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Santa Rosa cyclist who died of injuries after collision with suspected DUI driver was skilled winemaker, outdoorsman

Mark Osborne, a Santa Rosa bicyclist who died last week after being struck by a suspected drunken driver near Sebastopol earlier this month, is remembered by friends as a skilled winemaker and avid outdoorsman, who brought a “light and joy” to those who knew him.

Osborne, 53, a native of Australia and an enologist at Gary Farrell Winery in Healdsburg, was one of two cyclists seriously injured May 12 when a driver apparently under the influence of alcohol crashed a pickup truck into them along High School Road, according to CHP.

Both riders were rushed to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. Osborne died from his injuries on Thursday. The other cyclist, a 12-year-old boy, was later taken to UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland where he remains a patient. The two did not know each other and just happened to be riding in the same area when they were hit.

Tracy Hinman, Osborne’s life partner of nine years, said people were drawn to his friendly, laid-back demeanor, whether he was working at the winery, on a group mountain bike ride or dressing in costume with Hinman to see live productions of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

“He was super easygoing, nothing bothered him,” Hinman said. “He liked everybody. He didn’t have to fake nice to people.”

Osborne was a hiker, kayaker, runner and marathoner, participating in races including the Annadel Half Marathon, Kenwood Footrace and San Francisco Marathon. He also loved to travel, especially to countries with active volcanoes. He and Hinman were planning to buy a second home in Italy that Osborne would fix up and where they could eventually retire.

Osborne moved to Sonoma County from Australia in 2007 as a winemaking intern at the Gary Farrell Winery and remained there for the rest of his career. He worked his way up to enologist, specializing in the chemistry and biology of wine production.

Before coming to the United States, he spent his early adulthood as a bicycle mail carrier. In his 30s, he became interested in the wine industry, earning winemaking degrees at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE and Charles Sturt University in New South Wales.

Brent McKoy, associate winemaker at Gary Farrell, hired Osborne and described him as a close friend. McKoy said Osborne was just as adept in the winery’s laboratory as he was taking over hands-on tasks around the property.

The lab, where Osborne would play music while he worked, was the “most fun hub of the winery,” McKoy said.

“He was everybody’s favorite,” he said of Osborne. “He was the life of the party — just kind of a laid-back Australian guy.”

Osborne was hungry to learn and always liked to have a new project, Hinman said. He recently got his pilot’s license and had just started an electrician course. The couple also recently took up beekeeping, which appealed to Osborne’s affinity for science and handy work.

“He didn’t even like honey. He liked the idea of helping the environment,” Hinman said.

When Osborne was struck on his bike, he was riding on the road for only a short distance to get from one trail to another, Hinman said. He was primarily a mountain biker and tried to avoid busy Sonoma County roads as much as possible.

Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, a bike advocacy group, has placed a white “ghost bike” memorial at the scene of the crash at High School Road south of Gaye Road. The coalition has been in touch with Hinman about scheduling a ride in his memory.

The man suspected of hitting Osborne, Ulises Valdez Jr., 27, of Sebastopol, is a manager at Valdez Family Winery. Valdez was arrested on suspicion of a felony DUI after being taken to Memorial Hospital with major injuries. He was released to the hospital’s custody at the time, CHP Officer David DeRutte said. Valdez is no longer a patient at the hospital, DeRutte said Monday.

Sonoma County Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell said Valdez has not been charged with a crime. The district attorney’s office will decide what, if any, charges are appropriate once prosecutors receive more information from the CHP about the fatal collision, Staebell said.

Osborne is survived by his parents, Sean and Anne Osborne; his sister, Paula Matters; his nephew, Luke Matters; and his niece, Lauren Matters. All are from Adelaide, Australia.

Hinman said family members are waiting to see when they can travel to the United States to plan a memorial for Osborne and celebrate his life.

“He was just a good bloke, as he would say,” Hinman said.

You can reach Staff Writer Ethan Varian at ethan.varian@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5412. On Twitter @ethanvarian.

Ethan Varian

Housing and homelessness, The Press Democrat 

I've lived in California for most of my life, and it's hard for me to remember when the state hasn't been in a housing crisis. Here in Sonoma County, sharply rising housing costs and increasing homelessness are reshaping what was long considered the Bay Area’s “affordable” region. As The Press Democrat’s housing and homelessness reporter, I aim to cover how officials, advocates, developers and residents are reacting to and experiencing the ongoing crisis.

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