Most people dream of quitting their day job to be on TV. ABC's The Bachelor Ben Flajnik says his reality star turn is a means to an end: His heart is in winemaking. (He auditioned for The Bachelorette originally as a way to pursue winemaking full-time). After his proposal was turned down last season, he was cast as the The Bachelor, where a lot of well-coiffed ladies angle for his attention (and date cards and roses).
Forget those picturesque horseback-riding dates in Park City, Utah, or dance-offs on Ellen or guest shots on The Chew with Mario Batali, what Flajnik says he really wants to do is make Sonoma Valley wine, along with middle-school friends Danny Fay and Michael Benziger (of the Benziger Family Winery clan). The roommates and business partners were in Los Angeles recently for promotional appearances and to set up new outlets for Envolve Winery, their Sonoma Valley winery that is sourced primarily from organic and biodynamic vineyards.
Envolve Winery is just finishing up the release of its fourth vintage. To celebrate, and just in time for Valentine's Day, there's a launch party for the Sonoma Mountain Rosé (pressed from Syrah) at Della Santina in Sonoma on Feb. 13. Flajnik stresses how serious he has about winemaking — although The Bachelor and its surrounding publicity has certainly elevated the small production winery (2,400 cases annually) to an elite status, there's no official winery tie-ins with the show. And he's even OK with some ribbing regarding the season's opening shots where he carried random posts through a vineyard. “Sometimes you just have to carry posts that go nowhere,” Flajnik concedes.
Educating the consumer on the steps between vine and bottle and reaching out to customers via social media are repeated mantras by the Envolve Winery guys. Their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, with a stone fruit nose and a hint of effervescence, is low in acidity, which makes it easier to pair with food. “It's food-friendly and ready to drink; it's a patio pounder,” says
Joe Mike Benziger. Other current releases include a Carneros Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir from fruit sourced at a small family vineyard in the Russian River Valley, and a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. A sister label, called Epilogue, features crowd-pleasing wines intended for everyday drinking at a lower price.
Envolve's unofficial tasting room is the Sonoma Wine Shop on the historic town plaza; the wines are currently available locally at Flask Fine Wines in Studio City and at theRaymond Restaurant in South Pasadena. And what's on Flajnik's radar these days? (No spoiler alert: He can't disclose The Bachelor's ending). All of Fernet Branca's variations… ladies take note.
For more deliciousness, follow Kathy A. McDonald on Twitter: @writerkathymcd.