Sunday, May 22, 2011

Graduation, lima beans, twenty year old corn and deposit bottles for wine

  It's been real busy around here lately.  Josh's graduation is Wednesday. It's been a typical last minute affair getting announcements written and mailed out. For some reason the kid will absolutely NOT blow his own horn and had no clue why anyone would want to get one of his announcements. It was like pulling multiple teeth to get him to actually sit down and fill them all out. He's done very well at Red Rock, graduating near the top of his class, National Honor Society membership, lots of scholarships including a recent juicy one from the Herman and Katherine Peters foundation. Good thing too, it's still boggles my mind every time I think about the fact that it costs IN STATE students about 20K dollars per year to go to any of the three state universities. Tuition is within a few hundred bucks of 10K, add in books, room and board and you've got twice that. I thought the whole point of the state land grant college system was to make college available and affordable for local kids. Boy was I mistaken. I remember paying 320 bucks a year at ASU for a full load. Shoot, textbooks cost more than tuition. I think I left college with a total "educational" loan debt of around 3K bucks, and I'd used that money to buy cars!

  Grownup beverages continue to be interesting around here. There are at least two new wine-themed restaurants and tasting venues in Old Town Cottonwood. I plan to get over there and write about them when the diploma-dust settles and the garden is finally all planted. The tomatoes, squash, onions, shallots, red chard and herbs are all in and up and the strawberries are producing more than they ever have in the last couple of years, which means you can actually pick enough to bring into the house instead of just happily grazing on them in the garden. It's been fairly cool so far and they seem to like that and flower more. They'll shut down too soon though, soon as it gets really hot. We still have Hopi red lima beans to plant as well as Johnny M's New Mexico Red grinding corn. He grew out that corn along the banks of the Verde in 1991, and gave me a quart jar of seed tightly sealed. The jar got stashed in one of my seed boxes and lay forgotten in the pantry ever since. Josh and I found it this year and put 20 kernels in wet paper towels ala elementary science class, and 18 of them sprouted in less than a week. So in a few more days it'll all be in the ground and I can get out a bit to check out the beverage scene a bit more.

  Yesterday was an off day for me at Desert Market, but I stopped by because the folks from Kind Vines in Flagstaff were there sampling out their new products. This three person company has a really great idea and I have high hopes for them. Their concept is pretty simple. Go out and find two good, reasonably priced, highly drinkable California wines, and one good locally produced beer. Flag has a number of decent local breweries. Come up with a label that is baked-on enamel, not paper. Invent a really cool reusable silicon gasketed glass stopper instead of a cork. Price the bottled products reasonably, and give a 2 dollar discount on the next bottle when the it's returned with it's stopper. Sanitize and refill the bottles. Zero waste wine and beer! It's also a real deposit. In other words, you can take your bottle and stopper back in and get your two bucks back if you don't want another bottle, or you can get two bucks off a different purchase if you want.
  The problem is, in order for this idea to fly, you've got to have a product that people will come back for. They've done well choosing their initial offerings. The Cabernet is spicy, mellow, with even tannins and just enough fruit to make it interesting but not the kind of cab you have to think about real hard. Barbecue cab, steak cab, roasted potatoes, carrots and onions cab. Their Chardonnay is a standout. I say this as a person who doesn't like Chardonnay in it's normal California Oakey configuration. If you're looking for the typical greasy  "buttery" chard that's been aged in oak, forgeddaboutit. This is a crisp, grassy, herbal chard that's done in stainless steel. Very nice. Their beer selection was a smart start, but I won't be drinking any of it. It's an IPA brewed by Lumberyard in Flagstaff. I understand their reasoning. IPAs are all the rage now among micro-brew drinkers, who apparently think beers so heavily hopped that they make you pucker up and bark like a dog are good. Me, not so much, but they'll sell beer. The college crowd will be all over it.
  Local buyers will find their offerings in Basha's and they are expanding slowly but surely. Several local restaurants have them too. I really hope they can pull it off. The simplicity of their plan is breathtaking. They tell me they are trying to hit up the local winemakers for product too, and that can only be a good thing.
  I stopped by Desert Market again late this evening and it turns out that they sold ALL of the two cases the distributors brought with them. Normally, when I work, we sell 20 or more bottles of wine in a day. On off weekends, it's been running more like a dozen bottles. Not bragging, just saying. I can sell wine. People today were jumping all over the idea of returnable wine bottles, buying bottles of each kind. It looks like the idea may have legs.  Watch for Kind Vines and give it a try.

 Salud to everyone, I doubt I'll be posting again till after the last strains of Pomp and Circumstance have faded into the sunset and the corn and beans are in the ground.