The world is a different place than the one I grew up in. Back in my day you could get a little alcohol if you were under-aged and nobody really cared. In my home town we had a fire pit outside of town where us kids would all buy a Dixie cup and get all the beer that cup could fill in a night. The only rule was that you needed to stay there, and no fighting. The cops would show up occasionally if things got rough, but otherwise it was just a bunch of kids doing what kids do.
My first experiences of wine were before I was of age. I may be wrong, but the thought of the time was that wine was a drink that you enjoyed when you were a little more mature. If you were ready to drink wine responsibly, then you were old enough.
Fast forward to the world of today. Nowadays if you are a minor in possession, a minor who has consumed, or a business that sells to minors, then you are going to be in a lot of trouble. Such is the case of a few wineries from Walla Walla who got caught last week.
I’m not going to mention any names. Other news sources have, and I don’t want to continue the berating. The wineries will pay their fines, and in one case that I’m aware of, will lose an entire weeks revenues by having their doors closed.
I don’t want to get into a deep debate on whether alcohol and minors mix. I also don’t want to point fingers to where this became a problem during the past generation. I can only speak from my own experiences, and what I think is important to the development of a young individual’s ability to act responsibly in society.
When my generation was reaching the magical age of drinking, most of us had a few choices to make: Join the military, go to college, or get married and get a job. I took the college choice, but many of my friends went off to give their service to our country. Many others went right out and took the responsibilities of work and family right away.
This generation has a lot more choices and a lot less freedom to make those choices. Frankly, I think that personal responsibility is something that we’ve taken away from today’s late teen and early 20’s person. They are burdened with financial debt like no other generation, but can’t enjoy a beer after a hard day’s work. That is, if they can even find a job.
I understand that the insurance industry, lobby interests, and our own legislative ignorance and willingness to give our civil liberties away has played a big part in raising the bar on this issue. The long and short of it is that we need to accept that underage drinking is wrong, and take responsibility for stopping it.
What I think needs to happen is that we need the wine industry to step up to the plate. Self regulate between vintner associations. Do more education of winery staff on how to effectively card people, and the ramifications of not checking IDs. What’s more, if you as a customer are in an establishment and see people drinking that you know are underage say something. Don’t wait for the state officials to close your favorite winery down.