Consistency in climate is one of the prime factors for making good wines from year to year. Washington has not had dramatic swings in temperature or catastrophic wind and rain for weeks at a time. Not so with countries such as France, where massive rainstorms two years ago flooded the vineyards and made for some substandard wines.
In the past 10 years, many Washington grape growers and winemakers will point to the 2005 vintage as one of their favorites, along with 2003. The 2005 red wines are coming on the market now.
Kevin Corliss, director of vineyard operations for Ste. Michelle Estate Winery, has been in the vineyards of Eastern Washington for 25 years. In all that time, he has not seen a massive crop failure.
"We have our challenges with winter snow, and sometimes early frost, but nothing like other countries, where the weather heavily damages the crops," Corliss says.
With Washington wines, the differences are more subtle from year to year. It is something to keep in mind when ordering a wine at a restaurant and the waiter wants to substitute a different vintage.
"It is more important to know the producers in Washington, the consistent ones," says Corliss. "Even in an average year, a good winemaker can make good wines. In our state, that is as important as the vintage."