• Unfiltered's favorite hunky winemaker/reality TV star, Ben Flajnik of Evolve winery in Sonoma County, is turning into a bonafide celebrity. After his proposal was rejected by Bachelorette star Ashley Hebert, Flajnik was rumored to be dating fellow Bachelor/Bachelorette star Britt Billmaier. His bachelor stock got a bigger boost this month when rumors surfaced that he was dating actress Jennifer Love Hewitt (instantly inspiring Unfiltered to apply for enology school). During the show's finale, Hewitt had tweeted (and yes, that's a new verb according to the Oxford English and Merriam-Webster dictionaries this week!) "Omg! Ben f except my final rose !!! I love that ring. Neil lane u rock!! Happy for Ashley.... Gotta book a flight to Sonoma !!!:):)" [sic]. Then earlier this month, she and Flajnik were indeed spotted at San Francisco's Lion's Pub—"by coincidence," she told Ryan Seacrest's radio program. Asked if they "made out," she laughed and said, "Rumors are rumors." Unless she is an extremely permissive girlfriend, the two clearly are not an item: As Unfiltered suspected, Flajnik has reportedly been pegged as the next star of The Bachelor (the folks at Evolve could not confirm or deny that today), where he'll be the one handing out the roses to a dozen or two lovely young single ladies. A few weeks ago, Flajnik told Unfiltered he was just worried about harvest when we asked him if he'd like to be the next Bachelor. Next season's filming begins this September, so he can't be too worried about crush. Shouldn't be a problem for Evolve winery though—how many celebrity chefs do you know who actually still cook?
• There's controversy fermenting in Long Island's normally placid wine country this week. Lieb Family Cellars recently released two new wines, a 2010 Chardonnay and Merlot, with up to 10 percent of the proceeds being donated to the 9/11 Memorial in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The wines are made in partnership with the National September 11 Memorial and Museum and are priced at $19.11, but that hasn't quelled the outrage of social media denizens who found the concept distasteful. When chef/author/TV star Anthony Bourdain got wind of the wine—and realized it was being served at his Les Halles restaurant—he tweeted "9/11 Wine. Think about it. What tasteless, exploitative f**k thinks that's a good idea?" and pulled it from the wine list at Les Halles. New York City Councilman Peter Vallone asked, "What's next? A 9/11 pastrami sandwich?" (We wonder whether that would go better with the Chard or the Merlot ….)
We reached out to Bourdain today to clarify his views and he responded: "I was informed of this product by a group of New York City firefighters and emergency responders, all of whom had lost colleagues and friends on 9/11. Needless to say, they were not happy. Even had my own initial response not been utter horror and disbelief at the appalling taste of this venture, their feelings on this matter settle the question."
Unfiltered spoke with Lieb Family's understandably distraught general manager, Gary Madden, today as well. He didn't want to add any fuel to the fire by commenting on the controversy, but pointed out that Lieb has been making another wine for a 9/11 charity since 2004—and that had never received negative attention. With its September Mission Merlot, Lieb donates 91.1 cents of the $9.11 retail price to the September's Mission Foundation, which supports the victims of 9/11 and the 9/11 Living Memorial Project. Since 2004, September Mission Merlot has resulted in donations of more than $25,000 to the charities. We think there are probably more distressing things to direct our outrage toward than someone who has made five-figure donations to the victims of our nation's worst terrorist attack.
Tony Terlato and Margrit Biever Mondavi shared stories of Robert Mondavi for the Napa Valley Film Festival.
• Napa is the Hollywood of the wine world, showy and wealthy, with a style often copied but never quite equaled—and of course, there is the cross-pollination of the two California institutions, with directors and actors such as Francis Ford Coppola and Dan Aykroyd making their own California wine brands. So it makes sense that Napa should launch the Napa Valley Film Festival, this Nov. 9-13. The five-day event will be filled with screenings, panel discussions, mixers and, of course, wine dinners. In fact, wine will play prominently onscreen: Filmmakers have been around the valley shooting trailers at pioneering Napa estates, including Robert Mondavi Winery, where Margrit Biever Mondavi and Anthony Terlato recently filmed a segment reminiscing on Robert's contributions to America's wine industry. Dozens of wineries can also be counted among the festival partners, including Alpha Omega, CADE, Chappellet, Chimney Rock, Merryvale, Round Pond, Storybook Mountain, Staglin and Mumm Napa. With all the festival's wine tastings, if your tastes skew Napa, you could probably get your money's worth without taking in a single flick.