President’s Message – The Vines Our Grapes Thrive On

The Orange County Wine Society is known for running The Courtyard at the OC Fair each year and reaping the benefits, but most people don’t know how this came to be. Income from The Courtyard, along with the Wine Auction each year, pay for the running of the Commercial and Home Wine Competitions and sustaining the organization; however, this does not come from the OCWS alone. We are considered a non-profit partner to the Orange County Fair & Event Center (OCFEC) which affords us the opportunity to run the competitions and realize the benefits. The Competitions that we run each year are, in fact, owned by the OCFEC, but it was a small group of home winemakers that not only began our organization 46 years ago, but also approached the OC Fair with the idea of running wine competitions in tandem with the Fair each year. Hence, with a single table and a handful of wines, the OC Fair wine competitions were born.

From that handful of passionate people and one small table, the OCWS now runs one of the most prestigious commercial wine competitions in the country. The OC Fair Commercial Wine Competition, which is held offsite over the first entire weekend of June, finds entries upwards of 2,800+ California commercial wines each year that are judged by a distinguished panel of nearly 90 judges comprised of mostly renowned California winemakers and winery principals. The Competition finds over 300 OCWS 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-winners in their own right, and a couple of hundred more supporters, run the OC Fair Home Wine Competition on the second weekend of June on the OC Fairgrounds. Over 100 of the volunteers at this Competition are trained home wine judges who judge upwards of 650+ wines that are served by about 80 stewards.

The Competitions ultimately bring us to The Courtyard at the OC Fair, where we have the pleasure of serving commercial wines to the public throughout 23 days of the Fair. All of this is accomplished at the hands of hundreds of OCWS dedicated volunteers without whom this organization would not be what it is today.

I urge anyone who has not had, nor taken, the opportunity to volunteer at these events  to give it a try this year. It’s more fun than you can imagine! For more information about the Competitions and The Courtyard, please visit our website at

– Fran Gitsham, President