California as a wine producing region has grown in size and importance considerably over the past couple of centuries, and today is the proud producer of more than ninety percent of the United States' wines. Indeed, if California was a country, it would be the fourth largest producer of wine in the world, with a vast range of vineyards covering almost half a million acres. The secret to California's success as a wine region has a lot to do with the high quality of its soils, and the fact that it has an extensive Pacific coastline which perfectly tempers the blazing sunshine it experiences all year round. The winds coming off the ocean cool the vines, and the natural valleys and mountainsides which make up most of the state's wine regions make for ideal areas in which to cultivate a variety of high quality grapes. Carneros is one of California's key wine producing regions, situated close to the Pacific coast. Although Carneros is relatively young, having been first used for viticulture in the 1940's, it has proven to be a highly successful region, capable of growing high quality grapes and producing wines of real character and distinction. Unlike many other regions of California, Carneros is considerably cooler, and benefits from the tempering effect of Pacific fog on the vineyards. As a direct result of this, Carneros wineries are able to produce fine grape varietals which require cooler temperatures, such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – grapes perfect for the sparkling wines the region has become famous for. However, plenty of still red and white wines are made in the region, from a wide array of grape varietals. The sparkling wines of Champagne have been revered by wine drinkers for hundreds of years, and even today they maintain their reputation for excellence of flavor and character, and are consistently associated with quality, decadence, and a cause for celebration. Their unique characteristics are partly due to the careful blending of a small number of selected grape varietals, most commonly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These grapes, blended in fairly equal quantities, give the wines of Champagne their wonderful flavors and aromas, with the Pinot Noir offering length and backbone, and the Chardonnay varietal giving its acidity and dry, biscuity nature. It isn't unusual to sometimes see Champagne labeled as 'blanc de blanc', meaning it is made using only Chardonnay varietal grapes, or 'blanc de noir', which is made solely with Pinot Noir.