Model and vintner Michele Ouellet radiates good vibes.
Born and raised in Napa Valley, she has spent her life surrounded by good wine and, back in 2008 (when Rosé was definitely not cool in the US), she and her mom, the lovely Melinda Kearney, started making their own: a Provence-style rosé from California called Lorenza.
As the popularity of rosé has grown, and thus their production, so has Michele’s busy modeling career. It would seem that this is a lot to juggle, but she manages it all with the utmost grace and ease.
We met Michele when we started Yes Way Rosé, and she has become a dear friend and incredible supporter. Hoping always that some of her awesome will rub off on us, it’s with great pleasure that we spoke to her about how she prepares for rosé season, stays grounded amidst the madness and "Lives the Process."
Erica Blumenthal: To start, please tell the world why you love rosé so much?
Michele Ouellet: Rosé makes people happy! Besides the obvious, it’s food-friendly, versatile, light, fresh, crisp and the best way to up the happiness level in your life.
EB: What is your rosé-making process?
MO: Our process has been consistent since we started making rosé in 2008, and it’s very important to us. We make true rosé from old vines, so the grapes are harvested exclusively for rosé. This is not an afterthought. We watch the ripening carefully all summer, then handpick in early August when the fruit is very alive and fresh! (Our favorite time of year!) Then, we press the clusters and cold ferment the pink juice from the four varietals that we use (Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Carignane and Grenache) in separate stainless steel tanks. When the wine is completely dry, we make our blend. Last step before release is bottling, which takes place in December.
EB: Do you have any superstitions about it?
MO: We always bless the grapes during harvest by pouring a bottle of our previous vintage over the first lot of grapes that comes in! Good juju.
EB: You are always on the go between modeling and winemaking—how do you stay grounded?
MO: “On the go” is my natural state at this point! I try to meditate as much as possible. Oddly, I find it easier to get into a meditation routine when I'm on the road. When I get home to New York, I try to go straight into my favorite forms of exercise: Soul Cycle, Pilates, yoga, ballet barre and bike riding. I have a lovely group of girls here in New York who I grew up with in Napa, and we love to do family dinners, which really makes me feel cozy and at home!
EB: This time of year starts the high season for rosé. How do you balance all of the fun with staying in shape and eating right?
MO: I stick to vegetables and fish, which keep me on a healthy track. I love cooking with friends and drinking wine and having fun dinners at home. Equally, I love to dine at the amazing restaurants that carry Lorenza and taste a lot of different wines. So, to balance that, I'm pretty religious with my Pilates classes with my guru Leyna Noel at Flesh and Bone.
EB: Because at times they are unavoidable, do you have a good hangover cure?
MO: Thank God I'm not in the tequila business! Because we harvest so early, our wine is very low alcohol. It comes in at 11.4%, so you can definitely drink a bottle and be in pretty great shape the next day. I'd dare to say you'd feel better than ever. If you've had a reeeeeally good night, the most important thing is to eat right away. Everything bagels with cream cheese and avocado are my fixer of choice. Maybe you need to have two. Depending of what the rest of your day looks like, I suggest a shot of Fernet or a Bloody Mary with a beer back. My dad says, “It's medicinal.”
EB: How do you plan to enjoy Lorenza this summer?
MO: At beach bbqs, rooftops, pool parties, picnics in the park and everywhere else where people are having a ball. I’m looking forward to sharing with friends and celebrating our favorite time of year. I'm spending the end of the summer in Ibiza, so I'll be bringing a couple cases there too! Yes Way Rosé!
EB: As a winemaker, what does it mean to you to Live The Process, and why is that important?
MO: It's all about the process for us. Lorenza is about authenticity and that's why we work so hard to make the finest wine we can. No shortcuts are taken, and we think that’s reflected in the glass and in the amazing support we have received from some of the top palates in the biz.