It was going to be a long drive from Humboldt to Huntington Beach for Linsey Martensen, 22, and her mom Laura, after dropping off Linsey's twin sister at college.
But on Thursday night, they decided to make a 30-mile detour to Sonoma, for a chance to taste Evolve wines and meet Sonoma's most popular bachelor, Ben Flajnik.
"I looked it up while we were driving up here," Martensen said, her blonde hair pulled into a side ponytail. "I don't want to be like &‘Hey,' but I totally want to be like, &‘Hey!'"
For dozens of single ladies at the Sonoma Valley Wine Shack on Thursday night, it was all about seeing former "Bachelorette" contestant Ben Flajnik, better known by fans as runner-up "Ben F," in person.
But for Ben, it was all about the work. At the Sonoma tasting where dozens of twenty-somethings giddily asked him to pose for photographs, Flajnik calmly obliged, and graciously signed bottles of Evolve wines in a silver pen with his partner Mike Benziger.
"This is it," Flajnik said during a quieter moment. "We live, breathe and eat this stuff right now. Wine, wine, wine."
For a group of ladies who grew up together in Ohio, it was about Ben, Ben, Ben. Megan Clary, a 29-year-old bride to be, came to Sonoma from Baltimore to get married at Ramekins, the culinary school and inn. When she and her girlfriends heard about the Ben F. appearance, they said they had to be there. Several of them had watched the show over dinner parties every week.
"We did a "Bachelorette" pool, kind of like fantasy football," said Lori Stewart, 28, of Columbus, Ohio. "Our girlfriends at home that we have dinner with, they're pissed," she said, of the chance to be at the Thursday night event.
It wasn't Stewart's only brush with the show: she had auditioned to appear on Brad Womack's season of The Bachelor, but she wasn't selected, she said.
Kathleen Turner, 29, posted the group's fresh photos with Ben F. on her Facebook page. "I titled it &‘stalker pics,' so it's fine," Turner said with a laugh. "Besides her getting married, this is the highlight of the trip."
"He's way better looking in person," said her friend Paige Gydosh, 29, of Boston. "We gave him in-person hotness points, big-time."
Not surprisingly, sales have continued to remain strong for Evolve wines. The winery's 2009 cabernet sauvignon, which was on sale on the winery's website, sold out entirely in six weeks.
"I'm really proud of our Pinot (Noir)," Flajnik said. "It was a difficult wine to make. What they say about Pinot is true...it's a difficult grape."
Flajnik's mom, Barbara Flajnik, attended the tasting and said that at the beginning of "The Bachelorette" she was skeptical of the whole thing. She told him she wanted him to "raise the bar," and be a good, nice person.
"For my generation, reality TV isn't something we're used to, and when Julia (Flajnik, Ben's sister) sent Ben's name in, I really was not pleased," Barbara Flajnik said. "So I've come a long way, baby." Julia is Ben's sister.
And she was relieved that he came in second place; that way, he got to have the experience, but she didn't have to deal with her son getting engaged on TV.