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. The tasting was done “blind” and scoring was done using the then accepted Davis 20-Point System.
At its peak demand the Competition engaged more than 90 judges to evaluate more than 800 wines of over 50 varietals and styles of wine.
The event also includes a Wine Label competition with 11 categories for the most unique and creative labels and bottles.