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Sommelier (and Runner) Jason Hisaw: Three Marathons through Three Wine Valleys

Trying to keep fit and healthy is not always easy when you are surrounded by good food and wine 24/7. I know this first-hand, having gained and then lost more than 90 pounds in the past two years.

In losing my weight and keeping it off, I discovered that I really enjoyed long distance running. It is not only a great stress reliever from the pressures of the hospitality industry but also combats the effects of those high calorie meals I sometimes have to consume as part of my job as a sommelier.

I still love to eat and drink, and I love to run. That got me thinking– could I somehow marry the three together? Of course, I can’t just pour a Grand Cru Burgundy in my water bottle, but I discovered the next best thing:  marathon races that trace a path through vineyards. Here are three that will push your pace towards that celebratory finish line glass.

The Santa Barbara Wine Country Half-Marathon is this weekend. While I realize its a bit late to register, the annual event happens every year around this time. The course takes a scenic route through the Santa Ynez Valley bordered by the Sierra Madre Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The race begins in downtown Santa Ynez, and the course passes through Los Olivos before finishing in downtown Solvang. Along the way you’ll wind plenty of fruit orchards, lavender farms and vineyards.

The Napa Valley Marathon takes place every March, and I’m already looking forward to the 2012 race. The course runs through the famed Napa Valley wine-growing region, beginning in Calistoga then turning south along the historic Silverado Trail to the finish in downtown north Napa. With the exception of the last mile, the entire course is rural. Along the way you are treated to panoramic views of the valley, fruit orchards, and some of the most beautiful views of the vineyards.

Finally, you’ll want to consider entering the inaugural Sauternes Marathon, on June 4th. Getting to France is expensive, but the event is a sommelier/runner’s dream. A thousand runners are expected to enter. The race begins at Chateau Guiraud then snakes its way through the famous communes of Fargues, Bommes, Sauternes and Barsac in Sauternes, France. All runners who complete the 26.2-mile course will receive a bottle of Sauternes, a medal and a t-shirt, and the top runners of the men’s and women’s categories will take home even more Sauternes, including a magnum of Chateau d’Yquem. That’s enough to get this sommelier moving. Because, really, why drink Gatorade after a race when there’s a glass of Chateau d’ Yquem waiting for you?

Jason Hisaw is certified by the Court of Master Sommeliers as an Advanced Level Sommelier. He is a member of the wine team at Pappas Bros. Steakhouse in Dallas and writes for



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