Ulises Valdez

Valdez Family Wines opens tasting room

Valdez Family Winery’s tasting room is a new example of wineries transplanting their tasting experience to Healdsburg from neighboring areas. Just as UPTick Vineyards made their move from Windsor earlier this year, Valdez Family Winery’s new tasting room recently opened its doors at 113 Mill Street, after coming down from Cloverdale.

The actual winery remains in Cloverdale, where Valdez had been hosting limited tastings for the public on Saturdays, but now the new space allows enophiles to sample the array of mostly zinfandels from Thursday through Sunday.

The story behind Valdez Family Winery is evocative of the elusive American Dream, as owner Ulises Valdez moved to Cloverdale in 1986 at the age of 16 and began working in the vineyards of the Dry Creek Valley. By the time he was 18, he already had a 50/50 stake in a vineyard management company, which eventually became Valdez & Sons Vineyard Management. But it wasn’t just as easy as showing up, according to operations and sales manager Sean Tevik.

“He became a partner really by working for free for almost an entire year, and living out of the bed of a pickup truck by the Russian River in Cloverdale for a couple years,” Tevik said. “All that money went back into the company to buy more equipment and to build. It took a while to get established and to get him a paycheck.”

Valdez had planned on moving back to his home state of Michoacan in Mexico to open a grocery store, but his success in vineyard management meant he went along a different path, Tevik said.

Now Valdez grows grapes for a number of wineries in Sonoma County, including Thomas George, Aubert Wines, Arista, JC Cellars and Kosta Browne. Tevik said the Valdez-tended vineyards are often recognizable.

“He has  a real knack for, not just vineyard management, but also growing fruit,” Tevik said. “Something I continuously hear in the area is that people say, ‘Oh that must be a Valdez vineyard,’ because they’re just so perfectly manicured. Not only is the fruit fantastic but they’re just aesthetically appealing-looking vineyards too.”

Since 2004, Valdez has also been making wine, starting out with just a few hundred cases and today producing about 3,000 cases per year, along with the help of consulting winemakers, Mark Aubert and Jeff Cohn.

Between the location of the winery in Cloverdale, and the presence of one of Valdez’ well-known vineyards, St. Peter’s Church, also in downtown Cloverdale, Tevik said the company would maintain strong ties with that town.

Tevik described the move from Cloverdale as being one of practicality for both the winery and the vineyard management sides of the business.

“This is the area where we’re doing a lot more farming,” he said “Our Silver Eagle vineyard, what we consider the main estate vineyard, is just about 15 minutes down the road and our El Diablo vineyard is just over off Eastside Road.”

Beyond that convenience, Tevik said, Valdez Family Winery wanted to be a part of the Healdsburg tasting room community, and that has already started paying off, he said.

“It’s been wonderful,” he said. “We haven’t seen an immense amount of just walk-by traffic, but it’s been people who always wanted to try our wines, or have bought our wines online but were never around Cloverdale during that window of time we were open there. We have a pretty simple $10 tasting fee that we waive for purchases. We’ve been open for two and a half months, and we just charged our first tasting fee about two weeks ago.”

Despite being new additions to the tasting room landscape in Healdsburg, Valdez Family Winery has already reached out to local businesses with a partnership with Mateo’s Cucina Latina and by participating in the biannual 35 winery walking tour of Healdsburg called Wine Walk Healdsburg.

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