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.
Viognier, an exotic, elusive varietal, originally comes from the Northern Rhone Valley of France, and has captured the fascination of the U.S. wine-drinking public. At its finest, it is full-bodied and nearly golden in color, with a haunting bouquet of peaches, apricots and pears, and a floral quality like no other wine in the world. Many vintners are trying their hand at this varietal, spreading from its American beginnings in Napa Valley and Santa Barbara County to wineries as far away as Virginia. Marsanne and Rousanne, two other important varieties from the Rhone Valley are making waves in the U.S., particularly on the Central Coast of California.