Remembrances of Reckless Youth

Silver Oak Cabernet

I found this bottle in my recycling yesterday. I was making my quarterly trip to the dump to leave behind my collected bottles. The Sixth Amendment of the Constitution required my presence at the County Courthouse, and I figured I’d swing by the recycling center at the county dump, as it is on the way. So I was filling one of those giant Costco vegetable boxes in the trunk of my car with bottles from the garage… and picked up this 2012 Silver Oak Cabernet. At an average price of $73.16 (according to an app on my phone) it does not fall within the realm of what this blog usually covers. Not even close. I did pick it up for a pretty good price (around $50 if I recall correctly) but that’s still out of scope. It was at a forgettable dinner at one of those restaurants whose view is far better than its fare. This particular evening even the view was obscured by clouds, so the sole highlight was seeing Silver Oak on the wine list at a hefty discount.

But it did trigger a long-dormant memory which I shared with my dining companions, and I’ll share with you dear reader…

Back in 1983/4 which was my Junior year in college, I was attending a large state University, which was over 500 miles from my parent’s home, so I didn’t see them all that often. By the time I had been in school for over two years, I’d developed a set of friends and activities that took me in directions away from my family for most breaks. I can’t recall if it was Thanksgiving, or Christmas break that year, but it was the final time that I actually made the drive there and back for the holiday. My appreciation of wine came to me honestly, via my father who has been a serious collector and drinker of fine wines for longer than I have been alive. My parents, bless them, have never had any hangups or overly strict rules about drinking for their kids. I can remember being offered wine with my dinners from a pretty young age. Mind you I didn’t like it, as kids palates are rarely up for the reality or sophistication of adult food and drink, so I usually passed. But as I grew to the adulthood I came to it with no taboos about booze. Contrast that to my fellow students in my Freshman year, where likely half of them came completely unhinged once out of their parental sphere of influence and control. The first semester of University was a non-stop party of sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, and of course cheap beer & booze. Ironically the town where my University is located was a “Dry” town back then. Yes, a vestige of post-prohibition religious control of local laws. A huge state University in a dry town… what could possibly go wrong? It is amusing to think back to those days, and the illusion (or perhaps delusion) that law and rule could somehow keep hormones and new-found freedom in check. The dormitories were segregated by gender (can’t say “by sex” because there was plenty of that going on!), alcohol was forbidden in these dorms, and you and to drive miles out of town to buy alcohol. (The edge of the “dry” part was clearly visible by the string of huge warehouse-sized, DRIVE-THROUGH liquor stores. You literally drove in, opened your trunk, told them what you wanted to buy, and they’d forklift it into your vehicle for you.) The dorms were basically sleeping/studying/drinking locations. My dorm room was on the ground floor, right by the back door. I saw all the contraband going in (booze, beer, girls), and out (girls mostly, very early in the morning and looking a lot less beautiful than they did going in.) I think by mid-terms of Freshman year a third of the students were beyond redemption with their GPAs and sent packing by Christmas… right back into their parental sphere of influence and control.


On my last post-holiday drive back to school, my wonderful parents gave me a parting gift: A case of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon.

Well, not a FULL case, but ten or eleven bottles. They told me that they’d had it for a few years, part of a multi case batch they acquired, and the bottles they had recently pulled from it were “off”… Not bad, but clearly declining from their peak. Having no recollection of the exact vintage; likely from the late 70s, all I do recall is exactly how thrilled I was to have this windfall of good stuff! I usually drank swill as a college student. Busch beer ($4 a case!) or Earnest & Julio’s “Hearty Burgundy” out of a jug. Landing most of a case of Silver Oak was like having that busty brunette be assigned as your lab partner.

I made the long drive back to school, with that case of Silver Oak bottles gently clinking away in the back of my VW Rabbit, me smugly smiling at the wheel… slowly proceeding at the strictly-enforced 55MPH speed limit. Having that back-door adjascent room made smuggling my contraband into the dorm a breeze. My memory of those wines is that all of them were amazing. Not a single one was “off” in any way. Only a couple of my dorm buddies were wine drinkers, but those guys descended on my room like locusts on Mormon settlers. No gulls came to save me. I hid a couple of bottles from the onslaught, but I doubt even those lasted until the end of the semester.

Je suis gormand.

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