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Triathlete Michael Sebastiani, a principal in Highway 12 Wines and member of the well-known winemaking family, has a converted room dedicated to bicycle training, with bike storage and a training computer for indoor rides.

Where training, triathlon and wine meet

Michael Sebastiani and Paul Giusto were running a half marathon, a race snaking through the Sonoma Square with stations set up with water, energy drinks and yes, wine.

Giusto said, "Hey man, there's some wine. I'm going to have some." In Wine Country, even the finish line can wait for a good sip.

Here the athlete and the connoisseur are – more often than not - one and the same. In Sebastiani's case, he is a vintner, a winemaker, an athlete and a coach who runs a clinic to train people for triathlons.

"We're in Wine Country and great triathlon country," he said. "You want a balanced, healthy lifestyle, with everything in moderation. Some people might look at it this way: &‘I earned my glass of wine tonight.'".

Sebastiani is the son of Sam and Vicki Sebastiani, the founders of Viansa in the Carneros region, and he's the great grandson of Samuel Sebastiani, who founded Sebastiani Vineyards in Sonoma before Prohibition.

"I always call wine the hub of life," said Sebastiani, 37, a toned yet lanky man at 6 feet, who finds himself at the crossroads of the wine and triathlon cultures.

"When you're on a bike ride with someone, you talk about all the aspects of life in the same way you would if you were having a glass of wine with someone."

Sebastiani is the co-owner and winemaker of the brand Highway 12, which has a tasting room on the Sonoma Plaza. He began the venture in 2003 and the wine – chardonnay, cabernet and merlot - is produced on the outskirts of Sonoma.

"As a winemaker, logistics is a crucial element, especially during harvest," Sebastiani said. "And with triathlons, a lot of it comes down to training, which has a logistical component as well. Triathlon athletes have the reputation of being Type A. To get to your goal, you have to be strict in your training. In making wine you also have to be strict about winemaking."

Naturally, he said, the discipline has rewards – a great race, a great glass of wine.

Sebastiani's clinic – TriSonoma – trains people for a couple of days, helps them succeed in a race, and afterward encourages them to take up the sport of wine tasting.

"Everyone does the race and then we do a wine picnic," said Sebastiani with a smile. "We're living a Wine Country lifestyle and triathlons become a part of the lifestyle."

Sebastiani entered his first triathlon in 2004, swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56 miles and running 13.1 miles, finishing in a little over five hours.

"For most of us, we're racing ourselves," he said. "The more you do, the more you have to do. You can't do just one."

With 12 to 16 hours a week of training required, Sebastiani said he's lucky his wife Anne Marie is also an athlete and their four-year old twins, Annabel and Nicholas, are enthusiasts as well.

In fact, Sebastiani said his wife recently ran a local 10K race pushing a double-wide stroller with the kids buckled in and in the middle of the race, Annabel said, "Mommy, when are we going to get to run?"

Sebastiani laughed. "I think that's a sign they're ready to get out of the stroller and it's their turn."

You can reach wine writer Peg Melnik at 707-521-5310 or peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com.

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

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