Women traveling through the North Bay now have even more reason to drive into downtown Sonoma. Ben Flajnik—ABC TV's former "Bachelor"—has opened a wine tasting room there.
Flajnik and his two partners in Envolve Winery opened the destination on July 4th and have had "thousands of people" through since then, Flajnik told Patch.
On Saturday, for example, two sisters from Dallas, Texas, asked to have their photo taken with him at the location, near the Plaza in the heart of the city. Another group of women on a self-described "chick retreat in Glen Ellen" made a bee line to see him.
Last year, Flajnik was one of the finalists in "The Bachelorette." This year he proposed on "The Bachelor" to Los Angeles model Courtney Robertson. The couple were seen in Sonoma on Saturday morning at the inaugural event to raise awareness for a local animal shelter. Flajnick brought his Jack Russell terrier and was one of the celebrity judges.
Celebrity aside, Flajnik is down-to-earth and eager to move on from "The Bachelor" limelight. He's passionate about wine making.
"I have a real life and a business outside the TV show," he told Patch. "And that's what's great.
His two partners in Envolve Winery are Mike Benziger and Danny Fay. The three have been friends since middle school baseball days in Sonoma. Flajnik and Benziger are the winemakers. They started the company under the name Evolve, then changed to Envolve in 2012 when they brought Fay on board. They say the name is about sustainable friendship. They're all in their late 20s.
Fay told Patch, "People tend to underestimate our wine because of our age. But when they come in and taste it, they go, 'Wow.'"
For good reason.
Benziger is a third generation Sonoma winemaker of fame. He and Flajnik have studied for four years under Joe Benziger, who operates the family's Imagery Estates Winery, which uses lesser known varietals including Malbec and Petit Verdot. The Imagery website announces "we're doing some pretty unconventional stuff ... and we're not apologizing for it."
Flajnik's not apologizing for the attention his stardom has brought his business either.
"We realize we've had a lot of publicity from the show," he said. "It's all for Sonoma. All our families live here. This place has shaped us as men. We've learned a lot from our elders."
Flajnik and Benziger make their wine on the Benziger Family Winery estate property, under a lease. They're hoping to have their own winery estate by 2015. In the meantime, they contract and lease with growers all over Sonoma Valley. Flajnik said he goes out to hand pick and taste the grapes on the vine.
All of the Envolve wines originate locally and are biodynamic, organic or sustainable, he said. The three men also have a second brand, Epilogue, which they describe as an "everyday wine."
The Benziger estate property is a biodynamic operation and teaching winery. Flajnik said he also enjoys educating people about wine through his own wine tasting room. He clearly loves hearing compliments about the wine and easily rattles off the effort that went into each one. Take the aromatic Sauvignon Blanc for example. He said it's their most popular wine, served in many restaurants in Sonoma's square.
"We included muscat canelli in it," he said. "That's what made it sweet."
Envolve offers a broad spectrum of reds and whites. Flajnik said he doesn't want any "holes" in their line up.
The tasting room is cozy and friendly. Flajnik said he wants it to be unpretentious.
"We always have the Giants' game on," he said. "It's just like being at someone's home."
His fiancee, Robertson, wasn't watching the game there on Saturday. She was out doing things with Flajnik's mother.
Normal stuff for a young couple.
"Yes," he said. "Normal stuff like that."
Robertson's still getting to know Sonoma, as a Los Angeles resident.
"We see each other about once a week but that's okay because we're both so busy with our work," Flajnik said.
Envolve Winery Tasting Room is at 27 East Napa St. in Sonoma. It's open 11 a.m to 6 p.m. seven days a week.