The Courtyard Tear-Down Dream Team

It was worth scrubbing, lifting, sweeping, stringing, hanging, moving around, setting up and tearing down to prepare for our largest OCWS scholarship-generating event at the OC Fair! The Setup and Teardown Crew was composed of 73 volunteers over 4 1/2 days for a total of 438 volunteer hours.

Thank you so much to our team for volunteering trucks and transportation, climbing up the ladders, crawling underneath spaces and setting up lunches and for all your extra talents. Now, The Courtyard has little wall space left to use. There are always minor glitches and it’s an obstacle course driving across the fairground to the containers the morning after. Plus, your ideas this year increased efficiency and The Courtyard Crew is already taking notes for setting up for the 2024 OC Fair.

Leslie Hodowanec, 2023 Courtyard Coordinator

New Member Mixer

Learn more about wine society The 2023 OC Fair Wine Courtyard volunteers had a wonderful impact that led to a very large increase in our new member memberships. They made […]
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Get involved—Run for OCWS Board of Directors

It is that time of the year and it is all in Article 4 of the bylaws – the procedure for election of the Orange County Wine Society (OCWS) Board of Directors!

The organization is run by a nine-member Board of Directors. Intelligent, innovative, open minded, problem-solving and result-oriented people are the key to the leadership of the group. Many of our members have these skills, so it is time to consider stepping up to help lead the way. If you know the organization; are a seasoned volunteer; and are dedicated to its purpose and objective of promoting the knowledge of winemaking, viticulture and wine appreciation, then you may be a suitable candidate to take a lead position.

The beginning of a three-year term on the Board of Directors shall be staggered such that three members’ terms expire each year. The three vacated positions are filled by a vote of the OCWS membership, following the Annual Business Meeting that will be held Sept. 8, 2023. The overall time commitment for a member of the board varies and is based upon assignments and participation. In addition to running the business of the organization, the goal of the board is for members to run OCWS programming, with the board acting as mentors and liaisons regarding budgets and event planning. Also, the board functions as an oversight committee, focusing on compliance with the bylaws, OC Fair compliance, liability exposure, etc. A candidate, ideally, should possess some of the following skills:

  • General knowledge of the OCWS events and activities
  • Prior experience as a volunteer
  • The ability and time to help organize events throughout the year
  • Selected event and budget management skills
  • Be a member in good standing

To declare candidacy for a position on the Board of Directors, a candidate must present a Declaration of Candidacy, in writing, by mail, or via electronic media to the Election Chair no later than 14 calendar days prior to the scheduled Annual Business Meeting. A written Statement of Qualifications is required to be presented to the Election Committee no later than five calendar days after receipt by the Election Chair of a Declaration of Candidacy. Statements of Candidacy will be posted on the OCWS website. During the Annual Business Meeting, declared candidates will have an opportunity to address the membership.

The OCWS continues to thrive thanks in great part to the leadership of the organization over the last 48 years. If helping to take the helm of this amazing group is of interest to you, please submit your Declaration of Candidacy and Statement of Qualifications to Election Chair Sara Yeoman at  For any questions related to Director Responsibilities, the election process or anything else, please contact OCWS Director Linda Flemins at

Linda Flemins, OCWS Director

OC Fair Roundup – Happy Serving Together At 2023 OC Fair

It seems like the five weeks at the Orange County Fair flew by.  Leslie Hodowanec waived her magic wand and the set-up crew started right after July 4th. By Friday July 14, it looked like Cinderella’s carriage.

The wine started to flow at The Courtyard opening and the volunteers kept pouring until the clock struck 10 p.m. on Aug. 13. By the next day, The Courtyard was returned to the loveable pumpkin.

The final accounting is not yet completed, but the summer of 2023 came to be another very successful year by any measure. One metric that takes the forefront is new memberships.

Patrons see OCWS members having a great time at The Courtyard and want to get in on the fun. The new member bell rang 144 times during the fair for 108 dual and 36 single memberships for a total of 252 new Orange County Wine Society members!

The Courtyard is our largest fundraiser of the year and cannot be successful without volunteers. This summer 235 members volunteered and worked a total of 1,440 shifts. Together they filled over 30,000 8-ounce cups!

Liz and Lloyd Corbett worked each Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Featured Winery Bar and added over $16,000 to the Scholarship Fund. The donation jars brought in an additional $17,000. This should be celebrated with Sparkling Splits, of which we sold 3,645.

Bill Redding and Kevin Coy kept the cellar full. We sold 1,906 of Cuvee Coy house wines. Sara Yeoman and Ed Reyes headed up the very popular Saturday and Sunday wine seminars.

Thank you to each member who volunteered during the run of the Happy Together year at the fair. Giving new meaning to, “will work for wine,” members used 3,654 wine tickets!

I want to give a special note to Courtney, who worked 32 shifts; Kevin Lite, who worked 28; Kelly Haggard, who worked 20; and Kevin Coy, who worked 20.

I want to express my gratitude to Co-Chair Fran Gitsham. Fran brings an extraordinary amount of institutional knowledge and worked tirelessly to coordinate with the fair and keep all the pieces in place from the planning through the operation of The Courtyard.

See you at The Courtyard next summer!

—Fred Heinecke, OCWS Director

Scholarship Winners: Where Are They Now?

Grit & Grace

Much like a wine can evolve over time, so has wine consultant Tymari LoRe’s appreciation for the industry and the imprint she is leaving on the Santa Ynez Valley.

LoRe grew up in Orange County – shout out to Cypress – and her first interaction with wine was working for her uncle at a winery. There she learned how wine serves as a conduit to uniting us.

“My favorite part of the industry is that it brings people together from all walks of life,” she said. “Wine is meant to be shared and enjoyed by people and fosters camaraderie.”

LoRe attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, where she double majored in enology and wine business. She received a scholarship from the Orange County Wine Society that allowed her to buy the necessary books to continue her studies.

Along the way, she landed three internships that provided her the tools for winemaking. LoRe traveled to Europe where she studied winemaking for seven to eight months before finding herself in Santa Barbara County.

She became associate winemaker at Kita Wines, which was run by Tara Gomez, the first Native American winemaker recognized by the California Legislature.

“It was really a cool combination of spirituality and the winemaking portion that flowed very well together,” LoRe said.

She also cut her teeth at Folded Hill Winery, owned by Kim and Andrew Busch – yes, those Buschs of Budweiser fame. LoRe was part of the winery’s management and spent about five years before she found her true calling of helping smaller wineries find their niche in the market.

“I had this love of seeing these brands launch and I felt there was a lack of that space in the industry,” LoRe said.

She started LoRe Consulting Group in 2021 and provides a host of services from designing and laying out an actual winery to creating business models that optimizes sales and forecasts income.

Tymari LoRe helps start-up wineries create their own business plan through her consulting firm based in Santa Barbara County

“What I’ve found by mistake is that wineries don’t have a plan. If you don’t know how to stand out, you will ultimately get lost in the fray,” LoRe said. “I want to make sure they don’t fall into a hole.”

She strives to get as much knowledge about what a winemaker wants and she believes each of her clients should have a unique story and niche. One of her main challenges is connecting the dots – or grapes – to help a winery push their brand forward and upward for maximum exposure.

LoRe has found a home in Santa Barbara County, which she says has the highest number of women in the wine industry across California. She says the region is finally getting the recognition it deserves and is not just a pit stop for those traveling to Paso Robles.

She hopes that her experience and knowledge will boost the profile and the margins of smaller wineries that will benefit not only her and the winemaker but the public as well.

“Being able to work with people who I felt didn’t get the right opportunity to showcase their strengths is very rewarding,” she said. “I want to see them grow and evolve and I’m there to help them get to that point.”

Greg Risling

Pairing Wine Education and Fun Since 1978

In my nearly 40 years in the wine industry, and 37 years with the Orange County Wine Society, I have seen many changes in the industry and with our organization. Some members say we are a social club that gets together to drink wine, while others point to our educational contribution to the wine industry with our competitions, educational wine events and scholarship donations. I say these are not mutually exclusive categories and the OCWS has been pairing wine education and fun since 1978. And we do it well!

When I first joined the organization in my early 20s, I looked up to the experienced members who ran amazing wine events throughout the year such as the monthly winery programs, the wine competitions and the OCWS “booths” at the OC Fair. The main location was at the end of our old trailer, and the second location was upstairs in the corner of the Flower and Garden building.

Making Connections

At the Commercial Competition, we had fewer varietal categories, significantly less wine to move and lots of strong young members to move it. It was at these events that I first met winemakers like Carol Shelton, Kent Rosenblum, Jerry Lohr, Gary Eberle, Dave Cofrane and Jim Prager, to name a few, and learned more about the exploding California wine industry. We have lost many of our beloved founding members and winemaker friends over the years but our organization remains strong with younger generations and winemakers joining us in our mission.

Wine Extraordinaire

Between the 1980s and early 2000s, OCWS was the star of the wine universe in the OC, hosting mega-tastings called the Wine Extraordinaire (boutique wineries) and the Wine Classic (winners from the competition). Hundreds of people would flock to the Anaheim Hilton to taste varietals from more than 100 wineries and 20 to 30 local restaurants. We had to rent one of the largest ballrooms in the county just to accommodate the size of the event.

These were amazing tastings with more wines than one could taste in a day… although many people gave it their best shot! Alas, the word got out that wine tasting was a great way to raise money and many organizations started using the wine-tasting format to support their efforts. I have yet to see a wine tasting in the OC since that has had that number of wineries but with so many great causes competing with us in the wine-tasting arena, we no longer hold these events. The last Wine Extraordinaire was in 2015.

Tasting on the Road

In addition to hosting local events, OCWS members have traveled the state by car or bus and the globe by cruise ship with organized trips and tastings over the years. Sometimes we’ve had 50 to 100 people going to wineries at the same time or over the same weekend.

I can recall one trip to Sonoma during barrel tasting weekend where one of our members discovered a new winery that had just opened its doors that weekend. The breakfast room was abuzz the next morning as members shared their notes from great finds the day before. By the end of the weekend, most of us had visited that new winery and joined their wine club.

One of the things I love about this organization is its support for the smaller wineries as well as the large wineries.

OCWS Successes

OCWS has so much to be proud of as an organization, from celebrating our 47th year hosting the OC Fair wine competitions to donating over $780,000 in scholarships to eight California colleges and universities. Most recently, we instituted the Limited Production Winery Program for our competition to help smaller wineries enter the competition and be recognized.

Our efforts reach the public during the OC Fair through our educational and fun programming with tastings of award-winning wines to featured winery programs where the public get to meet the winemakers in person to the popular wine seminars that take a deeper dive into a particular type of wine or wine and food pairings.

Since its inception, OCWS has grown significantly. As long as I can remember, we have been hovering around 1,000 members, but the organization started with just a small group of home winemakers in the early 1970s. While many nonprofit organizations suffered greatly during the pandemic, OCWS tightened its financial belt, paused membership dues and temporarily moved their educational content online. We weathered the storm and now have over 1,000 members going into this year’s OC Fair, our biggest recruitment time, so we are on track to grow to our largest membership by August.

Getting Involved

As an all-volunteer member organization, we rely on our members to put on amazing events and spread the word about our organization. I highly recommend becoming an OCWS ambassador by letting wineries know you are a society member when you visit them, taking photos of our ribbons and medals at the wineries and posting them on social media, supporting them by purchasing wine and promoting all that our organization does.

There are so many ways to get involved from volunteering at events or for work parties, volunteering for a committee or just attending one of our many events! It is through our amazing membership that we have been able to thrive over the past 45 years. It is through our members that we have been successful in pairing wine education and fun since 1978!

Carolyn Christian, OCWS Vice President and Historian

Chef of the Evening

Dino Amico credits his mom for this version of Venetian Mac and Cheese served at a recent Mini-Tasting.

“My passion is to cook for crowds and that is usually weekends; I like to heighten our experience with wine and food and put a satisfying feeling in our bellies,” Dino says. “In the end, I just want all guests to be happy and joyful.”

Dino likes to mix up the cheeses to provide different flavors to the traditional all-Italian, so he’ll venture into German or American cheese flavors.

Venetian Mac and Cheese


12 oz. wide egg noodles

2 1/2 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

2 tsp. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup (packed) grated fontina cheese

3/4 cup (packed) finely grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup (grated) mozzarella cheese

4 oz. cooked boiled ham, diced (optional)

2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


PREHEAT oven to 450 degrees. Butter 9”x13”x2” glass baking dish.

COOK noodles in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but firm to the bite, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Drain well (do not rinse).

WHISK milk, cream, flour, salt and pepper in large bowl to blend.

STIR the in 1 cup of the fontina, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella, the ham and parsley.

ADD the noodles and toss to coat. Transfer noodle mixture to prepared baking dish.

COMBINE remaining 1 cup of fontina, ¼ cup of Parmesan and ¼ cup of mozzarella in small bowl; toss to blend.

SPRINKLE cheese mixture over noodle mixture.

BAKE until sauce bubbles and cheese melts and begins to brown on top, about 15 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

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.

15 Wineries Showcase Their Wines at Fair

More than a dozen wineries will spend a few hours every weekend at the upcoming fair to showcase their handiwork.

From Sacramento to right here in our backyard in Orange County and everywhere in between, The Courtyard’s Featured Winery program gives fairgoers and OCWS members the opportunity to taste some of the best wines California has to offer on top of all the other choices available.

For the past six years, nearly 100 wineries across California have been invited to the fair and pour their wine. OCWS members Lloyd and Liz Corbett have spearheaded the effort in hopes of getting wineries – especially some of the smaller ones – more exposure.

The program runs from 3 to 7 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the fair and kicks off Friday, July 14 with Orange County’s own Vinos Unidos.

Another Courtyard Setup in the Books

Cheers to our crew and the entire Courtyard Committee!

The first morning of the OC Fair we passed our inspections for the 2023 Courtyard. Taking three and a half days to set up, our amazing crew hope you enjoy our new signs, decorations and ideas.

We are already making plans for the 2024 Courtyard at the OC Fair and sincerely appreciate your ideas.

Now, we will be tearing it all down and everything will be stored away until next year.  Last year, we completed teardown in less than one day and we can use your help this year.  The teardown crew will meet 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday, Aug. 14, in The Courtyard. If you are available, please sign up with me so I can plan for our lunch. Fell free to shoot me an email at

Further details will be provided soon.

—Leslie Hodowanec, Courtyard Teardown Coordinator

Behind the Counter

When the waft of funnel cakes hits your nose, the music lineups are all set and you see the giant Ferris wheel off the 55 Freeway, you know it’s time for the OC Fair.

An integral part of the fair is The Courtyard, where attendees get an experience they can’t quite find anywhere else – sampling an array of wines from across California all in one place.

Eighteen devoted OCWS members sit on a committee that gets The Courtyard’s wheels in motion months in advance of the fair.

“It takes an immense amount of planning, from the training to lining up volunteers to work the fair,” said Fred Heinecke, OCWS Director and Courtyard Chair. “Once it’s here, it’s like coming home and I enjoy getting to see all the excitement among the members.”

There are about 250 volunteers needed to work more than 1,200 shifts over 23 days, Wednesday through Sunday. Whether it’s being a server, cashier, steward or manager, each position is critical to The Courtyard’s success. The busiest times are usually on the weekend and depends on who is performing at the Pacific Amphitheatre and The Hangar.

Besides getting a fleet of volunteers to work behind the counter, one of the other biggest undertakings is having enough wine for the entire fair run. About 60 cases of wine and 40 cases of champagne splits are purchased every week to meet the demand, said Cellarmaster Bill Redding.

But for all that hard work during a three- or four-hour shift, volunteers are aptly rewarded. They receive a badge that allows free entry and parking during the fair and those highly valued drink tickets that get them a full pour, split or tasting of award-winning wines. That doesn’t even include the possibility of attending a wine-oriented seminar or brushing elbows with winemakers as part of the Featured Winery program every weekend.

If this is your first time volunteering at the fair or it’s been some time since you have, here are wise words from a few of our veterans:

Cashiers – Don’t leave your register unattended and if you have to step away; make sure a manager or assistant manager can fill in for you. Be accurate with your handling of money and encourage patience. And maybe best of all, you get to sit during your shift.

“Cashiers are the ringmasters of the courtyard,” said Cheryl Knapp. “They are the ones who keep the wine bar running smoothly by keeping track of which servers are next to be rung up, training servers how to relay sales to the cashier and to know when to call a manager.”

Servers – Make sure customers have wristbands. Look at what is available to pour before your shift starts. When all else fails, ask a manager.

“This is the main opportunity to share what OCWS is and how we’re different from other concessions at the fair,” said Marcy Ott. “Have a great attitude and a willingness to learn.”

Stewards – Make sure each station is stocked with wine and replace award-winning wines with the same varietal. The wine fridge also needs to be filled so volunteers don’t run out during a rush. Communication is key between servers and stewards to ensure that things run efficiently.

“My best advice is work with an experienced steward; that way they can help you when you need it,” said steward extraordinaire Kevin Lite. “Ask questions and enjoy yourself. Remember, we are a society and working together is fun.”

Managers – Ensure full staff is there for your shift. Check with the outgoing manager to see what duties still need to be done. Pass out those drink tickets to volunteers or you may have a mutiny on your hands.

“I enjoy the opening morning shift as it gives me time to discuss with volunteers any changes or updates in The Courtyard,” said Maia Pehrson. “The benefit of the weekend shift is you get an opportunity to talk to the volunteers and get to know them.”