A Peek at the Drinking Habits of My Oregon Neighbors

The “Daily Constitutional” appears to be seeing a renaissance in the midst of our quarantined life. Here in our little neighborhood in Salem, Oregon, it’s not uncommon these days to see numerous families out taking their daily walk, usually in the late afternoon.

I enjoy the daily walk myself. But perhaps my favorite thing about getting out and taking a stroll is what I learn about my neighbors’ drinking habits.

Friday morning is garbage day. So, each Thursday we diligently put out garbage cans on the curb for the Friday morning pick up. However, every other Friday it’s the recycling pick up and here in this neck of the woods they implore us to put our glass in a smaller, low profile blue plastic bin that happens to be very easy to look into if you happen to be walking by.

Kathy, Henry and I are often happening to be walking by on Thursday. Boy…does our neighborhood like their wine.

Of course, some homes appear to like their wine more than others. Some, we have found have a profound fondness for vodka…moreover, they don’t appear to have loyalty to any one specific brand of vodka

But most of all, it’s about the wine. Knowing that we live in Oregon, you won’t be surprised to learn that my neighbors appreciate the likes of King Estate, A-Z Wineworks, Willamette Valley Vineyards and many of the other larger, better distributed and less expensive wines. I witnessed one neighbor who had such an affinity for Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir I started to wonder if I live in the same neighborhood as Jim Bernau.

Then there is the house that is clearly a fan of cheap Bordeaux. The $10 cheap Bordeaux bottles nearly overspilled the bin.

But my favorite discovery was the house where it was, again, an obvious affinity for wine (to the tune of at least one bottle per day). However, in this house they drank promiscuously from all over the wine map. I saw French, German, Californian, Oregonian and even a bottle of Port. It was impressive. I didn’t know the folks in this house, but I wanted to know them.

It’s probably a bit intrusive of me to purposefully observe the drinking habits of my neighbors. But it’s not like I’m dumpster diving. The little blue bins are without tops and really begging for me to take a gander. And it’s not like the neighbors didn’t know their bottles would go unobserved.

But would I care if folks were looking into my home’s drinking habits? When I took a close look last Thursday evening into my own blue bin it was confirmation of what I already knew: We just aren’t taking advantage of the Oregon Stay At Home order to drink more. It’s really kind of pathetic. In our own little blue bin for glass, I found an empty bottle Dehlinger Pinot, a pear cider empty (thank you! EZ Orchards), A couple of beer bottles and an odd Chardonnay and Cabernet empty. As I said, unimpressive. I’m working on it.


15 Responses

  1. Bill McIver - April 27, 2020

    Tom, Loved your story today. Here on Bainbridge Island, WA, if ours got dumped into a blue bin there would be a daily bottle of Washington red blends and a bottle of NZ Sauv Blanc every other day. A bottle and a half of wine everyday is healthy, right?

  2. Tom Wark - April 27, 2020

    Yes Bill. Dr. Wark says that a bottle and a half is VERY health!

  3. Jimmy Kawalek - April 27, 2020

    the most telling part is the lack of brand loyalty, even in beer. Price point shopping will continue to dominate for a LONG time and more “senior” drinkers will be emptying their cellars before adding more “premium” price point wines.

  4. Tom Wark - April 27, 2020


    I’d guess my neighbors are older than average. And I can report they are doing their part to empty something….If not their cellars, then their wine bottles.

  5. Pat Hellberg - April 27, 2020

    My neighbor has a nickname for it. She calls it “the bin of shame”. We always wait until after sundown to put ours out on the street.

  6. Tris Gates - April 27, 2020

    Our bins are a nice global mix, from my years living overseas and all my travels. I just put in an order at my local store for some West Coast wines. BTW, I no longer need that wine fridge I asked your advice on since my collection is dwindling…

  7. Jim Bernau - April 27, 2020

    Thank you for this fun story Tom. We offer 10 cents per wine bottle returned to the Willamette Valley Vineyards Estate Tasting Room from any producer and have since 1990. Since curb side recycling has been implemented by municipalities, we have seen a bit of a drop in empty wine bottles, we still get a fair number where wine enthusiasts spend their bottle bounty in the Tasting Room. Thank goodness Jan and I only have 110 feet to return our bottles!

  8. Al Scheid - April 27, 2020

    Tom, I read somewhere that people, esp. women, have taken up baking since they like to keep busy and there are so many TV cooking shows. So, half of our stay-at-home population is getting fatter, while the other half are becoming alcoholics. Sounds reasonable to me! – Al Scheid

  9. Moise Andreea - April 27, 2020

    It is literally best to stop drinking alcohol anywhere. I read it daily and I am also so grateful that I found https://bit.ly/2VGfiOo, it helped my friends to stop drinking, I hope it helps others!

  10. Tom Wark - April 27, 2020


    Is it lliterally best? Or just best to stop drinking alcohol?

  11. Alan Goldfarb - April 28, 2020

    So, this is what it’s come to.

  12. Tom Wark - April 28, 2020

    Oh, come on, Alan. You know you want to take a peek.

  13. Eric Awes - April 28, 2020

    Our blue bin would show cases of Grocery Outlet
    “Best Buy” wines 😁👏

  14. Tom Wark - April 28, 2020


    Which is much, much better than nothing, right?

  15. Helene - April 29, 2020

    Fascinating! If I had more time perhaps I would do a similar survey of our weenie bit of London. I’m sure all of you would have fun looking at our (personal) weekly recycling bin (or not). Apart from our daily consumption of diet coke and fizzy water, last week’s bottles of wine probably included Ridge Lytton Springs, Yering Station Elm Valley Chardonnay, Paolo Scavino Barbera, a Von Buhl Riesling and a Sankt Laurent from Thermenregion in Austria, if I recall correctly. Another week would be a completely different mix of countries regions and colours, usually around 4-5 bottles per week. And the mix depends on what I prepare for dinner. If it’s salads, then a Rose from Provence or the New World or our personal favourite Bruno Clair’s Marsannay Rose. Champagne gets a look in if it’s fish or seafood, of course, and Bordeaux, if dinner is lamb is an option, of course, and it is rare that we do not have something from the Rhone every week. In lock-down we are drinking from our cellar, but at the normal rate of consumption, not more, not less.

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