For local bachelor Ben Flajnik, the opening of Envolve Winery’s new tasting room in July was a welcome move forward.
But there’s something that he just can’t seem to leave behind. Especially when, well, it’s sort of the reason why we’re talking about him in the first place.
Ah, who can believe it was just one year ago, when, you’ll recall, bachelorette Ashley Hebert stood on a beach, holding a red rose, tearfully gathering the courage to give Flajnik the boot: “To know that I’m going to cause this kind of heartbreak to somebody . . .” Unable to go on, she turns away, and looks out to sea, while the music soars and a float plane carrying hapless Ben arcs across the sky, circling a tropical island.
Truth be told, I just looked this up on YouTube because I don’t have a TV, and I don’t go much for the chronic confessional genre of programming (Yes, I am that kind of wine snob. An “I don’t watch TV” wine snob).
But that Ben the Bachelor, he’s no fool, either. Listen closely during an episode in which, deadpanning a heartfelt confession, he says he’d never dreamed he’d be part of such a fairy tale. Cannily, perhaps, he adds, “And this is exactly what this is, a fairy tale.”
The real fairy tale here is the “bromantic” story behind Envolve Winery, which Flajnik co-founded with Mike Benziger just four years ago, bringing on Danny Fay last year.
These guys weren’t airlifted in to Sonoma, they grew up here, went to school together, bussed dishes in local cafés. They haven’t phoned-in the wine bit, either, sourcing from organic and Biodynamic vineyards, hand-punching fermentations.
They’ve had some help along the way, to be sure, particularly from Mike’s uncle Joe, winemaker at Imagery Estate. Benziger is, that’s right, one of those Benzigers.
In the 1980s, family patriarch and liquor sales baron Bruno Benziger decided that wine might net a return, after all, founded the Glen Ellen Winery brand, and the rest is history.
Adopting the motto “Sonoma, Friendship, Organic,” the trio give thanks to the town that shaped them. “We’re not going to come in, all guns a-blazing,” says Flajnik. “We want to be very respectful to the people in the community, and I think we’ve done a good job.” Their comprehensively designed website reserves some space for their favorite haunts and restaurants (and also geeks out about the Haber-Bosch process, by the way, with footnotes).
You’ll find the tasting room at the end of peach-pink “Vine Alley,” on the south side of Sonoma Plaza. There’s often a Giants game on the widescreen TV, live music on weekends, and sparkling wine on Sundays. Tables invite visitors to linger over a variety of wines. “The beauty of Epilogue and Envolve is, there’s really a wine for everyone when they come in,” says Flajnik. “Any palate is welcome.”
The Envolve 2011 Sonoma Mountain Rosé ($24.99) is a purpose-built pink full-flavored with strawberry and watermelon, with a sweetness that, Flajnik slyly allows, is tailored to the female palate. Composed of blended bulk wine that the fellows put online to give a rapidly growing clientele an affordable option, Epilogue Red ($15.99) is a solid, flavorful Cab-based blend; for a bit of summer refreshment, pick up the sizzling 2011 Sonoma Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($19.99).
They’re nice wines, and at these prices, they should sell themselves. After all, although Flajnik agrees that his TV times have helped them to enter new markets, that’s not always the case. Out on the road, pitching their wine to hard-nosed liquor distributors, “Half the time, we sit down, and they’ve never heard of The Bachelor,” Flajnik laughs. “But they’ve heard of Bruno Benziger.”
Envolve Winery, 27 East Napa St., Suite A, Sonoma. Open daily 11 a.m–6 p.m. Tasting fees $5–$15. 707-939-5385.
Looking for travel tips and lodging info for Sonoma? You can find a wealth of information on sonomacounty.com.