Ben Flajnik is looking really happy these days. Life goes on. And it seems to be moving along very well indeed for the Sonoma native, who won the hearts of a lot of women across the United States as the Bachelor in series 16 on ABC TV.
Flajnik talked to Patch this week about his Thanksgiving trip to Europe, in which he took in the sights and the wine of Switzerland, France, Spain and Italy. And he brought us up to date with his Envolve Winery's imminent move to a new Sonoma location. Check out his You Tube video of the trip with friend Brad Bohensky. Amazingly, Flajnik said he was in the Matterhorn region exactly one year to the day since he proposed to Courtney Robertson on the Bachelor.
Was it planned that way?
"No," he said.
How did it feel?
"Great!" he said, with a big smile. "Life is good. I have great friends and I'm really into my winemaking."
The trip was paid for by the Swiss Tourism Board he said, "in recognition of the increase in tourism that the TV show brought to Switzerland." It was designed as simply "a fun time with a buddy."
He said he has no contact with Robertson these days. Flajnik proposed to her on TV with a backdrop of the Swiss Alps but after a much publicized courtship, the couple went their separate ways this year.
Thanksgiving was Flajnik's 7th trip to Europe. His late father was from Slovenia, he said.
"My father's family fled from Tito's reign," he said of Yugoslavia's former dictator.
Flajnik has relatives in both Slovenia and Italy. This time, he visited Zermatt and Lucerne in Switzerland; the Burgundy area of France; Milan, Italy; and Barcelona, Spain. The Milan excursion was primarily to visit the Fratelli Branca Distillerie, where Fernet-Branca is produced.
"I'm an ambassador for them in San Francisco," he said.
Although suffering from jet lag in Switzerland, Flajnik and Bohensky did some hiking, as shown on his You Tube video.
"Barcelona was party time, as you can see on the video," Flajnik said with a smile. "We took in the Picasso museum ... the paella ... and met a lot of (wine) producers."
The pair flew into Lyon and rented a car to finish their trip on "a high note."
What did he learn while in Europe?
"I love Chardonnay and French white burgundy," Flajnik said. "I realized my taste for red wines is very Californian. I enjoy fruit in my Pinot, whereas the French version is very acid-driven. The French do an incredible job of food wines. I like to have their reds with a meal. But if I'm just drinking a red by itself, I like to pick something from the Russian River or Sonoma Coast."
Flajnik said he and Envolve winemaker Mike Benziger like to produce wines in a bit of the French flavor, with higher acid profiles.
"We try to be as French as we can," he said.
Mike is from the Benziger Family Winery clan. Envolve has been producing its wine at the Benziger establishment in Glen Ellen but next week Envolve will move to the "old Buena Vista facility on Ramal Road, in Carneros," Flajnik said.
"We can't thank the Benziger family enough for all they've done for us," he said. Production has increased for both the Benziger and Envolve operations, he said, so they are no longer able to squeeze in together.
The week of Christmas, Flajnik and his Envolve team will start moving hundreds of French oak barrels, tanks and "a lot of juice."
Envolve produced 6,500 cases of wine this year, up from 350 cases when they started in 2009.
Flajnik is excited about Envolve's stylistic changes coming out in the new year.
"We're doing some rebranding in March to reflect our price point. We're going with embossed labels, some foils and branded capsules. The Rose and Sauvignon Blanc will be the first ones to show that transformation. It will be our final revamp, hopefully," he said with a big smile.
Flajnik has done the design and sourcing for the changes, helped by Aaron "A-Fresh" Thompson of Let it Ride Designs in San Diego. Bohensky, Flajnik's buddy on the European trip, is also formerly of Let it Ride.
Flajnik formerly owned a couple of firms in San Diego. He started out in Internet advertising after attending the University of Arizona.
Envolve now numbers 11 employees. The tasting room opened in Sonoma's Plaza area on July 4th this year and will remain in that location. Flajnik works between Sonoma and San Francisco.