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A Napa Valley-Born Model Blends the Catwalk and the Vineyards to Make Her Own Wine

Model and vintner Michele Ouellet, photo by Viktor Vauthier

Doing dirty vineyard work may not top the bucket lists of most fashion models, but St. Helena native Michèle Ouellet is no ordinary glamazon. The bicoastal 24-year-old has posed for the pages of Nylon, Vanity Fair, and Glamour and starred in campaigns for Madewell and Michael Kors, but she says she’s still a “diehard Napa girl” who grew up in a family of wine industry pros. Now Ouellet is blending her high fashion career and her homegrown Napa roots to produce a singularly stylish wine.

Launched in 2008, Lorenza Rosé is the passion project of Ouellet and her mom, Melinda Kearney. What was originally devised as a scheme to keep mother and daughter close while Ouellet was busy working in New York, the wine became a labor of love. “I fly back to be here from harvest to bottling,” she says. Lorenza (also the model’s middle name) was styled after the dry, blush wines of Southern France. The Bandol-style rosé, blended from Rhone varietals sourced from farms in Lodi, is a trendsetter in a region saturated with Cabernet. The wine is already getting top billing on lists at restaurants such as Thomas Keller’s Bouchon in L.A. and Fleur de Lys in SF. In the December 2009 issue of Food & Wine, it was selected as a staff favorite. This past February, Lorenza made its Vogue magazine editorial debut.

If being backed by a beautiful model weren’t story enough, Lorenza Rosé’s label is also an exhibit for chic photography and art. “I work with a lot of different photographers, and this was an opportunity to showcase that [collaboration],” she says. Ouellet and her mother commission a fresh photo for each vintage—the 2011 label, depicting Ouellet in a vintage hat and motorcycle jacket, was a joint effort between L.A. artist Van Alpert (Ouellet’s boyfriend) and London-based photographer Viktor Vauthier. Ouellet says the limited-edition artwork inspires drinkers to keep the bottles long after the wine is gone.

Grapes are currently being harvested for Lorenza Rosé’s 2012 vintage. “It’s exciting but also nerve-wracking,” she says. “Unlike in fashion, there is no retouching in winemaking.” Look for it in April 2013.

This article was published in 7x7's September issue. Click here to subscribe.