President’s Message-Competition Time is Fast Approaching

I mention often enough that we are in an especially important partnership with the Orange County Fair & Events Center which affords us the opportunity to run the Commercial and Home Wine Competitions each year. What I have not touched on is the behind-the-scenes workings that make these Competitions a reality. Unless you’ve volunteered for these amazing, professionally run, and labor-intensive events, I assure you, it is mindboggling as to just what it takes to run successful Competitions. And the fact that volunteers do everything is truly unbelievable!

By the time you read this, preparations for the 2022 Commercial Wine Competition have been well under way for over seven months. The Competition, which is traditionally held the first weekend of June each year, isn’t technically completed until the last bottles are sorted and the award medals are mailed by the end of June. Planning for the next Competition begins barely two months after the prior Competition has been put to bed. Hardly time for a short nap and a glass of wine in between.

The hotel contract for each year is negotiated three years prior. The first of a number of communications to over 4,000 wineries are sent in September in preparation for the next Competition, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Commercial Competition Committee is comprised of a number of people from the Chairperson, who heads the Committee, to the Head of Judges, who contacts and coordinates 90+ professional winemakers and winery principals who judge the Competition, to the Tech Coordinator, who oversees the software programs and equipment, to the Facilities Coordinator, who handles rooms and meals, invitations, etc., to the Volunteer Coordinator, who schedules and directs over 300 volunteers in two days, to Scoring and Verification Coordinators, and so on and so on. Impressed yet? No? Just keep reading.

How about the most vital of roles as Head of Cataloging, who oversees upwards of 2,700 entries? That is 16,200 bottles, as each entry consists of 6 bottles. Then take into consideration the bagging coordinators, as the Competition is a blind tasting; one bottle of each entry has to be bagged and labeled for pouring at the Competition. Then think about not only transporting the wines to the hotel, but the glassware, racks, trays, towels, and computer equipment, too. Also take into consideration that everything that is done has to be undone upon closing of this year’s Competition – then prepared for the next. No sooner does the Competition conclude, a Steering Committee of six compiles and reviews all the information and confirms the awarding of medals. This is followed by each and every entry being photographed for publication on our results website ( and mailing notifications to the award-winning wineries, followed by mailing of their medals.

This is just a brief glance into the Commercial Wine Competition.

On a smaller scale, the Home Wine Competition is run with basically the same dynamics and is held on the Fairgrounds the following weekend and receives well over 600 entries a year.

Have I provided you with enough information yet to have your head spinning? I could easily continue to bore you with more statistics, positions, lists of the names of people who, out of their passion for this organization and goodness of their hearts, take the lead positions. Rest assured, this is just the tip of the iceberg wherein you hear about volunteers running this organization.

All of this is accomplished at the hands of hundreds of dedicated volunteers without whom the OCWS would not be what it is today. Utterly amazing in my opinion! I am so proud to be your President and, as of this year, Chair of the Commercial Competition Committee, and to have the opportunity to share stories of incredible people and events with you.

If you are new members or have never worked at either of the Competitions, I promise you, you won’t regret trying!

– Fran Gitsham, President