“When I was 19 my parents approached me while I was living and modeling in NYC. They said- why don’t you have your own wine? You are from St Helena. Everyone in Napa works in wine and food. It’s only natural to get into it. So I said okay, lets do it!” It was with that simple interaction that Michele Ouellet decided that she would create her own Rose Wine. Since the stunning brunette has always favored the pink variety it seemed the right fit. “I started modeling when I was really young and spent a lot of time in Paris. Since there isn’t really a drinking age there, I was drinking Rose at like fifteen, sixteen. I would send texts to my mom, things like “look at this beautiful rose!” She would respond like any mom, “What are you doing??!” But I think she secretly loved it. So when we decided to make our own wine, I wanted to do something fun. Lorenza (after the models middle name) is something that you can always enjoy casually and not over analyze. It’s accessible… I mean we have a twist off cap! I am all about a twist off. That way you can really bring the bottle anywhere, which I do!”
“My parents were in the restaurant business in Colorado before I was born. They wanted to be in the center of food & wine in America so they moved to Napa Valley. My dad ran a restaurant called Mustards Grill. We grew up next door, so my dad was there 24 hours a day. When I was little, I had a white platinum blonde bob and I was really bossy. I would walk across the Vineyard to the restaurant and hang out with my dad. I got to take school off and work in the kitchen when I was a bit older. I was always eating in restaurants, I mean before I could talk, so my childhood definitely shaped my future as a food and wine lover.”
“My parents started their own brand of wine when I was younger so they have always been in the industry.” Michele’s mother does branding and marketing for smaller cult wines so has been a dream partner in Michele’s Rose endeavor. “She is very brilliant.” She boasts. “Working with my mom is the best. I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else. Its natural and for the most part we are on the same page.” As for Michele, the model speaks eloquently about the processes, grapes, vines and notes, proving she herself has become quite learned. But she admits, the learning process is never ending. “In the wine world you are learning until the day you die. I have some amazing mentors and am constantly wanting to learn more and more and more!”
Michele learns about wine through a very hands on approach. “We are heavily involved during the whole process- in the vineyards, testing the grapes during the growing season. We purchase the grapes from a few different growers in Lodi. They have all the Rhone varietals that we love. We go out there and meet with these old farmer guys who look at us like “who are you?” she laughs. It’s a Rhone blend made out of old vines, 60-100 years old to be exact…” she smiles. This year, I came back from Brazil from a shoot, and the next day we were bottling. This was my first time being the boss lady at bottling. So it was just me and the crew of all the guys. When the wine is ready to go, it comes in on a trailer with a big tank and on the inside is this crazy maze. You have a line that goes to the tank…” She describes the bottling process with exaggerated hand motions and makes “squish” sounds to mimic the sound of the machines. “It’s really cool looking and it’s fun! My biggest job is at the end. I put the wine into the cases and seal them with this really scary big glue thing. Then at the very end you twist all the bottles to see if there are any wrinkles on the label and make sure everything looks right.” The label itself showcases Michele’s modeling finesse, featuring the beauty posed against an Americana themed background. “A friend of mine took that picture. I used to wear that mask all the time for like a whole year. I lost it and I was heartbroken. I would wear it almost everyday when I was living out here!” She laughs. “It was taken after I was bowling at Chelsea Piers.”
Since deciding on the photo that would appear on the bottle, Michele has not only acted as creative director of the brand, but also remained its number one fan. “I really don’t go anywhere without it. Like I had a bottle today and didn’t really know what to do with it, but I always have a bottle, or two! I bring it to all my shoots, on location and if it’s easy enough I bring it to the studio. In Napa where I am from, I love to drink it outdoors. On a river or a lake, on the beach, on boats, everywhere! We also drink it year round. We call it “all the time wine”. It goes with everything. The wine is not sweet, it’s bone dry, so I like to drink it with anything savory; like Fried Chicken and Rose or Rose with Truffle Fries, anything salty really.”
“My Favorite thing about being in Wine is that I like having something tangible. It’s the most beautiful medium to work with. It’s so different yet so similar to the Fashion World so I love the balance that it brings me. It’s cool because you make exactly what you want to drink and you can always bring something you made anywhere you go. As a model you collaborate with people to make beautiful pictures, but I am not going to show up to a dinner party with a magazine!” she laughs. “It’s really scary because its all your eggs in one basket but it’s cool. They have similar sensibilities- branding a wine and being in Fashion. I love them equally. You can think about it like when I go on “Ride-withs” which is when you go to different restaurants to have them taste the wine-its like going on castings, You hope they book you!
Find Lorenza Rose Here!