President’s Wine Snips – Behind the Scenes

Last month I wrote that we are in a very important partnership with the Orange County Fair & Events Center (OCFEC) which affords the OCWS the opportunity to run their wine competitions each year. What I didn’t touch on was the behind the scenes workings that make a competition a reality. Unless you’ve volunteered for these amazing, professionally run and labor intensive events, I assure you, it is mindboggling what it takes to run successful competitions. And, the fact that everything is done by volunteers is truly unbelievable!

About the time you read this, the 2018 Commercial Wine Competition will be taking place or has concluded. The Competition, 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 toward the end of June. Planning actually begins barely two months after the prior competition has completed. The hotel contract for 2019 was negotiated at least two years ago. The first of a number of communications to over 4,000 wineries will be sent in September in preparation for the 2019 Competition. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

The Commercial Competition Committee is comprised of a number of people from the Chairperson, who heads (actually this could be herds, too) the rest of the committee for the year to the Head and Assistant Head of Judges, who contact and coordinate nearly 90 professional winemakers and winery principals to judge the Competition, to the tech coordinator, who oversees the software programs and equipment, to the hotel coordinator, who handles the rooms and meals, invitations, etc., to the volunteer coordinators, who schedule and direct over 300 volunteers in two days, to the coordinator of scoring and verification, and so on and so on. Impressed yet? No, just keep reading.

How about the most vital role as Head of Cataloging who oversee 2,700 wine entries? No, that is not 2,700 bottles, that is 16,200 bottles, as each entry consists of six 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. Let’s think about not only transporting the wines to the hotel, but the glasses, racks, trays and towels, too. Also take into consideration that everything that is done has to be undone in closing for this year’s Competition – then prepare for next year. No sooner does the Competition itself end, a Steering Committee of six compiles 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 the 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 weekend following the Commercial Wine Competition and receives over 650 entries a year.

Have I provided you with enough information yet to have your head spinning? I could continue to bore you with more statistics, positions and a list of the names of people who, out of their passion for this organization and goodness of their hearts, take these lead positions. Rest assured, this is just the tip of the iceberg wherein you hear about volunteers running this organization. I will close with exactly what I wrote last month, as I cannot possibly say it any better a month later.

All of this is accomplished at the hands of hundreds of dedicated volunteers without whom this organization would not be what it is today. Truly amazing in my opinion! I am so proud to be your President this year and have the opportunity to share stories of incredible people and events with all of you.

– Fran Gitsham, President