President’s Wine Snips – The Power Behind the Organization

I’m going to open this article with the closing paragraph and, after reading it, if you choose to read through to the end, you’ll hopefully have a better understanding as to what it takes to run this organization. The OCWS is a volunteer, non-profit educational corporation. Although volunteering is not a requirement of membership, it is most certainly encouraged to help make us a success. I ask all of you to please take a look at the 2017-2018 Director Responsibility list posted in this edition of The Wine Press and consider becoming a part in running an event this coming year. Unfortunately, over a period of time, the Board has assumed the responsibility of not only running the affairs of the organization with just a small handful of other dedicated member volunteers, but also run most of the events as well. The end. Now, I would greatly appreciate you continuing to read from what was to be the beginning of this article.

As I suspect you all know, the business of the OCWS is overseen by a Board of Directors made up of nine OCWS members who are die-hard volunteers. The only paid positions within the organization are those of the office staff, bookkeeper and Website Administrator, which are all hourly paid, part-time positions. Although the nine Directors each put in thousands of hours a year to run the engine, it’s the unsung and often unrecognized heroes of the organization that are the other hundreds of members who choose to volunteer and help run events throughout the year for whatever reason. Be it for the camaraderie, the feeling of knowing that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves or, maybe, just for the love of wine leftovers, these 400 or so volunteers are the ones to be thanked for running the entire vehicle when needed.

Take, for example, our biggest fundraiser of the year, The Courtyard at the OC Fair. In addition to a core committee group of roughly 20 people, we had 322 volunteers overall that worked any number of positions before, throughout and after the 2017 OC Fair that made The Courtyard a raging success. The OCWS is afforded the opportunity to run The Courtyard and realize the profits in order to run the Commercial Wine and Homewine Competitions on behalf of the Orange County Fair and Events Center. Now, take into consideration that preparation for the competitions, both held in the beginning of June each year and both requiring as much help to run as The Courtyard, begins almost as soon as the prior year’s competitions are complete. All run by volunteers!

Now, add into the equation our own cooking group, the Cook’s Caucus, who cater three OCWS events a year, the many pursuits of the Winemakers’ Group, the Marketing Committee, the wine sort, the wine auction, mini-tastings, monthly winery programs, Dine with Wine, the annual Spring and Fall membership events, etc., etc.  All run by volunteers!

We are an organization of almost 1,000 members, with approximately 40% of members volunteering. I’ve personally been approached more times than I care to recall with critiques of programs and events. Knowing there are lots of great ideas floating around in an organization with highly intelligent and motivated people, I would love to see those of you with new creative ideas, and the energy to help incorporate them step up to help keep the OCWS fun, informative and appealing. Your Board of Directors is here to encourage and support all efforts and is just waiting to hear from you. Please consider taking all those thoughts and ideas you’ve had and kept to yourself and put them into action.

I truly hope to hear from you. Thank you.

– Fran Gitsham, President

Northern California Devastated by Fire: Giving Back

After many, many years of being supported by hundreds of Napa and Sonoma County wineries by wine submissions to the Commercial Wine Competition, it was our chance to support them in their time of need. The Orange County Wine Society has made donations totaling $11,000 toward relief efforts for the Northern California fire victims. A donation of $5,000 has been made to the Sonoma County Resilience Fund, with another $5,000 to the Napa Valley Community Disaster Relief Fund. Both of these relief funds came highly recommended by several renowned winemakers who, out of the goodness of their hearts, act as Judges for the Commercial Wine Competition.

After much research, and taking into consideration numerous potential donation sites, the Board, on behalf of the OCWS, chose these two organizations to receive donations. In addition, the OCWS has donated $1,000 directly to an employee of Carol

Shelton Wines. Carol and her husband, Mitch, having also lost their home and belongings to the fires, did not look for help for themselves, but rather selflessly requested assistance for an employee, who also lost everything. Knowing Carol Shelton’s truly lovely heart, and appreciating all she has contributed to the Wine Society over the years, the OCWS could do nothing less than to help when asked.

Besides requests for donations, the common message we received from hundreds of wineries is to support those areas hit hardest by the fires by continuing to visit the wineries and purchase wines. We have been told in any number of ways that the continued support of the wine country will be a huge boost to both the local economies and to the spirit of those communities. As OCWS members and wine lovers, the Board encourages you to visit the many wineries in Northern California, make a purchase to help boost the economy of the region and the many wineries who have supported the OCWS!

– The OCWS Board of Directors

In Memoriam: Vivien Owen

Vivien Owen, a beloved member of the OCWS, sadly passed away on November 4, 2017. Her diminutive stature belied the enormous size of her generous heart and passion for giving. Vivien joined the Wine Society with her husband, Charley, the very first year of its founding, in 1978. Beginning with selling wine at the Fair each year, her passion for the organization led her to creating the displays at the Fair for many, many years and leaving a documented history of the OCWS by acting as historian until just a few years ago. She participated in just about every aspect of the organization at one time or another over the years and, most recently, enjoyed sharing her knowledge of wine and the OCWS with Fair attendees by being an OCWS Courtyard Ambassador during the OC Fair.

Vivien’s life took her on many adventures with Charley, the most loved of which was raising a beautiful family together. Vivien was blessed with her daughter, Janet, who married Paul Peal, and her son, Jack, who married Sheila Lambert. She leaves her two children, their spouses, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren with an amazing legacy.

Born in Los Angeles, Vivien held a degree in Psychology from UCLA and a Life General Elementary teaching credential. During her professional career with the Tustin School District, she taught every grade level from Kindergarten to 12th grade, as well as special education classes.

As a volunteer throughout the years, Vivien was second to none as a Girl Scout leader, holding any number of positions on PTO Boards and as President of the Tustin Area Woman’s Club, to name just a few of the many organizations and endeavors that were fortunate to have her leadership.

Vivien found a different direction to her volunteerism after having served on the OC Grand Jury for a year. She joined the Past Grand Jurors Association and subsequently was appointed to the Water Facilities Corporation of the Municipal Water District of Orange County where she served a six year term.

In 1989, Vivien was appointed to the Orange County Public Cemetery Board of Trustees to which she had many reappointments by various County Supervisors, served as Chairman of the Board six times and was still serving upon her death.

Vivien and Charley’s love for travel found them traversing California in a camper truck mostly visiting wineries and attending UCLA football games. Their camper travels within the USA found them visiting their son in Iowa and Florida, while bunking down in Elderhostels. Their cruise adventures found them going from Tahiti to Russia and back on U.S. soil in Alaska. Other adventures found Vivien joining Charley throughout his professional career in cities as exciting and diverse as London and Istanbul.

So many more details about the life of this loving, passionate, highly intelligent woman are left unsaid here. Simply saying that Vivien touched countless lives during her own with her infectious smile and loving nature says it all. Her life was a blessing to all who knew her, her memory will be a treasure and she will be missed beyond measure.

Cheers to Viv!

Winemakers Newsroom

Our 2017 grapes have finished fermentation, and we have been racking our new wines into carboys, tanks and barrels in anticipation of some fine “drink’n” next year!

Winemakers’ Group Holiday Party. Our holiday party is scheduled for Saturday, December 23, at the Eastlake Clubhouse in Yorba Linda, and this event is sold out. As a reminder to those confirmed to attend, this is a potluck, and we ask everyone attending to bring enough food to serve 10 to 12 people and a bottle of wine per person, either homemade or commercial.

2018 WineMaker Magazine Conference. We are looking forward to the WineMaker Magazine’s annual conference to be held May 17 through May 20 in San Diego. We are hoping to have a large contingent of our winemakers attend and flex our muscles as a fabulous and energetic part of the OCWS!

The program is being finalized with full details to come early this month. If you are interested in attending, contact Kevin or visit WineMaker website at for more information.

If you have any questions, contact Kevin at or by phone at 714.457.7229.

– Kevin Donnelly

Cabernet Sauvignon Mini-Tasting: Recap

A total of 108 members and guests attended the November Mini-Tasting held at six host sites. The blind tasting consisted of five flights of two wines each with wines from Napa, Alexander Valley, and Paso Robles. The top three favorite wines of the six host sites were:

Placement Winery Name Year PRICE DESCRIPTION
1st Francis Ford Coppola 2015 $17.00 King Kong, Sonoma, OCWS Gold 2017
2nd Lancaster 2014 $55.00 Alexander Valley, Estate, WS 94
3rd Frank Family 2014 $55.00 Napa Valley, WS 91

In addition, 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 were:

  • Hosts Barbara and Dave White: Joyce Coker for Wild Mushroom Lasagna
  • Hosts Greg and Cathy Risling: Elaine Watrous for Zuppa Tuscana
  • Hosts Virginia and Karl Kawai: Jim Burk for Braised Beef in Wine Sauce & Shirley McManus for Potato Cheese Casserole
  • Hosts Tina and BJ Fornadley: Tina Fornadley for Beef Lasagna with Pesto
  • Hosts Marcia and James Vaughan: Barbara Schneider for Overnight Glazed Short Ribs
  • Hosts Bob and Janae Unruh: Lynelle Hustrulid for Better Than Sex Dessert

Congratulations to all the winners, and a big  thank you to all the Hosts!

– Bill Redding & George Cravens, Directors

President’s Wine Snips – Those Who Came Before

As I sat down to write my first Wine Press article as President, I thought about all the things I could say to the OCWS membership over the next 12 months. I could easily recap events that have just taken place, or I could highlight upcoming events. These are things that, if you read this newsletter every month, each Chair of these gatherings is sharing with you in their articles with far more interesting detail than I can. I also thought about all the questions I have been asked as a Director over the past five years and realized that I have been given a platform to tell you things about the organization and the people involved that you otherwise might not know and, just maybe, answer some of those questions that have crossed your mind at one time or another.

As the incoming President of the OCWS, I would be remiss if I didn’t use this first article to pay homage to those who came before me and set the tone for this amazing organization. After being a member for 17 years and a Director for the past five, I thought I knew a lot about the OCWS. After studying the list of Presidents beginning in 1978, I realized the one thing I didn’t know as well as I could is the history and commitment of the 24 people who served as President before me. Many of them served multiple terms, and through their encouragement and kindness, have held my hand and heart on my journey to the presidency.


With that being said, we honored one of those individuals at our recent Annual Business Meeting with the designation of President Emeritus. The title denotes the perpetual status of an individual who has helped move the organization to new heights as a former key member on the Board of Directors. In this case, as President an unprecedented four terms (2000-01, 2002-03, 2008-09, 2013-14), with none of those terms consecutive. This year Dennis Esslinger joined the ranks of just a few who have garnered the President Emeritus title. He joins a small, elite group of past Presidents who not only gave their time and effort over a number of years, but continue to do so and for that I, for one, am grateful.

The other eight Presidents Emeriti are Jim Graver (1978-79), Lora Howard (1995-96), Bob Trout (1996-97), Charley Owen (1997-98), John Goodnight (1999-2000), David Hirstein (2001-02), Larry Graham (2005-06, 2006-07), and Leslie Brown (2009-10, 2010-11). I want to thank these people, along with the other past Presidents for laying the foundation of the OCWS. I can only hope to continue in their footsteps and do good for the organization this next year. When your paths cross with theirs, please thank them for their commitment and hard work in bringing us to where we are today.

My heartfelt thanks go to the current Board of Directors for electing me to this office and having the confidence in me to lead the organization for the next Board year.

BOD 2018

In closing, if there is anything you would like to see answered in this column over the next several months, please email me at I can’t promise everything will be addressed in this column, but I will do my best to answer everything asked of me in one way or another.

– Fran Gitsham, President

Scholarship Thank you

Thank You For Your Generosity
September 25th, 2017
Orange County Wine Society
P.O. Box 11059
Costa Mesa CA 92627Dear Orange County Wine Society,

I am writing to thank you for your generous $1200.00 CPS Orange County Wine Society scholarship. I was overwhelmed with joy and extremely appreciative to learn that I was selected as the recipient of your scholarship. Receiving this scholarship was particularly special to me because of the nine years I spent working and living in Orange County, which is one of my favorite places in the world. I decided to go to college at age 29 after falling in love with wine during my career in the restaurant industry in the OC.
I am a Wine and Viticulture major with an emphasis in enology. I plan to pursue a career in the wine industry upon graduating from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. I am currently a senior working on my last quarter, and plan to graduate in the fall of 2017. After graduation, I will be looking to travel to the Southern Hemisphere to work harvest and then be moving to Sonoma County to find employment in the wine industry. Thanks to you, I am one step closer to that goal.
By awarding me the CPS Orange County Wine Society scholarship, you have lightened my financial burden which allows me to focus more on my studies. Over the last four years I have been in school full time, while working in restaurants part-time to pay for school and all other regular expenses. Your generosity will help me as I work towards my goal of graduating this fall Summa Cum Laude. It has also inspired me to help others and give back to the community, because without the help of generous people and organizations, like the Orange County Wine Society, I would not have been able to achieve my goals. I hope one day I will be able to help students achieve their goals just as you have helped me.


Robert J. Huff

2017 President’s Award

At the Annual Business Meeting last month, Jim Beard awarded the 2017 President’s Award to Ken and Irene Scott. As many of you know, the President’s Award honors and recognizes those members for their exceptional contribution and dedication to the OCWS.

Both members for a number of years, Ken and Irene are passionate in supporting the various initiatives of the OCWS. They consistently contribute their expertise, knowledge and talent to many events and committees doubling the benefit to the OCWS.

As members of the Marketing Committee, Ken and Irene helped develop a marketing strategy promoting the mission and message of the OCWS. Their best practice approach made a significant impact in implementing a fresh approach toward brand recognition by updating materials and information provided to California wineries in connection with the Commercial Wine Competition. The brochures and other marketing materials they created carried that same brand identity into the Homewine Competition and the website.

This year, as members of the Commercial Wine Competition, they co-chaired the Volunteer subcommittee coordinating hundreds of workforce volunteers in various roles and schedules during the wine competition – no easy feat as both spent hundreds of hours making sure that everything ran smoothly, and they worked tirelessly at the Competition and behind the scenes.

Congratulations to Ken and Irene on receiving the 2017 President’s Award. This year’s award is in the hands of the most deserving and worthy candidates!

Announcing the 2017-2018 OCWS Board of Directors

Brian McDonald, Bill Redding and Ken Scott were elected by a majority vote of the OCWS Board members held on September 6 as provided under Article 4, Section 4.6 of the current Bylaws. Section 4.6 allows the Board to suspend the election and declare the candidates elected at the Annual Business Meeting if the number of candidates is equal to or less than the number of Director positions to be filled. By resolution, the Board took such action on said date.

During the Board of Directors meeting held on September 18, the 2017-2018 Board members  Jim Beard, George Cravens, Fran Gitsham, Brian McDonald, Terry McLean, Bill Redding, Ken Scott, Rich Skoczylas and Stacey Taylor elected the following Officers for the 2017-2018 Board year:

Fran Gitsham — President, 

Bill Redding — Vice President,

Brian McDonald —Treasurer, 

Rich Skoczylas — Secretary

Next time your paths cross, please congratulate and welcome them to their new positions as well as Ken Scott, as a newly elected Director.

– Jim Beard, Past President