President’s Message

The Ultimate Commitment to Judging

The title of wine judge conjures up an image of a triumphant taster proudly awarding a gold medal and brandishing a winning bottle. However, this statement couldn’t be further from the truth.

After a long day of judging hundreds of wines, with their tongues blackened by too much tannin and their teeth tingling from the acidity in the wine, ask any one of them and they will tell you that judging is not a glorious endeavor. But their passion has them looking forward to the next day and, subsequently at the end of each competition, the next year.

What sets the OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition apart from and above the rest are the 90+ experienced judges each year who are qualified winemakers or winery principals. This group is a combination of elite seasoned professionals representing almost every AVA in California and the most qualified to fairly evaluate wines of diverse characteristics.

The competition is for wines produced from California grapes and is the largest of its kind in the world and the second largest competition overall in California. In the 47 years of competition, there has been over 460 judges for a combined total of 3,326 years of experience. It is the renowned list of judges and their associated wineries that has made, and keeps, the competition at the top of its game and the most widely revered competition of California wines anywhere.

We are proud that our competition, thanks to these committed professionals, continues the high standard of judging today led by a current list of elite judges such as Fred Weibel (35 years), Joseph S. Franzia (30 years) and Steve Lohr (15 years).

Just this year alone, four judges are seeing their 20th year with us; seven judges are reaching the 13-year point; six newer judges are seeing their third year; and there are any number of judges with years in between. Additionally, in working toward securing the future of the competition, we find seven guest judges this year with just their first year under their belts being mentored by the seasoned veterans.

The OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition would not be what it is without the entries to judge from wineries throughout the state; however, the quality and reputation of the competition itself is due in great part to the high standards set by the judges and their commitment year after year to supporting the OCWS’ efforts.

THANKS is a small word to express our appreciation to the judges for continuing to gather year after year and keeping the competition elevated above the rest. Judges, if you are reading this, please know that our heartfelt thanks always go out to you with our admiration for your expertise and our pride in you being a most integral part of the OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition.

Fran Gitsham, OCWS President/2023 Commercial Wine Competition Chair