How Michele Ouellet Went from Model to Winemaker

The Napa Valley native shares how growing up in wine country created a path from fashion icon to founder/part-owner of Lorenza Wine Company.
Photo by Christopher Domurat

Raised in St. Helena, California, by wine-industry parents, Michele Ouellet was first scouted as a model in her teens, and soon worked in Paris, New York City and Los Angeles during school breaks. She moved to New York at age 18, and then returned to Napa Valley during the 2008 recession to launch Lorenza Rosé with her mom, Melinda Kearney. Now back in New York, Ouellet models for J. Crew, Madewell and Libertine.

How were you first introduced to wine?

I was born and raised in Napa Valley, so I don’t remember the first introduction, but I’m pretty sure there was Champagne in the delivery room.

“At the highest level, [fashion and wine] are both works of art that can instantly capture your heart.”

Was rosé a wine you were particularly fond of?

Yes, we love rosé. I spent my summers as a teenager modeling in Paris, and that’s when I really fell in love with it.

Describe Lorenza.

Super fresh, dry, delicate rosé, like Provence, but made in California. Lorenza is made from very old vines, picked in the first two weeks of August specifically for rosé.

Why do you think rosé makes us so happy?

Rosé has teleportation powers. One sip and it’s summertime, and you’re jumping off a boat into the Mediterranean Sea.

How do you work with your mom?

It’s a nice yin and yang. My mom has been working in the wine business for almost 30 years and has built a solid foundation for us. I add a fresh perspective. Together, we’re not locked into “the way it’s done” and have a lot of creative freedom. I’m there during harvest, blending, bottling. I love when we go on the road together to meet our customers, do events, sell wine and brainstorm.

How does winemaking balance out the life you lead as a model?

I love having another project that is stable, adheres to a schedule of sorts—nature’s time zone—and I am in the driver’s seat, along with my mom, of course. In modeling, I am at the center of someone else’s creative vision. It’s interesting to apply what I’ve learned in fashion to the wine business.

One-on-One with Supermodel Veronica Webb

What is your philosophy towards eating and drinking and how do you stay healthy?

Luckily I’ve got good genes—just look at my gorgeous mom! I enjoy being healthy and I naturally lean towards plant-based meals. My philosophy is to find high-quality, organic ingredients and eat a lot of them. I definitely indulge. I’m from Napa: There’s no way I am not going to eat and drink to my heart’s content. However, I won’t have more than a glass or two of wine the night before a shoot. Learned that lesson a long time ago.

What do beautiful wines and beautiful clothes have in common?

At the highest level, they are both works of art that can instantly capture your heart. I get the same feeling when I see a new piece I just have to have and when I take the first sip of an incredible wine.

Where are some of your favorite places to drink wine?

I love to cook dinner and drink wine at home with my friends from Napa. That feels so cozy and normal to me. In New York [City], I love Rebelle, Narcissa and Charlie Bird—all fun, unstuffy places to get great wine and food. I am a huge fan of Frasca in Boulder, [Colorado]. Pizzeria Locale next door is a must for lunch. In Paris, I love Septime. Brawn, Noble Rot and Clove Club are my London faves. When in Napa Valley, I love going to Solbar, Cadet and the new kid in town, Miminashi. We just got back from Australia, where the food is incredible. I highly recommend Harvest in Newrybar, New South Wales, and Mr. Wong in Sydney. In Mexico City, Contramar, legendary tuna sashimi tostadas to change your life.

What’s your go-to wine on date night?

I like to start with a crisp, clean white wine I’ve never heard of. From there, we go Pinot Noir, cru Gamay or Côte Rôtie.

Girls’ night out?

Champagne, and lots of it. Some of my favorites are Marie Courtin, Jacques Selosse and Robert Moncuit.

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Published on March 29, 2017
Topics: Wine & Fashion
About the Author
Virginie Boone
Contributing Editor

Reviews wines from California.

Contributing Editor Virginie Boone has been with Wine Enthusiast since 2010, and reviews the wines of Napa and Sonoma. Boone began her writing career with Lonely Planet travel guides, which eventually led to California-focused wine coverage. She contributes to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and Sonoma Magazine, and is a regular panelist and speaker on wine topics in California and beyond. Email:

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