Ben Flajnik walks through the lobby of Vintners Inn in Santa Rosa at a clip, ducking his head, hoping not to be recognized.
Flajnik is best known to the masses as “The Bachelor,” ABC's reality-TV star who was wooed by 25 women in exotic locations from Belize to Puerto Rico to Switzerland. The season's last segment aired in March.
The winemaker of the Envolve label is passing through Santa Rosa after checking out a vineyard in Mendocino County. Today, he doesn't look TV-polished, but rather a bit rustic. His face has an unshaved stubble beneath his San Francisco Giants baseball cap and he's wearing a maroon T-shirt, jeans and boots.
This reality-TV star has been in living rooms across America, but in reality, who is this bachelor? Flajnik, it turns out, has plenty to say on the topic.
“I'm not a reality-television star,” he says. “I'm not interested in being famous. It was an experience, a story, a springboard, a catalyst to make a change in my life's direction. ... It's television and you can't believe everything you see. It's there for entertainment purposes.”
Flajnik, 29, lives in San Francisco with his business partners and childhood friends Mike Benziger and Danny Fay. He commutes to Sonoma Valley four or five times a week to produce the Envolve and Epilogue labels.
“We work really hard on our wines, but we're not serious people,” Flajnik says. “We know how to enjoy life really, really well, probably better than most.”
Flajnik laughs, an energetic laugh that alludes to his late-night dinners in the city, capped off with drinks until dawn. The gregarious Flajnik says the TV camera didn't always tell the truth.
“It was kind of like the muted version of me,” he says. “I am really quite energetic and funny and outgoing and I don't take myself very seriously, and I have thick skin, obviously.”