Ousterhout Wine & Vineyard
Alexander Valley AVA
Elegant single-vineyard wine is the Ousterhout Family trademark
Dr. Douglas Ousterhout never once thought he would end up being a part of the wine industry or much less owning a successful winery.
The recently-retired plastic surgeon (he stopped operating on his 80th birthday) and educator (Dr. Ousterhout served as Director of University of California’s San Francisco Medical School) provided an interesting story about his involvement with wine during a recent interview.
“When my wife and I decided to sell our home in San Francisco (the one used in filming the movie hit, Mrs. Doubtfire) we began looking for another one in the country. We were both quite fond of the Alexander Valley and its wines so we looked there. A beautiful Spanish-style home with an impeccable view was available and we jumped on it. The place sat on five acres that were planted in Zinfandel. The following year, the vineyard produced a great deal of fruit and the decision was made to try our luck in the wine business,” he related.
Now a youngish 84, Ousterhout is incredibly happy to be connected with wine. He offered another narrative related to the almighty grape.
“When I was younger, I suffered from Restless Legs Syndrome, or RLS. My mother also suffered from RLS. I noticed that after drinking wine for a period, the condition stopped. I discontinued drinking wine and the condition reappeared. Dr. Ousterhout continued, “I began drinking wine again and the RLS disappeared. I told my mother and the same thing happened to her. I wrote about my experience in the Western Journal of Medicine and was later quoted in a New Yorker piece as the person who discovered the wine relationship to RLS.
Ousterhout Wine and Vineyard made its debut in 2009 to a less than extraordinary beginning. “We were new to the business and used American oak on our first wines because it was less expensive. When the wines were finished, we all agreed the wine wasn’t very exciting. We made the change to French Oak and it made all the difference.
The rest of the story is too good to believe. From the original 400 cases, Ousterhout Wine and Vineyard has grown to around 2,500 annual cases. Its wines have received splendid reviews and numerous ninety-plus marks in both competitions and wine periodicals.
The five acres surrounding the Ousterhout family home has been renamed Nance’s Vineyard (Nancy’s Vineyard was already in use) in honor of Douglas’ wife Nancy. Many of the winery’s award-winning wines have originated in this vineyard.
Dr. Douglas Ousterhout credits his wife and winemaker Micah Wirth with developing the winning formula for their company. “Nancy has an excellent palate and wasn’t fond of high (15-17%) alcohol Zinfandels. She asked Micah if he could make one with less alcohol and more fruit. Micah agreed and the wine became our hallmark Zinfandel that has brought us so much critical acclaim.” A number of other wineries have opted to produce lighter alcohol Zinfandels and point to Ousterhout Zinfandel as their cause celebre in the process.
The back label of Ousterhout Wine and Vineyard proclaims, “Drink Wine - Sleep Well” and is a subtle referral to one of the problems of RLS, disturbing one’s sleep. Dr. Ousterhout also refers to the Golden Mean, the ratio of 1.618 to 1. This number reflects the relationship to perfection and beauty that is pervasive throughout nature, i.e., adjacent bones of the fingers, a chambered Nautilus, The Parthenon, The American Flag, and female facial beauty. Dr. Ousterhout used this ratio in his daily work of facial feminization, a field in which he was considered a leader. The Golden Mean symbol is the winery’s logo as found on each bottle’s label.
Winemaker Micah Wirth is given complete control over Ousterhout Wine and Vineyard’s portfolio that also includes wines made from a pair of highly-respected vineyards, Grist Vineyard (Dry Creek AVA) and Bucher Vineyard (Russian River Valley AVA).
“We chose these wonderful vineyards by the quality of fruit they produce. Great fruit produces great wines, and no one disputes that fact,” Ousterhout added.
Dr. Douglas Ousterhout seems a genuinely contented man. He enjoys the personal interaction of people who enjoy drinking wine and the ambiance that surrounds his home and winery in the Alexander Valley.
“We haven’t made much money with the winery,” he quipped. “But we certainly have enjoyed a lot of write-offs. I believe the wine business is fun and the people you meet are really great.”
It is with great pleasure that we introduce our Platinum Wine Club members to Dr. Ousterhout and his remarkable wines. Enjoy!
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
We are delighted that Gold Medal Wine Club has decided to feature our 2013 Alexander Valley “Nance’s Vineyard” Zinfandel. Nance’s Vineyard is perched on a hillside in southern Alexander Valley where it has close proximity to the Russian River. This allows for cooler mornings and nights, which are essential to growing grapes with higher acidity. Nance’s Vineyard is always producing fruit with bright flavors and characteristics that show off this beautiful piece of land and appellation. The Ousterhout Nance’s Vineyard Zinfandel has been rated the “Top Zinfandel of the Year,” three years in a row, and included in the “Top 100 Wines of the Year” by Wine & Spirits magazine.
Our winemaking goals are to create balanced, fruit-forward, un-fined, un-filtered food friendly wines that reflect the terroir on which the grapes are grown. All of our wines are made at our gravity flow (no pumps) facility in Healdsburg - a facility that is completely powered by solar energy. We take a gentler approach with our Zinfandels, using open top fermentation and push-downs rather than close top tanks and pump overs. We also use a tightly grained French Oak barrel program (for aging the wines) rather than American Oak, which is so typically used today. Putting these techniques together, we create a style of Zinfandel that is delicate, flavorful and balanced and one we are proud to call it our own.
We make several limited production, single-vineyard wines from some of the most sought-after fruit sources in Sonoma County.
Micah J. Wirth
Winemaker, Ousterhout Wine & Vineyard