California Wine, Napa Valley
Kent Rasmussen planted his first six acres of Carneros Pinot Noir in 1979. He added two acres in 1981 and two more in 1986. Before long the region gained prominence as word spread about the up-and-coming producers of Carneros, with Kent at the top. A quarter century later he has established an international reputation for growing and producing distinguished Pinot Noir, and Carneros is now considered one of the best growing regions in the world.
Kent's earliest plantings were suitably mature to start making ultra-premium Pinot Noir by 1986. He crushed about 10 tons of Pinot Noir and small amounts of other varieties, including Chardonnay, purchased from neighboring vineyards using the tractor shed and garage as a cellar. The wines were very well received and his company started to grow. In a few years, Kent and his wife Celia Ramsay were running the winery full time producing great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Starting in 1989, Kent and Celia launched a second brand, called "Ramsay" - Celia's maiden name - which was originally intended to focus on some 'less-than-usual' varietal wines. But as time passed, the Ramsay brand has taken on an entirely different identity, that of a true 'second label'. Best known for its high quality, but lower-price, Ramsay Pinot Noir is often poured by the glass in wine bars and restaurants. The Ramsay-brand line also includes a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Merlot.
Since its modest beginnings, the Kent Rasmussen Winery has evolved into one of the most important Pinot Noir producers in the Carneros region. The winery outgrew its tractor shed barrel room long ago and was forced to age its wines off-site. In 1995 a new winemaking facility, a former 1930s slaughterhouse, was established on the Silverado Trail in St. Helena. Refined over the years, it now houses business offices, an enology lab and lab tasting room, a wine library and upgraded production equipment. The modern crusher, press, tanks, catwalks, refrigeration systems, pumps, forklift and fruit sorter have greatly enhanced winemaking options. Grapes are now either estate grown or under long term contract with reliable growers. Looking toward the future, two acres of cabernet sauvignon and 250 olive trees were planted on the St. Helena property in 1999.