California is so much more than beaches and Hollywood; pretty much all of the rest of the state is given over to agriculture, mountains and vineyards. What many people don’t realise about California is that it has a diverse range of terrains and climates which, together with the long coastline, make it a winemaker’s paradise!

The mountains, the coastal breezes and the different terrains all combine to make it the perfect place to grow vines.

The Mediterranean climate means a long growing season

Mediterranean doesn’t mean just hot and sunny; this type of climate means that there’s a wet season and a dry season. California only tends to get rain from October to March, which gives the grapes six long months to grow. Young grapes can be destroyed by rain in late spring and early summer, and if mold develops after rain, the vines can rot, which will also destroy that year’s growth. The six months of dry weather means the grapes are pretty safe for their entire growing season. In addition to this, winemakers tend to harvest early to avoid the grapes soaking up the October rains that can dilute the flavors.

The mountains mean different soils and microclimates

California’s mountains act as barriers and wind tunnels to protect the grape regions from potentially damaging extremes of weather. Napa and Sonoma benefit from their mountains, which help to contain early morning mists over the vines, keeping them cool during heatwaves. Then further north, the elevations mean wide temperature shifts between night and day, which slows down ripening and makes for more complex flavors.

Then there’s the old volcanoes and tectonic movements that have led to California’s unique soil characteristics. They have also made microclimates that let grapes grow well in areas that otherwise would be too cold and windswept. Put all this together and you’ve got the perfect environment – or range of different environments – for all the amazing wines that come out of California.

The coastline provides the aircon

California’s huge coastline brings in cool breezes to what would otherwise be a desert region. There’s those morning fogs in Sonoma and Napa that stop wee young grapes from shrivelling, then along the central coast, the cool winds are brought in through the hills to help the Pinot Noir grow like a dream. Perfect!