The state’s 2014 wine harvest was record-setting — warm, early and abundant — and it already has produced a superb vintage of reds.

Share story

BY THE TIME all the grapes were harvested in 2014, it was a record year for the Washington wine industry. It was the warmest year — since surpassed by the 2015 vintage — and it was the largest ever, at 227,000 tons.

Grape growers and winemakers rejoiced.

Unlike 2013, which featured an extraordinary amount of harvest rain from a typhoon, the 2014 harvest season was close to perfect. Because it was such a warm year, everything was early. The first tiny leaves began to appear in late March instead of early April, and the grapes began to change color in late July instead of early August. As a result, harvest began a couple of weeks early, and weather never became a factor. By the time the last grapes were gathered on Halloween, everyone was happy.

Three from 2014

Barnard Griffin 2014 Rob’s Red Blend, Washington, $14: This merlot-leading blend is loaded with aromas and flavors of milk chocolate, black cherry and vanilla. It is backed by approachable tannins and a long finish.

Canoe Ridge Vineyard 2014 The Expedition merlot, Horse Heaven Hills, $15: Using estate grapes, this Walla Walla winery has crafted a delicious red filled with classic aromas and flavors of black pepper and ripe dark fruit.

Snoqualmie 2014 ECO cabernet sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $13: Using organic grapes, winemaker Joy Andersen has put together a delicious and affordable cab with notes of spicy dark fruit and layers of complexity in the finish.

“This has been the most pleasurable season I’ve experienced,” said Kevin Corliss, vice president of vineyard operations for Ste. Michelle Wine Estates. “We really couldn’t ask for better weather.”

While temperatures were hot, they did not appear to negatively affect the grapes. The fruit ripened, then the fall weather cooled enough to give winemakers time to leave it on the vines a little longer to develop more complex flavors. With no drama from the weather, it could not have been much more ideal.

Now we are just beginning to see the results, as a few 2014 red wines are being released. They’re still quite young, but they are showing the promise we all saw during that harvest two years ago.

The wines are revealing ripe but balanced flavors, and there is little indication of flabbiness that often is associated with a vintage that is traditionally too warm. Will 2014 turn out similarly to 1998, when Washington wines were delicious upon release but rarely showed longevity in the cellar? That remains to be seen, but I like what I see so far.

On store shelves, we are beginning to find a few 2014s for sale, though the majority of Washington wineries still are releasing 2013s (and even some stellar 2012s). Expect an avalanche of 2014s to hit wine shops a year from now.

So far, it appears to be a vintage with a lot to love.