I know people who spend their whole lives wanting to meet and/or trying to meet celebrities. I guess I’m more the type where, if opportunity presents itself (and it’s free!) I’ll be there. As it so happens, such an opportunity fell into my lap in the form of a friend who is a dedicated twitter follower of certain “celebs.” Now that I’ve graduated, doing random things seems to be the theme of this awkward limbo between undergrad and (possibly) graduate school. So when I woke up at the crack of dawn to get ready for work and saw a text message waiting with an invitation to accompany a friend to a local wine cellar where Bachelor Ben Flajnik of ABC’s “The Bachelor” fame would be promoting some of his wines. I figured if we were asked to leave by his entourage then at least we didn’t pay anything and we would be close to home—perfect distance to make a quick and graceful exit. As it so happens, the venue was a place I had wanted to check out for some time—an added bonus.
I wish I could say that the bachelor was far too low-brow for my tastes, but living in a sorority house will jumpstart your addiction to “reality” TV. I watched most of Ben’s season and, while of course groaning at his decisions and laughing at the ridiculousness of falling in love on national television with a guy that is also dating between 20 and three other women (depending on how long you last). Looking back, I think Ben was probably one of the more “normal” bachelors on camera. He seemed really laid back and like he wanted to do his own thing—which perhaps came off a little arrogant and selfish on the show. Editing can either make you look like the hero or the villain on “reality” TV. That said Ben was never really on my radar as a famous person I would like to meet. In fact, after the tabloids stopped having photos of him and his chosen “lady” posted all over the shelves at the checkout line in HEB, I pretty much forgot about him.After meeting Ben, I think that is exactly what he would like to hear—although I won’t pretend an hour of conversation gives me any right to say what he thinks.
Fast forward to last night: a year(ish) past the Bachelor Season 10000 or 16 (whatever) and a little wine cellar just off of I-10 in Houston—light-years away from the exotic Bachelor locales. My friend and I (somewhat more dressed up than I would normally be for a wine night) pull into the parking lot. We can see into the wine bar, which is lined with dark cubbies filled with sparkling bottles and softly lit. There appears to be a small crowd of people in the side room, but the place is not packed to capacity by any means, and I do not spot anything resembling a large van that would hold producers and camera equipment. Finally starting to believe my friend’s information—that this was an un-promoted meeting with a vendor, we walk through the doors. I can hear my friend’s heart pounding—she is way more excited about the prospect of meeting Ben than I am. I’m here for the story and the wine. There sits Ben at a table with several rows of wine glasses and bottles, ready for tasting. We wander slowly forward, waiting to be stopped. But there is no entourage, no Chris Harrison, and no red velvet rope—just Ben, his business partner, and a woman I believe is their distributor. So we walk over to the table where Ben sits, wearing a faded, obviously well-loved plaid button down and jeans. He stands when we approach, greets us, introduces himself (as if we didn’t know) and asks if we’d like to taste some wine.
I can tell my friend needs a chance to catch her breath, so I go ahead and ask about the obvious—the wine. Ben is more than happy to talk about it, explaining the meaning behind the label—Epilogue, which, in this case stands for the conclusion to a piece of music, the culmination as it were. We taste the wines and he explains the differences in aroma and taste—all the way down to the types of grapes used and the fermentation process. Now, I know what you’re wondering: was the wine any good? And yes, yes, it was. So there we were, my friend and me and Ben Flajnik, former Bachelor contestant, hanging out and talking about wine, the weirdos out in California, and the fact that this venture is Ben’s 5th start up. His partner is his best friend, dating back to 6th grade, and his younger sisters work with the company, Envolve Winery, as well. The few queries that were made about the bachelor were graciously, but firmly deflected. Ben made it pretty clear that that’s behind him and isn’t something he wants to dwell on. As the scheduled hour and a half drew to a close, we asked Ben where he was headed next on his Texas tour and he glanced at his watch and said they were heading out to Austin within half an hour. He graciously offered to autograph some bottles of wine for us and we each purchased several bottles, got our obligatory photo and that was that.
It’s kind of amusing to me how enamored some people were of him, simply because of his “celebrity” status. He seemed like a very normal guy and honestly, he came off much better in person than he did on TV. I was slightly disappointed that Chris Harrison didn’t pop out from behind the counter and say “Ben, ladies, this is the final bottle of wine for the evening. Ben, when you’re ready…” but you can’t have everything.