In 1977, the first annual Orange County Fair Commercial Wine Competition was held on July 10 at the South Coast Plaza Hotel in Costa Mesa. A total of 92 wines were entered representing only two popular varietals—Chenin Blanc and Gamay Beaujolais. Also, unlike other competitions, no entry fees were charged and wines were judged in three price categories—inexpensive, moderate, and premium. Wines were also separated into dry and off-dry categories. We invited 18 vintners, winery principals, or winemakers as judges. Many of the first judges included such recognizable names as Richard Arrowood, Steve Mirassou, John Parducci, Don Sebastiani, and Rodney Strong. Initial participants who are still judging today include Albert Cribari, Ray Krause, Jerry Lohr, and Phyllis Pedrizzetti. The tasting was done “blind” and scoring was done using the then accepted Davis 20-Point System.
The Competition has grown significantly in size and breaking down the entries into finer categories.
Last year, 97 judges evaluated 39 varietals and styles of wine. 676 different wines were judged and more than 500 awards were given to home winemakers throughout California.
The event also includes a Wine Label competition with 11 categories for the most unique and creative labels and bottles.