Revenge is a dish best served with a nice Pinot Noir. Last season on The Bachelorette, winemaker Ben Flajnik was blindsided when he was dumped on national TV after dropping down on one knee and proposing to dental student Ashley Hebert. Now he's back on ABC's reality dating franchise to dole out some long stems and heartache of his own. We met up with the 29-year-old San Francisco and Sonoma County resident at NYC's City Winery to clink glasses and swap stories about his days of wine and roses.
TV Guide Magazine: What's a guy like you need a show like this for?
Flajnik: I've dated lots of women, but the majority of my relationships were under a year long. My sister thought maybe I'd be good for [The Bachelorette], so she did the online application.
TV Guide Magazine: When you proposed to Ashley during last season's finale, were you sure it was a home run?
Flajnik: Obviously, because I did it. But I understand why she couldn't tell me everything — that's the name of the game. It sucks, but that's part of it.
TV Guide Magazine: Did you have any reservations about returning?
Flajnik: I wasn't spooked by the Ashley thing. I thought being the Bachelor would be an experience.
TV Guide Magazine: What was on your casting wish list for the ladies?
Flajnik: I wanted a group of professional women.
TV Guide Magazine: As in prostitutes?
Flajnik: Yes, working professionals. [Laughs] No... women who were cultured and worldly and had nice legs. I'm a leg guy. That was one of the hopes...
TV Guide Magazine: And were you impressed?
Flajnik: I was surprised. Obviously, you don't know that much about them. But as far as looks, it was a 10.
TV Guide Magazine: How'd you deal with their infighting? Courtney the model, in particular, ruffled a lot of feathers...
Flajnik: I was very aware of what was going on — not just with Courtney, but with everyone. I'd sit them down, I'd ask them. Because believe me, a woman in a group of a dozen, two dozen women, is going to be very different around that group than they are with me. Naturally.
TV Guide Magazine: So many tears and tantrums in one dating pool... Is the deck stacked with crazies or what?
Flajnik: It's hard to call them crazies. Everyone is somewhat sane, but when you get thrown into this thing, you get overwhelmed. Obviously some are a little crazier than others.
TV Guide Magazine: Did you get input into the date activities?
Flajnik: I suggested locations, things to do. There's a lot more flying this season. Ashley didn't like heights and helicopters and small planes, but we brought 'em all back. I think there were, like, nine helicopters and 29 airplanes in three months. It was a lot.
TV Guide Magazine: You all spent the majority of the time traveling...
Flajnik: I really wanted to do South Central America — that was kind of what I hoped for and requested. We went to Puerto Rico, Belize, Panama...
TV Guide Magazine: Make many "Un-Belize-able" jokes in Belize, I hope?
Flajnik: Yeah. "Un-Belize-able"... "You'd better Belize it"... that kind of stuff. But not on camera!
TV Guide Magazine: Did the exotic locales and romantic stunts heighten your feelings for the women?
Flajnik: It didn't affect me all that much, honestly. Maybe I've just been a little spoiled. It's cool stuff, but I've done a lot of it before, so nothing really made me feel like, "Oh, my God, I love this person."
TV Guide Magazine: Then what speeds up the courtship so much?
Flajnik: It's because you're encouraged — you're there for a reason. You're there to talk about your feelings, get through this. These are things that you would cover over a lengthy period of time in any normal relationship.
TV Guide Magazine: So Bachelor time is kinda like dog years?
Flajnik: Yeah, exactly. I realize that an engagement here is very different than a marriage. It's a commitment, and that's what it will remain until the next step. It's a leap of faith that we have to take — bigger than people take in the real world.
TV Guide Magazine: When you're on a one-on-one date, how do you concentrate with the cameras in your face?
Flajnik: When you're really in the moment, you don't pay attention to the cameras. At all. The dates that don't go so well? Yeah, you realize there are cameras around and you're making a TV show.
TV Guide Magazine: Are there ever scenes that need to be reshot?
Flajnik: If it's a sweet, sincere moment, no. If there's a huge technical error — like the limo pulls up and her dress is hiked up — yeah, she'll hop back in.
TV Guide Magazine: Did you and host Chris Harrison ever hang out?
Flajnik: We'd go out around town and have dinners. He was my buddy. We became real close. He's almost like a counselor. There were moments where I struggled and he was like, "I'm glad to see you struggling, because it's a difficult decision. It shouldn't be a cakewalk, you know?"
TV Guide Magazine: Since you're a winemaker, does your partner need to be an oenophile, too?
Flajnik: They don't need to know a lot about wine; they just need to be able to handle their alcohol, because I do it for a living and I'm out in the public a lot. If I end up with some lush who's asleep at the bar while I'm pouring my wines, it doesn't bode well for me or my brand.
TV Guide Magazine: Did you get to weigh in on wines for the show?
Flajnik: I did, actually. The production coordinators knew I wasn't going to be drinking, you know, Boone's Farm. I'm not a wine snob, but just put me in, like, a $20 price point and I'm happy. We did drink a little bit of Château Mouton Rothschild, which I later got yelled at for purchasing. $1,000 bottles aren't usually on ABC's tab.
TV Guide Magazine: Now that you know the outcome of all this, are you happy that you went back for Round 2?
Flajnik: I'm happy I decided to become the Bachelor. It was cathartic. Contrary to others who've been in this role, I didn't walk in on the first night and say, "My wife is in this room." I said, "I don't know if my wife's in this room. But I'm going to be honest, I'm going to be open, and I'm going to try."
The Bachelor airs Mondays at 8/7c on ABC.