One of the earliest proponents of rosé, Michael Romano is introducing the East End to his own vintage, Maison Belle Claire.
Michael Romano at Dockers Waterside with his own Maison Belle Claire rosé, which is now sold all over the Hamptons.
During the Hamptons summer, rosé is ubiquitous. People are drinking it on the beach, in restaurants, over dinner at home. But as Long Island-based wine distributor Michael Romano will tell you, it wasn’t always that way. He made the Hamptons fall in love.
Romano grew up drinking wine in an Italian family. He was introduced to rosé at a young age, but was dismayed that the only type you could find in New York was “pink, soda pop-y” white Zinfandels. When he was old enough to travel on his own, he headed to Provence to chase the wine he loved. “I couldn’t believe how world class it was,” Romano says. “They weren’t drinking white wine, they weren’t drinking red, they weren’t drinking beer. They were all drinking rosé.”
After two years of haggling, he had 200 cases of a popular southern French brand, Château Minuty, shipped to the Hamptons. It sold out within two weeks, with his main buyer being André Balazs’s Sunset Beach. From there, the word spread. Other restaurants and retail shops in the Hamptons wanted it. Then Manhattan wanted it. Then people from all over the world wanted it. “And it all started on Shelter Island,” Romano marvels.
Now, Château Minuty is distributed by spirits giant Diageo, so Romano has another project: his own brand of rosé named Maison Belle Claire, with a more prestigious version just released. It is available all around the Hamptons, in 18 US states, and in places like St. Barth’s, St. Maarten, and Aruba. “I created a tremendous monster, but it’s a great monster,” he says. “With my own brand, I’m going to have another world fire going on.”