I consider myself lucky to be able to meet such fascinating people in my line of work. Over the years I have been fortunate to meet many winemakers and winery owners. I’ve met countless individuals who have a passion for the work they do. None have stood out as much as Ulises Valdez. I wrote about Ulises back in May of this year – Notes on a Wine Card – and recounted his story of hard work and dedication on his way to become one of the most respected and loved individuals in the wine business. Ulises passed away last week at the age of 49.
I met Ulises only once two years ago and it was at the 10 year anniversary event for my good friend Sal Medina at Sal’s Packing House Wines in Claremont. Sal has always been a fan of Ulises Valdez and introduced me to his wines years ago. I asked Ulises to recount the story to my son of when he purchased his first new truck. Ulises told the story with glee and pride. My son enjoyed Ulises and his stories. My son is a very good reader of character and to this day, knows that Ulises was a very special man. Ulises kept telling my son that “You can do anything in this country if you work hard!”
In today’s climate of fear and immigrant bashing, Ulises was and will always be a shining light. A light that will shine hope on the American Dream for those that continue to come to this country in search of a better life. Just as my dad came to this country from Mexico in search of a better life for himself, Ulises did the same and they both paved the way for a better life for their families.
I will always be grateful to Ulises for taking the time to talk to our party that night and especially for taking the time to sit and talk with my son who was 11 years old at the time. If Ulises said it once, he must have said it 10 times to my son…. “you can be anything you want with hard work and drive in this country.” Although that was the first time he ever met me or my son, he displayed a warmth and kindness for my son that reminded me of the caring one would expect from a padrino or Godfather.
I am very lucky to meet such wonderful people. I am so grateful and honored to have met Ulises Valdez. Gracias a la vida! Vaya con dios Ulises.