Best New Wines from Washington State

The best red wines from Washington State continue to deliver uncommon varietal character, flavor intensity and freshness, as well as considerable early appeal. But in too many of the wines I've tasted in recent months, winemaking technique (including heavily extractive vinification and the use of lots of new oak) appears to have gotten in the way of expression of soil. Washington State last outstanding harvest was 1994, and it is entirely possible that in subsequent vintages many winemakers have been attempting to spin gold from flax. I tasted far too many wines that are inelegant, medicinal or downright gritty, with bitter, green notes, crude oak flavors, and tannins that are distinctly out of whack. A handful of experienced winemakers, however, continue to turn out superb, balanced wines, and all evidence suggests that they are doing this by favoring terroir over technique.