Finally, a law from this state I actually agree with

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, May 3, 2016 8:10 PM

When we decided to move to Arizona, those who knew me the best were a bit aghast. I heard the same phrase over and over again: “YOU’RE moving to a red state?” It’s true. This is a red state. It’s further true that we moved here anyway. It’s also true that I’m a dyed in the wool liberal.  Me moving to a red state seemed to be a complete disconnect for everyone, including me. As I was always quick to point out, we moved to Southern Arizona which is known to be much more liberal than the rest of Arizona. Tucson is a little island of blue in an otherwise deep sea of red. 

An aside. Dyed in the wool is a phrase used to describe an individual with “fixed, dedicated, committed, uncompromising, deep felt belief.” It’s phrase that relates to the medieval method of adding dye to raw wool rather than to spun wool or finished cloth. The final color evidently lasted much longer and was more deeply ingrained than dyeing at later stages. If something is dyed-in-the-wool, it's unlikely to change. It’s what I see when I look in the mirror. 

Arizona has a reputation of being … rigid. Uncompromising. Ridiculous. It also ranks 47th in the country for overall education, 46th for money spent on schools, 43rd in the country for school systems, 49th for preschool enrollment and 50th for headstart enrollment. We received a D+ on the report card from education week. I bring this up because it’s National Teacher Appreciation Day.

We were also the 48th state to become a state. Minimum wage is $8.05 per hour. We have the illustrious SB 1070 law which essentially makes it illegal to be of Hispanic descent – my interpretation. We have the Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County. And a tremendous amount of retirees, many of whom apparently subscribe to the idea of “I got mine; screw you.” In other words, they’re Republicans. 

Which leads me back to the red state. It is red, and not just in political persuasion. It has red clay soil and the glorious red, orange and purple painted desert and Grand Canyon. The sunsets, equally on fire, are the prettiest I’ve ever seen and I lived in California for 27 years.

The heat isn’t so bad. The dryness is killer, though. And the creatures are exotic, if not a little scary. Everything bites, including almost all of the plants. The air quality is much better than in Southern California; ditto the traffic. The people are all nice. 

We knew we were moving to a place that goes against almost everything we believe politically. We knew the climate was more harsh. We didn’t think that we’d have trouble with wine. I don’t mean wine as in we can’t buy any, though we do have trouble finding some of our favorites. I mean wine as in we can’t get it shipped. The wines made here in Southern Arizona aren’t bad but we have had trouble finding spectacular. It’s a young wine-growing region. Most of the wines seem just that. Young. Uninteresting. Like they haven’t quite learned how to be fascinating yet, like teenagers on the cusp of adulthood. We have discovered Keeling Schaefer and they’re excellent. Bold. Interesting. 

One of the wine items we didn’t count on when we moved was that many of our favorite wineries wouldn’t be able to ship to us. We were club members of Niner and Zaca Mesa, for instance, and they couldn’t ship because they produced more than 20,000 gallons of wine a year. The Arizona law, one of those on the books since Prohibition, prohibited wine shipments from wineries exceeding the gallon count. We were bummed. We loved Niner and Zaca Mesa. We bought Niner when we’d go to Paso Robles. We found some Zaca Mesa here and there.

But today comes news that our long personal nightmare is coming to an end. Our esteemed governor, Doug Ducey whom I affectionately refer to as Douchey, signed a bill on April 1 allowing wineries from California, indeed from all over, to ship wines directly to customers in Arizona as long as they’re not for resale or exceed 18 cases per year. I learned this from Alicia at Niner Winery. Starting on January 1 of 2017, wineries like Niner and Zaca Mesa and countless others can apply for a $25 shipping license and ship away. I almost danced. I did book it across the house to Kevin’s office to announce the news. We rejoiced. 

So yes, we moved to a red state. And there are issues. But if the wine-shipping issue can be resolved I have hope. I hear there’s even a possibility that a Trump nomination puts the state in play for the election. Maybe, just maybe, this red state will turn blue, and I’ll definitely be home.

Hey. A girl can dream, especially while raising a glass of imported California wine.

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Kevin and the magic keyboard

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, June 24, 2014 10:39 PM

I did something incredibly stupid on Sunday night. I spilled wine on my computer keyboard. I’m still cringing and still beating myself up. Kevin had poured me a little bit of Zaca Mesa. We had opened a 2009 Syrah for dinner on Saturday night but we hadn’t finished it. I had it sitting on my desk, to the left of my computer as I was gathering my stuff together to take into the living room. I had worked in my office most of the afternoon but it was time to pretend to have a life.

I reached over to unplug the laptop and I don’t know if the cord was somehow wrapped around the stem of the glass or what. All I know is that the glass tilted to the right, spilling the wine across the keyboard. I panicked. I shouted for Kevin. Grab some towels! I grabbed the glass and righted it, took my hand and swiped it across the keys pushing as much wine off as I could. I raced into the bathroom and grabbed a towel, and ran back into the office where I began soaking up the wine. Kevin, dog bless him, said “pick it up and turn it upside down.” Brilliant. Wine poured out. I couldn’t believe how much. It was maybe a third of a glass to begin with and there was still some in the glass.

Wine ran down my arms and onto my white shirt. It was as if my machine was bleeding. Worse, it was as if I had killed it.

Kevin ran to grab a can of compressed air and started blowing at the keys, dislodging all that hadn’t flowed out of its own accord. I just held it up and shook my head. Stupid. Stupid. S-T-O-O-P-I-D.

When nothing else seemed to be coming out, I moved the machine to the kitchen bar. I did a backup, which I usually do on Monday mornings, just in case everything started wigging out. But miraculously everything seemed to be OK. All of my programs were working. I had dodged a technological bullet.

Except I hadn’t. After about an hour, right after I said “I think maybe we got it all and there’s no indication anything is wrong” the “h” key started to wig. It was small at first. hhhhhhhhh

Then I’d thhhyphe and it would just insert itself randomly. Uh-oh. Not so lucky after all. I sent a note to my Mac guy Dave and he sent a note back. “Turn it upside down, keyboard on a towel. I’ll call you in the morning.” By morning I couldn’t even open a word document without hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. I was screwed. I knew it.

Dave called. He tried to help me long distance. He said to use more compressed air, shoving it right under the keys if possible. The h was flipping out, I couldn’t get a new document to open on command (actually command n) and the computer was running at high speed. The internal fans, which usually spin around 2000 rpms on each side, were at 5200 each. Usually when that happens, which is rare, I just put the computer to sleep and it calms down. But it wouldn’t go to sleep. I called several places in town. “We might be able to fix it but you’ll have to leave it for a week.” The undertone was ‘not our fault lady. You were s-t-o-o-p-i-d.’

By lunch time I was beyond frustrated. I was getting nothing done, my machine was out of its mind, I had destroyed it and I was in tears. I’m not a crier but when I get frustrated, I bawl. Kevin called a place that said the first thing they’d do was hook up an external keyboard. If that worked, it was just the keyboard. We figured we could do the same.

We hooked up Kevin’s external keyboard and I got hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. So screwed. Then he said, what about opening the Mac version of notepad, meaning Text Edit. I did. Same thing. Completely screwed.

We unhooked the keyboard, and just because, I tried again. Suddenly and inexplicably it worked. I was typing. I had an “h.” I could open new documents with command n; the computer slept soundly. I was saved, at least for a little while, even though my keys now have a lovely syrah tint within the backlight.

The moral of the story: My husband is a genius even though there is really no earthly reason why it started to work, as he himself pointed out.

Moral part deux: Always keep the wine far away from the keyboard in order to continue typing it out loud.

Recycling wine bottles

by Lorin Michel Sunday, November 17, 2013 10:52 PM

We’ve always been big on recycling. The daily newspaper has always gone into the recycle bin. When we have soda, which isn’t often, the cans go into the bin. Wine bottles used to meet the same fate. But last year, when we decided to make wine, we decided to do a different kind of recycling. The two varietals we chose were syrah, with grapes from Santa Barbara County, and cabernet sauvignon, with grapes from Paso Robles. As such, we needed syrah bottles which are wider, almost fat, at the base with a short neck. The bottles mimic the body of the wine as syrahs are fat, heavy, thick and darkly red. Cabernet bottles, like the wine, are much more refined. Tall and sleek, they are elegant. Cabernet sauvignon is also elegant if not sometimes overly so.

There are many different types of wine bottles, even within a certain varietal. Some are taller while others are squatter. Some are light green, some are brown, others are a deep green. Some feel as if the glass is impossibly thin; others feel heavy. The recycling we decided to do was to use wine bottles that other wineries had already used. The trick was to decide which style we liked and then to gather up to 36 of each.

Even for wine drinkers such as us, this was a tall task.

For our cabernet, we chose a bottle that is used by Kendall Jackson. A blunt, beefy bottle for their own cab as well as for their Summation and Meritage blends. For the better part of a year, we have consumed more than our fair share of these wines in order to come up with 36.

For our syrah, we chose the Zaca Mesa model. Anyone who knows us knows how much we love Zaca Mesa syrahs. As far as we’re concerned, they may be the best syrahs currently being vinted. They may be the best ever vinted. Deep, dark, inky, so heavy it seems as if a spoon could stand up inside a glass, not that we’ve ever tried. They make several different syrahs. Their regular syrah is rather pedestrian. Still good, it isn’t the kind of thing that blogs are written about. But their Mesa Reserve and the Black Bear Block syrahs are so good we sometimes don’t want to ruin the flavor with food. Yes, they’re expensive, but they are so worth it.

We had a bit more trouble coming up with three dozen Zaca Mesa bottles. It’s a more expensive wine, and it’s also harder to find. Kendall Jackson is a big winery that produces about 5 million cases of wine annually. Zaca Mesa, comparatively, produces about 35,000.

It was a tough assignment, getting all of the bottles we needed, but somehow we persevered.

The wines themselves, our cab and our syrah, have been aging for about a year. We’re getting ready to put them both into bottles so they can age some more in glass. We needed to get our recycled bottles ready and that meant removing the labels of the other wineries to make room for our own labels.

What a job. Kevin had read somewhere that if you bake the bottles at 350º for about 10 minutes it loosens the glue and makes the labels peel off easily. We started with the Zaca Mesa and were absolutely thrilled when that’s exactly what happened. A bit of residual glue remained on the bottle; also easily removed with lacquer thinner. We figured we’d be done in an hour or so.

Then came the Kendall Jackson bottles. We put them in the oven for the allotted time. We took them out. We took our razor blade and prepared to simply push the labels away, just like on Zaca Mesa. Except it didn’t work. At all. We ended up having to scrape small pieces away, pushing, scrubbing, pushing some more. It was tedious and left a ridiculous amount of glue on the bottle. Five hours later, we had bottles. Also sore hands.

But we have contributed to keeping the environment more green. We have done our bit to recycle. We’ve also done as much as we can to keep the wine industry moving right along. I suppose we’ll keep trying. After all, it’s our civic duty. 

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