Produce mavens might disagree, but wine shows terroir (the effect of where it's grown) to a more appreciable degree than carrots or cauliflower.
In the past few decades we've become more and more curious (or is it obsessed?) about where our food and beverage products come from. We're no longer satisfied with homogeneous pre-processed foods that look and taste just alike from coast to coast. Now restaurant menus list not only the ingredients of each dish, but the origins of those ingredients as well. It's not enough to know that you're eating green beans - you have to know which state they came from, and preferably which county and even which farm.

This is a good thing - up to a point. But I have to say, I'm tired of menus knee-deep in descriptions explaining the origin of every leaf of baby arugula in my salad. Too much information. Lots of rustic European menus simply list "trout" or "lamb," without even telling you how it's cooked; you let the chef worry about things like that. How many people have palates honed enough to appreciate the difference between lettuce grown in Mendocino and lettuce grown in Monterey?

Wine, however, is another story. As winemakers and vineyardists continue to explore the possibilities of America's various viticultural regions, we're going to see more and more closely defined appellations - areas with noticeably individual characteristics. Here are wines from three of the country's newest official AVAs (American Viticultural Areas).

Waterbrook Merlot Red Mountain, Washington State 1999 ($15)