Cultivating vines on an 11,000-foot (3,353-meter) active volcano may sound unorthodox, but Sicily has always been fertile ground for innovators. (Oh hello, Archimedes.) Etna’s rocky soil, unpredictable climate and occasional, free-flowing lava create terroir-driven wines that inspire terms like spicy, stony, floral, lean, and minerally. Indigenous red grapes such as Nerello Cappuccio, Nero d’Avola, and Nerello Mascalese have quickly become sommeliers’ darlings worldwide, and inventive Etna winemakers are now taking on white varieties like carricante and even riesling as well. Viva la rivoluzione!
Mendocino County, California
Nearly 100 miles north of San Francisco, and surrounded by low-slung mountains and sky-high redwoods, California’s Anderson Valley is the kooky Rayanne Graff to Napa's high-achieving Brian Krakow. Local vintners, many of whom still speak the area's 200-year-old Boontling dialect, offer affordable—and often free—tastings of home-grown pinot noir, chardonnay and gewurztraminer. Thirty local wineries include folksy, family-run plots; Goldeneye, a boutique pinot noir label run by Napa's own Dan Duckhorn; and Roederer Estate, a stateside sparkler whose French parent company produces Cristal Champagne.
Craggy mountains, fiercely independent locals (Napoleon, unsurprisingly, was Corsican), and divergent agricultural conditions make Corsica's wines utterly distinct from their French or Italian brethren. Viticulture is relatively new here, so a fresh generation of winemakers seek to preserve more than 40 ancient, indigenous grapes, many of which were nearly extinct. Consider sciaccarellu, a red grape that resembles Italy’s mammolo and produces elegant, easy-drinking bottles that inspire the moniker “Corsican pinot noir.” White wines made from vermentinu, a local grape similar to French rolle, can be alternately dry, stony, mineral-rich, citrusy, and even smoky.
Slovene Littoral (Primorska)
The rolling green hills of Slovenia’s western wine region share a border and, in some cases, centuries-old vines with northeastern Italy's wine-loving Friuli-Venezia Giulia. In Brda, a particularly picturesque Slovenian subregion, local labels use ancient techniques to cultivate sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and ribolla gialla, as well as local varieties like vitovska grganja, pinela, and zelen. And, unlike most modern producers, Slovenian winemakers do not always immediate separate the skins from juiced white grapes, resulting in tannic, occasionally amber-toned "orange" wines with all-natural funk.
Los Angeles County, California
Los Angeles’ northern neighbor may be better known for palatial celebrity estates than agricultural pastorals, but the microclimate created above the coastal fog in the Santa Monica Mountains makes Malibu surprisingly suited to viticulture. Many of the city’s boutique producers are not zoned to make wine on-site, so they partner with winemakers along California’s coast to bottle Malibu-grown chardonnay, viognier, muscat, grenache, and merlot grapes. Winemakers at more than 50 independent vineyards pour their wares at tiny tasting rooms and humble backyard plots throughout the city, and weekend or day trips to “Malibu wine country” are increasingly popular among in-the-know Angelenos.
Although western Canada’s winelands include five distinct growing regions spanning nearly 10,000 acres, British Columbia wine still feels like an insider’s secret. This is in part due to its youthfulness: in 1990, the region had only 17 wineries, today there are around 200. The area has diverse growing environments, “old-vine” plantings plus new-breed blends, and, in the case of Black Hills Estate Winery, the quiet involvement of one Jason Priestley. Top labels like Mission Hill Family Estates, Nk'Mip Cellars, and Cedar Creek Estate Winery cultivate everything from pinot gris, gewurztraminer, and chardonnay to pinot noir, pinot franc and, most recently, syrah.
Move over, Malbec. Uruguay’s tannat grape shares certain biographical data with the Argentinian superstar (both lush reds were first imported to the New World from southwestern France in the 19th century), but the Uruguayan up-and-comer has a darker, riper kick, and unequivocal underdog cache. The country as a whole produces less than 100 million liters of wine per year (approximately the same output as one large Argentinean winery), but international winos on two sides of the Atlantic already sing tannat’s praises. Now, eight vineyards spanning 1,000 acres (405 hectares) in the sunny Carmelo wine region have created a boutique tannat boom, with family-run vineyards bottling world-class, small-batch Uruguayan tannat.
Snake River Valley
Just 150 miles outside of Boise National Forest, new-wave vintners are planting riesling, malbec, syrah, viogners, and more in a rolling rift valley in Idaho (no seriously, Idaho). In the last decade, the number of in-state wineries has jumped from 11 to 50. For those with clear eyes and an open heart, Snake River Valley invites comparisons to Spain’s rioja region, with its dry, high-desert climate, altitudes ranging from 1,500 to 3,000 feet (457 meters to 914 meters), and tangy tempranillos aplenty.
Not for the faint of heart, Santorini wines have names that can intimidate thirsty anglophones ("Pass the Sigalas assyrtiko, would you?"), and exceedingly uncommon varietals are alternatively floral, full-bodied, tannic, spiced, or nearing extinction. Big fat Greek wine glasses runneth over with ancient, medium-bodied red grapes such as mandilaria and mavrotragano, but Santorini's crisp white stunners are more frequently exported internationally. Indigenous varietals like athiri, aidani, and the aforementioned assyrtiko have quickly become global favorites for their balanced minerality and crisp acidity (a result of Santorini's volcanic terroir), as well as exceptional pairing potential and modest price point. Opa, indeed.