Fine Wine And Terrible Need Focus Of Fund-Raiser

Time Out Shelter and Meals on Wheels team up for sell-out benefit as they struggle to cope with deep funding cuts


Wine in the Pines participants roamed the room with glasses tippling from vineyard to vineyard and learning about the growing number of Arizona wineries.

Wine in the Pines participants roamed the room with glasses tippling from vineyard to vineyard and learning about the growing number of Arizona wineries.

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The only domestic violence shelter in Rim Country continues to struggle to adapt to disastrous state and federal budget cuts.

Fortunately, private donors have increased their support — including a ticket sell-out at the recent Wine in the Pines fund-raiser at the Payson Senior Center in conjunction with the Meals on Wheels program.

Organizers sold 150 tickets at $25 each. Nearly every dollar collected went to support the two organizations, since the bevy of Arizona wineries and local distributors donated a gourmet collection of wines of every description.

The Meals on Wheels program provides about 50,000 meals annually to low-income senior citizens and the disabled. For many of the clients, the visit from the meals van represents one of their few lifelines to the community — and a friendly visitor who will notice if they’re in trouble.

Time Out Shelter Executive Director Camille Levee said the event brought in at least $4,000 for her organization. “We did sell out at 150 tickets — which shows the wonderful support a community like Payson gives to us.”

The fund-raiser comes at a critical moment for the domestic violence shelter, struggling to cope with a sharp increase in pleas for help in the face of deep state and federal funding cuts. Levee noted that the shelter provided 52 percent more bed-nights in the last year compared to the year before. However, the Arizona Department of Economic Security cut its funding for the shelter by 67 percent.

Moreover, federal cutbacks eliminated $100,000 annually to support Time Out’s transitional shelter, which helps women and their children establish a new job and living arrangements after the immediate crisis passes.

Overall, the shelter suffered an additional 11 percent cut in grant funding this year on top of the major reductions last year. “What is interesting is that the contracts all have a statement which says, in essence, signing this agreement does not ensure the grant amount, which may be changed based on available funds at any time,” said Levee, who has struggled to cope with the abrupt funding changes by raising more money in the community and selling more donated items in the organization’s thrift store.

But the Wine in the Pines event in the big community room in the Payson Senior Center gave the organization a chance to set a different tone, with a host of people dressed up (for Payson) and enjoying the surprising variety of Arizona-grown wines and gourmet appetizers.

Most of the wines are carried locally at The Beverage Place, which also donated wines and services to the fund-raiser.

The Flying Leap Winery in Elgin brought a white Fverdelho with a tropical, flowery, citrus taste — plus a Grenache red spiced with raspberries and cloves.

The Dos Cabezas Winery in Sonita brought its well-established Dos Cabezas Red and a pin Grenache.

The Page Springs Cellars in Cornville brought the vividly named Mule’s Mistake, a blended red wine with an intriguing mix of Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Barbera, Grenach and Gewurtz. The white blend — Vino del Barrio Blanca — contained a similarly eclectic and distinctive mix.

The Arizona Stronghold Winery in Camp Verde brought both white and red wines named Tazi and Nachise — two sons of Cochise, the legendary Apache chief and war leader.

Participants roamed the room with glasses of wine, tippling from vineyard to vineyard and learning about the growing number of Arizona wineries, which must struggle with weather shifts like the summer monsoon and the unpredictable onset of the first frost that make the state a more challenging — and various — environment for grape growers.

The obliging wine growers offered participants an impromptu lesson in farming — and the artful science of blending wines.

For instance, materials on the Nachise rhone blend produced by the Arizona Stronghold winery noted that late frosts, the hot dry spring and the sudden rush of the monsoon sharply reduced yields.

“The hot and dry harvest period required close attention to be paid to the acid levels in the fruit as well as the brix levels to determine the harvest time. The heat has some positive effects on grapes by thickening the skin, but often leads to dehydration and acids leaching from the fruit. Acids seemed to be the primary metric driving our harvests in 2011,” concluded Director of Vineyard Operations Craig Martinesen.

Nonetheless, the wine offered at the wine tasting had a full, dry, faintly exotic taste, thanks to the overtones of plum, blackberry, anise, juniper and roasted mesquite.

The great variety of local wines and the clink of champagne gave a touch of class to the effort to raise money for an organization that must struggle with all too many grim, day-to-day realities.

The event also gave two local organizations that need help from donors a chance to cooperate, which grew out of regular meetings involving many of the charities in town.

“It is all about respect, honesty and trust in working with another not-for-profit,” said Levee. “Through the Executive Coalition, we have developed that trust — and all have the same belief that working together, whether with programs or fund-raisers, we can only benefit the entire community! So watch for more of these kinds of things.”

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