California may be a single state in the USA - but as a wine producing state, it dwarfs every other state in the North American continent in terms of volume and immportance. With a huge number of AVA's (Approved Viticultural Areas - similar to France's Appellation Controlee regions), spread over an equally large number of climatically different areas and incorporating as wide a number of grapes as any European country, California pretty much offers everything to everyone. The first grapes were planted in the State in the 1700's, with commercial plantings in the 1850'.s Since then, with the exception of Prohibition, vine growing has been a major agricultural crop in the California's economy.
Arguably the kick start was the famous 1976 tasting, when Englishman Steven Spurrier hosted a blind tasting in Paris, where French wine critics gave their highest marks to not, as they thought, the top wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy etc, but in fact wines from Californian estates such as Stags Leap, Freemark Abbey, Heitz and Ridge. This tasting was subsequently repeated in 2006, and, much to the delight of the Americans, their wines were again highlighted equal, if not above, their French Rivals. Regions include the Napa Valley and Sonoma, home to great reds, with The Russian River, a cooler region benefiting from cool breezes, makeing outstanding Chardonnay. Further south, areas around the cool San Francisco bay make World Class sparkling wines. The state of California does have a volume region, lying between San Francisco and Los Angeles - here, the Central Valley stretches for mile after mile, home to vast undustrialised vine growing estates that produces hundreds of millions of litres of commercial and fair quality red, white and rose wines. Outside of this volume region, areas such as Mendocino, Monterey, Santa Cruz and Paso Robles, amongst others, confirm California's ability to shape great wines from these cool and climatically varied areas.