After graduating from the University of Arizona, Flajnik says he created about five startups, ranging from Internet advertising to consulting firms, before creating a brand with Benziger in 2008. Fay joined the team in 2011.
The team began their venture with 400 cases. Envolve is at 3,000 cases right now and they expect to cap that at 7,000. But Epilogue is taking off at 10,000 cases, and they may pump that to 50,000 cases next year.
"Distribution channels outside of California have picked up," Flajnik says. "We're in 25 Krogers and a bunch of white-tablecloth restaurants in Michigan. They committed to 1,400 cases this month, primarily in Epilogue. They heard of us because of the show."
At Home With 'Bachelor' Ben Flajnik
Dan Kosta of Kosta Browne in Sebastopol says the team is off to a good start. "They are well on their way to establishing a serious brand," he said, "and I'm sure they'll want to base the brand not on a stint on reality TV but on the quality of the wines themselves."
Joe Benziger, their unpaid consultant, says the winemakers are "very hands-on." "They're buying grapes from some really high quality vineyards," he said. "They know making good wine starts there."
Flajnik says after four years of working on his brand, he got his first paycheck last July. He declined to say what he earns from his Lacoste footwear endorsement deal or what he was paid for starring in "The Bachelor." However, the general industry average for reality celebrities is $10,000-$25,000 per episode, according to Career Builder, an online Hollywood insider magazine.
While Flajnik's current reality is grape-growing, he still often gets stopped for a photo. "I really appreciate it, but my life is so busy. So I often keep my head down, get in, get out," he says with a laugh. "I realize my head is down a lot more than it used to be."
Will the bachelor ever run out of his 15 minutes of fame? Flajnik hopes so.
"This reality TV stint won't define me," Flajnik says. "It's just a little blip. And, you know, the positives did outweigh the negatives."