Elizabeth Valdez

Elizabeth Valdez

Valdez Family Winery (Winemaker)

Elizabeth Valdez raised in Cloverdale, California, grew up in a family whose patriarch, Ulises Valdez, a Mexican immigrant from Michoacán, subscribed to traditional Latino beliefs: men did physical work and provided for their families, whereas women kept house, cooked meals, and cared for the children. Ulises founded a vineyard management firm before transitioning to winemaking, but despite being surrounded by the wine business, Elizabeth did not always want to be part of it. In fact, she was living in Southern California when homesickness brought back to Sonoma County, to working again in the cellar, and to the realization that this [winemaking] was what she wanted to do.

She was able to show her father over time that hands-on experience in the cellar, training by other winemakers, and courses at Santa Rosa Junior College had prepared for all the tasks required in the cellar to produce excellent wines. She produced her first vintage in 2016 and focuses on making Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel, all from fruit produced in the family’s vineyard.

Although Elizabeth is committed to all aspects of the wine business, her first “love” is harvest, saying, “I love the whole process of harvest. I’m creating something that’s alive and that people are going to enjoy with family or friends.” Her advice to someone considering winemaking as a career is to work a harvest: “Even if you work one harvest, if you are interested in getting in to the industry you’ll get a lot of experiences in how to go through the process that will help when you take classes. They do offer a class at the JC [Santa Rosa Junior College] that is a hands-on harvest — they have their own vineyard and it goes through the whole process, so that would be the number one class to take. Even if you don’t have experience, it will show you’ve done a harvest and can work in a winery.”

Elizabeth resides in Sebastopol, although the winery remains in Cloverdale.