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 most important grape of the Northern Rhone Valley, Syrah is quickly becoming one of the most noted grapes planted in America. America's best bottlings hail from the Central Coast, Santa Barbara, Sonoma County and Napa Valley. Syrah displays a spicy blend of black pepper and raspberries, with dark fruit undertones; full-bodied with smoke, tar and tannins. It is made into a few magnificent varietally labeled wines, but is also often the base grape for Rhone-style blends. There are those who believe that the Napa Valley should be planted mostly to Syrah, for it thrives in warm growing regions. In Australia, where it is the most-planted red variety, and in South Africa, the grape is known as Shiraz. While viticulturally identical with Syrah, Shiraz grown in Australia is typically sweeter and riper, with more chocolately notes than pepper and spices.