The third edition of The Bachelor debuts Wednesday, March 26, on ABC, and wine aficionados everywhere have a reason to watch. Twenty-five women looking for love will meet a man who is a member of one of California's pioneering winemaking families.
The man searching for a soul mate is 27-year-old Andrew Firestone -- great-grandson of tire entrepreneur Harvey Firestone and son of Brooks Firestone, who created Firestone Vineyards. Founded in 1972, Firestone Vineyards was Santa Barbara County's first estate winery; today it produces Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah, among other wines.
Andrew Firestone grew up on the family's Santa Barbara ranch, helping as needed in the cellar and vineyards. Firestone recalls his father picking him up from school but stopping short of driving him all the way home. "He'd drop me off at the end of a row of vines and hand me pruning shears," Firestone recalls with a smile. Firestone then had to prune the rest of his way home.
Firestone pursued other interests before he landed back at the winery. He played football for the University of San Diego until he suffered a knee injury. After graduating with a degree in business administration, Firestone backpacked around Europe and worked as a trader for a brokerage firm in San Francisco.
For the 1998 harvest, Firestone returned to the family business, where he now works as sales manager. Firestone splits his time between Santa Barbara and San Francisco, where he has a second job. As a currency trader for a company called HIFX Inc., he combines his interest in finance and wine by assisting with international business transactions between wineries and companies that sell them equipment.
Firestone gushes about wine with the enthusiasm of a novice, not someone who grew up with grapevines in his front yard. "A bottle of wine can be an event … a conversation centerpiece … it's like you're buying a piece of the earth," he said. "I'm so in love with the entire wine industry."
ABC first approached Firestone's elder brother, Adam, who is the winery's president, to be a Bachelor candidate, but Adam already had a wife and four children and suggested Andrew instead. Andrew decided that life would be more interesting if he took the opportunity rather than pass it up.
The attention that comes with being the star of a reality show has also brought more attention to the winery (including camera crews), but Firestone says that isn't why he agreed to do the show. "We've sold every bottle of wine we've made in the last 25 years," he said. Yet, he gets excited thinking that the show might make wine more approachable to a wider audience.
Adam echoed that sentiment. "We were happy making and selling wines for 30 years before the show, and will be here 30 years longer, well after it is forgotten . ... But if this television show brings winemaking into America's Wednesday prime time, all the better."