Lorenza Rosé, the most talked about pink wine in Napa, is produced by this mother-daughter duo
“Michelle always says the nicest things,” observes Melinda Kearney with a sweet smile. The mother-daughter winemaking duo behind Lorenza Rosé took part in a Zoom interview with TZR and this is the first of several heartfelt exchanges between the two throughout the conversation. It is also one of many indicators that their business partnership is, in many ways, unique.
Michèle Lorenza Ouellet and her mother Melinda founded the company in 2008, but the origins of the brand go back further. “I grew up in Napa Valley, immersed in the food and wine industry,” says Ouellet. She was raised next to Mustards Grill, an iconic restaurant in the Valley for more than 30 years, and her parents, both in the wine and restaurant worlds, came to Napa on business just before she was born. “At 15, I was scouted to become a model and sent to Paris and that’s where I discovered rosé,” she adds.
At that time in the United States, the sickening associations of rosé with white zinfandel meant that very few restaurants served it and few (if any) people took it seriously. “When I was growing up, it wasn’t really part of the culture like it is today. And so when I was in Paris and everyone was drinking rosé for lunch during our shoots, I was like that this, I am in love with this wine. It really sparked something in me and sparked an emotional reaction,” Ouellet says. The wine in question was a dry, crisp rosé made in the style of Provence – vibrant acidity, low alcohol content and a pale pink hue.
“So I came back thinking, I’m fabulous, I’m French, I drink roséshe jokes. “But what it really did was that my mum and I came up with the idea of creating something together a few years later when I was almost 21. It was a way for us to stay connected and a way to do something very grounded, connected. with the land and the seasons, and of course, connected with my family and my home in California.
It was to Melinda’s delight that her young daughter returned with a keen interest in the family business. “It was a great idea to pass on information and something we could do together,” Kearney says. “There were timing issues – like she was 16 [laughs]. So we put it on hiatus for about five years and when she was 20 we picked the first grapes and made the wine and then we released it when she was 21.
Fast forward to now and not only is Lorenza Rosé a well-regarded success, but the wine category as a whole is booming. “It’s clear that rosé is everywhere now, it’s a must. But back then it was like, you girls are completely crazy, you are only going to make rosé? It was an interesting choice and I’m really happy that we did what we were passionate about,” said Ouellet. The introduction of more lively rosé styles (like that of Lorenza) and an ongoing fascination with French culture are major factors that play into the success of this wine, but it hasn’t been easy. “We wanted to change people’s perceptions of what a Californian rosé could be,” says Ouellet. “There was a lot of education, especially on the consumer side in those early years. But then, of course, boom – everyone loves rosé now.
Like all other small business owners, Ouellet and Kearney wear many hats. “During the harvest, everything is on deck,” says Ouellet. These are some of her favorite days, she tells TZR, with long, tiring and ultimately rewarding hours in the vineyard and in the cellar. “We have complementary skill sets,” Kearney says. “Michèle has an incredible palette, by the way. And she’s just super talented. I really admire her and need her in our company.
It turns out that Ouellet feels the same way about his mother. “I look up to my mom as a boss – I’m so inspired by her,” she says. “Besides, everyone falls in love with my mother. When we are on the road, everyone is so in awe of her; she has so much expertise in this industry and everyone respects her so much and she’s just…she’s a queen! I LOVE her.” It is this kinship and this admiration that has united them for (almost) 15 years through Lorenza Rosé. “Michèle is extremely brilliant and very balanced and wise – extremely wise with matters of the heart, friendship and human interaction,” Kearney explains. “He’s a multi-faceted person.”
Some of their happiest moments together are those aforementioned long days in the vineyard during the harvest. “I have a very vivid memory,” Kearney says. “We had been picking up all night and the sun had come up and we were covered in dust and dirt and we were walking down an avenue between the vines towards the car and I looked at it and I just said: can you believe what we do? We are the luckiest. Their hard work, she shares, has always been in pursuit of something bigger. “I always think about the number of wine glasses we’ve created in 15 years and the intention – sometimes it’s love, sometimes it’s connection, but we always have a theme every year and that helps to focus on our work.”
“I can’t imagine doing it with anyone else,” Ouellet says of his partnership with his mother. “It’s unique. Not everyone can work with their mom or their daughter and those are those times when we get pushed to the edge of exhaustion or whatever and I’m always so happy to have my mom by my side in those times when you You can just relax, grab a burger, or hit the hot tub. These are good memories. »
Although the harvest won’t be for several months, the Lorenza Rosé gang is still enjoying past vintages for Mother’s Day with an array of delicious bites (fun fact: rosé is an extremely versatile wine accompaniment). “I love Lorenza with a crudo, it’s just the perfect thing,” shares Ouellet. “We made a scallop crudo the other day with shiso leaves and shaved frozen strawberries and it was absolutely insane.” She’s also spotted shishito peppers at the farmer’s market lately, another fun idea for small bites. “I heat up a super hot cast iron skillet and smack them with oil and flaked sea salt and it’s the perfect salty snack,” she adds. “We love pairing Lorenza with savory and maybe a little spicy dishes. And a dry rosé like Lorenza can literally pair with anything, so the world is your oyster – I mean, take it with oysters!
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