President’s Wine Snips – “The Side Our Bread Is Buttered On (or more appropriately…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. Proceeds from The Courtyard, along with the Wine Auction each year, pay for running the Competitions and sustaining the organization; however, this does not come from the OCWS alone. The OCWS is in a very important partnership with the Orange County Fair and Events Center (OCFEC) which affords us the opportunity to continue running the Competitions and realizing the benefits.

The Commercial and Home Wine Competitions that we run each year are, in fact, owned by the OCFEC, not the OCWS. However, it was that small group of home winemakers that I wrote about just a few months ago in The Wine Press that not only began the organization 42 years ago, but also approached the OC Fair with the thought of running wine competitions at the OC Fair. 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 an entire weekend, finds entries of upwards of 2,500+ 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, which is traditionally held on the first weekend of June each year, 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-winning winemakers in their own right, and a couple of hundred more supporters, run the OC Fair Home Wine Competition on the second weekend of June each year. This Home Wine Competition, which is held on the Fairgrounds, finds approximately 220 volunteers to make this event a success. Over 100 of these individuals are trained home wine judges who judge approximately 650 entered wines that are served by about 80 stewards. Behind the scenes finds scorers and glass washers, among many other supporting roles, as well as both breakfast and lunch created and served by the OCWS Cooks’ Caucus.

All of this culminates in The Courtyard during the OC Fair, where the OCWS has the pleasure of serving tastes of that year’s award winning commercial wines throughout the 23 days of the Fair, pouring glasses of other commercial wines and hosting a number of wine seminars in an effort to continue our organization’s mission of wine education. 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.

For more information about the Competitions and The Courtyard, please visit.

– Fran Gitsham, President