In 1979 there were very few vineyards planted in the Napa Valley area called Carneros. Most insiders thought the climate and soil conditions were too extreme for quality grape growing. With no natural barriers to protect it, Carneros receives the full brunt of stiff tidal winds blowing in from San Pablo Bay (the upper half of San Francisco Bay), dropping afternoon temperatures far below those a few miles north. Heavy fog frequently accompanies the wind, blocking essential sunlight and lowering temperatures even further.
Knowing the limitations of this micro-climate, 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. He has since 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 purchased from neighboring vineyards using the tractor shed and garage as a cellar. The wines were very well received and in a few years, Kent and his wife Celia Ramsay were running the business full time producing great Pinot Noir.
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 line of wines also includes a Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a Merlot. Kent's passion for making the lesser known varietal wines is now incarnated by way of a third label, Esoterica, where he's made Petite Sirah, various late harvest wines, and some port-style wines.
Since its modest beginnings, the Kent Rasmussen Winery has evolved into one of the most important Pinot Noir producers in the Carneros region.