President’s Message

Thankful for Paths Otherwise Gone

With the holidays fast approaching beginning with Thanksgiving this month, among my thoughts is just how grateful I am to be a part of the Orange County Wine Society. I am so blessed to cross paths with so many people that otherwise I would never have met. I have had the honor of knowing some of the founding members of the OCWS and to have been touched by their hearts and to know just how precious a gift their passions and foresight have given us to this day.

The ultimate gift of this organization was conceived by a small group of people who, for their love of wine, created the Wine Society. Beginning in 1976, a group of about sixteen like-minded people would meet the first Friday of each month in the back room of Brant’s Wine Rack, a wine and beer supply store on Tustin Avenue in Orange, where the owner advised the group on winemaking. Soon friends wanted to sample the wines and the wine drinkers began to outnumber the winemakers. It was then that Brant Horton suggested getting a booth at the OC Fair and offered his business as a sponsor. Horton proposed wine competitions to the OC Fair and, from there, the OC Fair Home Wine and Commercial Wine Competitions were born. At that time, the run of the fair was a grand total one week, finding the Home Wine Competition with forty-nine entries and the Commercial Wine Competition having a whopping three varietals to be judged. Certainly, a far cry from over 600 entries to the 2022 Home Wine Competition and over 2,500 entries in the 2022 Commercial Wine Competition.

With interest being generated from the OC Fair exposure, the original tasting group formed the Orange County Wine Society in late 1977 and was incorporated as a non-profit educational organization in 1978. We have called the OC Fairgrounds home since 1980.

Who could have imagined that what was started by a small band of wine lovers would evolve into a 1,000-member strong group today, having granted over $740,000 to date in college scholarships? I thank those that came first for gifting us with their visions and commitments to their passions.

Wishing you a Thanksgiving with many blessings for which to be grateful and for the gift of passions that make your hearts happy.


– Fran Gitsham, President