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 ocws.org.
—Fran Gitsham, President