Ulises Valdez, one of California’s most beloved vineyard managers and founder of his own family winery, died early Wednesday morning of a heart attack. He was 49. Valdez was widely considered one of the most knowledgeable and skilled vineyard managers in California. He was equally regarded as one of the most warm and loving personalities in the industry. Despite the enormity of his accomplishments, Valdez carried himself with great humility. An emotional speaker who gesticulated emphatically, Valdez would alternate between cracking jokes (often self-effacing) and tearing up during one of the many poignant moments of his remarkably moving tale. Though he praised his own dedication, Valdez seemed almost surprised by his success, painting it more as a lucky strike than as what it clearly is—the deserved result of decades of relentless work and an irrepressible entrepreneurial prowess. He was the true embodiment of the American Dream. He will be greatly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.