California started harvesting grapes in the 18th century, but the Golden State really became a global winemaking celebrity in 1976. That year California wines entered the infamous Judgment of Paris blind wine tasting competition, surprising the wine world by beating French wines in both red and white wine categories.
In the 1970s, production and sales of California wines reached record levels. To meet growing demand, new vineyards were planted. European wineries and winemakers offered their own form of flattery by purchasing vineyard land and joining the California wine industry. Vintners from France, Germany, Italy, Spain and many other countries are now part of California’s wine industry.
Abundant sunshine ensures a consistent and long grape growing season, along with a diverse terroir which supports a multitude of winegrape varieties and surprising flavour variation within them. California's 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) of rugged coastline expose nearby vineyards to natural "air conditioning" in the form of fog and breezes, making for exceptional Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and other cool climate varieties. Warmer interior valleys receive the same cooling effect thanks to rivers, lakes and deltas. Meanwhile, vines planted along the hillsides get a fine mixture of cooling air and bright, unfiltered sun-conditions that Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were born to love.