Valley News -

By Jeff Pack

Temecula area businessman, RCWD Board of Directors President Ben Drake has died


Last updated 11/8/2018 at 2:59pm

Rancho California Water District

Ben Drake

According to multiple reports from colleagues and friends, Temecula area businessman and Rancho California Water District Board of Directors President, Bennett R. Drake, has died following a two-year battle with cancer.

Drake's colleague and Vice President of the Rancho California Water District Board of Directors, Danny Martin, considered Drake a legend in the Temecula Valley.

"This valley owes him a lot," Martin said. "Everyone respected Ben Drake. He was opinionated but principled and everyone respected that about him. But more than that, Ben was just a wonderful person and he will be greatly missed."

Martin shared a statement on Facebook regarding the passing of Drake.

"It is with great sorrow that I report to you that our friend and colleague Ben Drake has lost his courageous fight against cancer," said Martin, who also serves as Board President of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association, a group with which Drake was heavily involved. "Ben’s passing is a loss for all of us. God broke the mold when he gave us Ben. He is home now. Ben's contributions to the Wine Country and the Water District are legendary and will live in our hearts forever. Please pray for God's grace to be upon Sharon and the entire Drake Family."

Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards Chief Executive Officer Bill Wilson admired Drake's commitment to quality wines in Temecula.

"His tenacity and passion to encourage, if not demand, that everyone in the Temecula Valley do whatever it takes to grow the best wine grapes possible and make world-class wines from them," Wilson said. "His legacy to that end will live on and within the next generation of winegrowers for many years to come!"

Krista Chaich, Executive Director of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association, released a statement regarding Drake's impact on the wine community.

"We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Ben Drake," Chaich said. "It’s hard to know where to start when talking about Ben’s contributions to the success of Temecula Valley Wine Country. He was a tremendous leader and an ardent supporter of our wine region. Most notably, his leadership and guidance were never more apparent than when our winegrape growers were faced with the devastating loss of vineyards due to Pierce’s Disease, a bacterial infection that nearly wiped out our wine country. Ben called upon the State of California to assist in the fight against Pierce’s Disease through significant funding and helped to set up task forces and treatment and research programs. Many of us believe that had it not been for Ben’s efforts, our wine country wouldn’t be the thriving and award-winning wine region that it is today.

"Ben served on our Board of Directors for several years and as the Board President from 2014 through 2016. During this time, he fiercely protected both our winery owners and wine grape growers and consistently put the best interests of our entire wine region first. It’s hard to imagine a world without Ben Drake. We’ll not soon forget his big, infectious laugh and his endearing gruffness. His loss will be felt for many years to come.”

Devin Parr, brand marketing partner with Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country shared her experiences with working with Drake.

"Ben was one of the first people I met in Temecula, and a big force behind my career and my work out there," Parr said in an Instagram post. "He was gruff and occasionally grumpy but he had a HUGE heart and a sense of humor for days. And, most importantly, his passion for and dedication to seeing Southern California Wine Country live up to its immense potential was palpable. In memoriam, I’d like to take it back to one of my fondest memories of him, when he schooled me on planting vines, and then made fun of me for doing it wrong."

According to Drake's biography on the RCWD's board web page, he "was elected to RCWD's board in September 2001 with successive re-elections in 2005, 2009, 2013, and 2017. Drake served as Senior Vice President in 2004, 2012, 2016, and 2017; and as President in 2005, 2013, and 2018. Drake served on various Ad Hoc and Standing Policy Committees of the board since 2001, and currently represents the District as Director on the Santa Rosa Regional Resources Authority Board and District representative on the Western Riverside Water and Wastewater Financing Authority."

Drake is president of Drake Enterprises, Inc., which he has owned and operated for more than 37 years, which manages hundreds of groves and vineyards in the Temecula Valley and beyond.

He recently served on the State Board of Food and Agriculture and the past Chairman of the California PD/GWSS Board. His business affiliations include Chairman of the PD/GWSS Task Force, member of the Agricultural Leadership Associates, member of the UCR Chancellor's Agricultural Advisory Council, past President of the Riverside County Farm Bureau, member of the Riverside County Solid Waste Management Advisory Board, past Vice President of the USDA Hass Avocado Board, Director and past President of the Temecula Valley Winegrape Growers Association, member of the Murrieta/Temecula Group, past Chairman for the California Association of Winegrape Growers, member of the California Winegrape Grower Foundation Board, and 4H All-Star in Riverside County.

Drake has been a resident of the Temecula area since 1973 and is survived by his wife, Sharon, and four children.


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