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. Regularly described as being the grape varietal responsible for producing the world's most romantic wines, Pinot Noir has long been associated with elegance and a broad range of flavors The name means 'black pine' in French, and this is due to the fact that the fruit of this particular varietal is especially dark in color, and hangs in a conical shape, like that of a pine cone. Despite being grown today in almost every wine producing country, Pinot Noir is a notoriously difficult grape variety to cultivate. This is because it is especially susceptible to various forms of mold and mildew, and thrives best in steady, cooler climates. However, the quality of the fruit has ensured that wineries and vintners have persevered with the varietal, and new technologies and methods have overcome many of the problems it presents. Alongside this, the wide popularity and enthusiasm for this grape has ensured it will remain a firm favorite amongst wine drinkers for many years to come.