’s home country of Italy. It was there that I not only sampled great wine, I got a chance to make it—the old fashioned way!
But that is to come later.
We started off on a river cruise up the Rhône River, from Avignon to Lyon, France, with two other wine-drinking couples. If you are familiar with this region you know we passed through the Rhône Valley appellation. Along the way, we tasted some very good wines such as the Rhône blends, similar to our GSM’s, as well as some Pinots and Syrahs. Among the whites, we found the Viogniers to be excellent. The wines here in France tended to be earthy, dry and subtle in flavor. Very drinkable now but worthy of aging some. Then there is the famous Champagne! We shared quite a bit of that product, I can tell you. My personal favorite was Drappier, Corte d’Or, Brut.
What was to be a highlight of the trip was a stop in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape. We attended a tasting set up by the cruise line. The wines were inexpensive and, to my taste, reflected that. Most of the Americans there did not favor these wines. Not giving up, however, the guys sought out a better experience while the wives went shopping! In fact, we found the best wine tasting shop – appropriately named “Best Wine Shop.” We enjoyed thoroughly the one-on-one experience with the shop owner and ultimately shipped a case of wine back to the US! Closer to Lyon, we encountered Burgundy and Beaujolais wines from further north. These were excellent wines that included Gamay, Pinot, Merlot, Chardonnay and a few names I could not possibly pronounce. Not as earthy as the Rhône wines, but excellent to our California pallets. In fact, I would say, they save the best for themselves and export the lesser quality wines abroad! And these wines were not expensive.
Departing the ship in Lyon, we drove to just past Lausanne, Switzerland, staying at an Airbnb in the home of a winemaker on the mountain slope overlooking Lake Geneva. It was beautiful! Take a look at the shot from our dining room window. We ate fondue and raclette but also enjoyed some very nice Swiss wine. The grapes grown here were predominately white varietals, but there were some good reds as well. I don’t think I’ve run across Swiss wine in our wine shops. My guess, they just don’t make enough. Although the hillsides were overwhelmingly covered by vines. My friends and I had no qualms about drinking the local product! Of particular note was the 2020 Heida made by Yvonne & Yvo Mathier. I hope to find that here in California.
At the end of our stay in Switzerland, our friends returned home, but Manuela and I drove over the Great St. Bernard Pass and down into the Piemonte region of Italy – where Manuela was born – for a three-week stay in Chiaverano, Italy, near Ivrea. Yeah, you will need to Google those names. Here we were immersed in Northern Italian wines from Piemonte, Asti and, of course, Tuscany. Some of my personal favorite wines come from these regions such as Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Montepulciano and little-known, Erbaluce (grown predominately around Ivrea). Sixty-eight percent of these wines are red, and for good reason: It’s the weather and terroir.
While drinking great wine from the regions we visit is always a pleasure, the true joy of this trip – and the reason behind my writing this article – was the chance to join one of Manuela’s relatives, Pierluigi, in the winemaking process! Timing for our trip was just right, and being a home winemaker myself, that when I got invited to see the crush and participate, I was all in. As is common with the decades-old homes of the area, Pierluigi’s comes equipped with a wine cellar, where he has been making wine all his life.
This was the real thing … well, the real old-world thing. We put several kilograms of grapes and stems in an old wine press. As you can see from the photo, I was an “instrumental” part of the process. When all was done, we opened one of his 40-year-old bottles of wine. OK, it wasn’t that good at that point, but it sure was exciting to know we were drinking something that old and very special.
Toward the end of our three weeks in Italy, my brother and his wife joined us for a few days of Alpine experience, her first. But soon we were flying from Milan to Prague, Czech Republic. The city of Prague is on my personal top ten places that I have been fortunate enough to visit in my lifetime. It has a rich heritage and beautiful buildings, bridges and structures nearly everywhere in its massive old city. And yes, Czech Republic makes wine! Almost exclusively white wine, but there are a small percentage of reds. And the varietals include many you know and some you most likely do not.
After a few days in Prague, we commenced another river cruise that primarily sailed west along the Main River through southern Germany, part of the Rhine River and finally the Moselle River. We had stops in wonderful old world cities such as Nurenberg, Bamberg, Wurzburg, Heidelberg, Cochem and Trier. More local wine, predominately white, was to be had everywhere along these rivers. The dry Gewürztraminers and Viogniers were great. Reds were a bit more challenging to our taste. Ultimately we ended our trip with four days in Paris. I treated my brother, his wife, and a former colleague and his wife to a dinner cruise on the Seine River in Paris. We had great local cuisine and fine white wines. In return, he treated us at a very high-end, old world (established in the 1600’s he says) Parisian restaurant that was outstanding. All told, our six weeks in Europe was one for the books!
– W. Scott Harral, Contributing Writer
After enjoying serving on the Scholarship Committee for the past two years, I would like to thank the Board for allowing me to continue into 2022, and I welcome those ideas from our generous members who are becoming creative with expanding the Scholarship Committee.
The CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act) from 2020 has been extended to 2021 and allows for an additional “above the line” tax deduction for 501(c)(3) charitable gifts made in cash up to $300 for those filing single/separately and up to $600 for those filing jointly.
To the member who was at the Fall BBQ while in the food serving line who told me she worked on another scholarship committee, please get ahold of me. I would like to talk to you. I was wearing gloves and couldn’t write down any information. We have another member who has also volunteered to get involved on the scholarship committee. I can be reached at Les@ocws.org.
$12.50 of each membership goes into the scholarship fund, however dual memberships remain at only $12.50. For those members with dual memberships, you may consider donating your dual $12.50 to the OCWS scholarship fund.
Long-time OCWS members have donated wine. We picked up a collector series of Marilyn Merlot wines, and Roadrunner Ridge Winery donated 150+ cases of wine for our Auction, where the funds raised go specifically toward the scholarship account. We are grateful to those who purchased the lots.
Mira Laguna Winery made a contribution from the Willy and Eileen Ma Foundation to the OCWS scholarship foundations, thank you!
Endeared member, Marjorie Trout, who is an established artist and exhibitor also helped raise scholarship funds at our Auction.
Two months until 2022 and we’re wrapping up the OCWS scholarship year. You can see how many ways there are to creatively contribute! Go to ocws.org/scholarship program, choose your own personal scholarship donation amount and print a receipt for your records (please contact your tax professional for advice).
Enjoy and Happy Holidays everyone!
– Leslie Hodowanec,
Going Once, Going Twice…Gone! And it’s a wrap on the 2021 OCWS Wine Auction! Thank you to all of the amazing volunteers who made this event possible. We had over 70 volunteers help in making this a very successful event. A special thanks to my committee, who has been working since 2020 when we first thought this Auction would have to be held online. In the spring of 2021, we finally received word that we could hold the event in person and secured a venue at the OC Fair & Event Center for October!
2021 OCWS Wine Auction Committee Members:
- Chris Bruce – Check-out
- Hank Bruce – Facilities
- Damian Christian – Volunteers / Staff
- Kevin Donnelly – Computers
- Ellen Flynn – Administration
- Rochelle Randel – Event Food / Wine
- Bill Redding – Wine Inventory / Advisor
- Janet Riordan – Check-out
- Greg Risling – Facilities
- Rich Skoczylas – Event Food / Wine
At big thank you to all of the volunteers who stepped up to help and make this event a huge success!
The OCWS Wine Auction is one of our major fundraising events and helps support the organizations’ year-round activities and programs such as the OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition, Scholarship Fund, and more! This Auction replaced both the 2020 and 2021 Wine Auctions that were scheduled in the spring.
The event was a huge success thanks to our members who bid against each other for their favorite lots. Thank you to our highest bidders, who included: C.K. & Laurel Allen, Dave Beach, Hank & Chris Bruce, Dennis & Gloria DeRosia, and Kathy & William Schymick.
Here are some highlights and fun facts about this year’s Auction:
- Attendees: 200 (one of the highest numbers in the history of this event)
- Silent Auction Lots: 1407
- Lowest Priced: $29
- Highest Priced: $180
- Verbal Lots: 104
- Lowest Priced: $45
- Highest Priced: $270
- PYOL Lots Sold: 96
- Feet of Paper Used on Silent Auction Tables: Over 500
- Bottles of Wine Consumed: 120
- Bratwurst Sliders Consumed: Over 190
- Sheet Pans of Apple Tart Consumed: 3
- Large Pumpkin Pies Consumed: 5
- Pounds Lifted of Wine: Over 81,000
- Gross Revenue for Event: Over $100,000
If you missed your opportunity to stock up on wine, you won’t have to wait long for your next opportunity! The 2022 OCWS Wine Auction is scheduled for Saturday, April 9, 2022 at the OC Fair & Event Center. We are currently forming a committee to help put on next year’s event, so contact me if you are interested in serving on this great team of dedicated volunteers at Carolyn@ocws.org!
We look forward to seeing you at the 2022 OCWS Wine Auction! Cheers!
– Carolyn Christian, Director/Wine Auction Chair
Calling the recent membership BBQ a raving success is an understatement. It was clear that OCWS members were more than ready to safely re-engage in person when the event sold out in record time online, and attendance was at full capacity. With awesome food provided by our own Cooks Caucus group, terrific live music by the Three 2 Sevens Band, fun games and, needless to say, terrific wines from the OCWS cellar, the event was destined to be a hit from the very start.
Standing ovations go out to our very own Cooks Caucus which reconvened in style after the COVID-19 hiatus to feed 180 hungry attendees with custom homemade fare, with special kudos going to Lynda Edwards, Bob Topham, Rich Skoczylas, Brian McDonald, George Cravens, Zach Anderson, Bonnie Gausewitz, Dan Donati and Peter Schlundt-Bodien. Additional thanks go out to their day-long support system comprised of Frances Cravens, Linda Flemins, Chris & Hank Bruce, and Teri & John Lane, as well as the many other volunteers and Board members who met every other need to run the event from start to finish.
Without all of our amazing volunteers, this event would not have been as incredible as it was. It was truly an event that gave us all something to celebrate—an amazing organization filled with warm-hearted, fun members. Thank you.
– Sara Yeoman & Fran Gitsham, Event Co-Chairs