Can this be you in the not-too-distant future, ordering wine in a restaurant? \u201cMy friend will have the Plavac Mali, and I\u2019ll try a glass of the Argaman, thank you.\u201d Is it hard to believe that you would go for varietal wines from Croatia and Israel, respectively? Maybe, but if I\u2019d asked you the same question 15 years ago about Argentine Malbec, you might well have had the same dubious reaction.\r\n\r\nThis is an exciting time in the wine world, a self-generating whirlwind of experimentation and quality-consciousness on the part of winemakers and wine drinkers alike. The result is an American wine culture that is thriving as never before. This year, the United States overtook France as the largest wine-consuming nation by volume\u2014driven in part by our larger population, of course, but also by the astonishing interest in wine on the part of millennials.\r\n\r\nThe articles in this issue explore the many facets of this striving for quality, the willingness to experiment, the search for identity. The Russian River Valley is hardly unknown\u2014 its Pinot Noirs are among the most coveted in the land\u2014but as Steve Heimoff reports on page 38, winemakers in the valley are exploring the fine distinctions of climate and soil within that AVA, and fine-tuning their winemaking methods to pull the very best from the microclimates.\r\n\r\nWashington State\u2019s varietal reds and blends are of such high quality and consistency that Paul Gregutt, in his article on page 44, makes the argument that the rising stars of Washington State wine deserve the attention of Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers who are frustrated by the unattainability of socalled cult wines. You\u2019ll find some great red wine explorations in his profiles of these rising stars.\r\n\r\nIn terms of pure wine discoveries, we celebrate Croatia on page 62. Mike DeSimone and Jeff Jenssen present their tour of this little- understood country, which is remarkably vibrant and gorgeous with a thriving, historic wine and culinary culture. And on page 56, Assistant Tasting Director Lauren Buzzeo profiles the wines of Israel, where so many of the themes we\u2019ve discussed here come alive. As the winemakers identify the best varieties for the soil and climate, Israeli wines improve and a wine-drinking public, avid for education and innovation, responds.\r\n\r\nWhat is driving this trend toward quality? Competition, of course, but also pride of craftsmanship. Winemakers can make a good profit with wines that are just good enough, but instead they strive for excellence and thereby elevate the palates of this country\u2019s wine drinkers. It\u2019s the hallmark of our wine culture today.