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2019 Hall of Fame

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

Ben Drake, Drake Enterprises

Temecula Valley vintners were proud to introduce the latest Hall of Fame inductee at the 36th Annual Grape Day conference held on April 18, 2019 at South Coast Winery in Temecula, California. The inductee honored was the late Ben R. Drake, owner of Drake Enterprises, Inc., a Temecula-based farm management company, and a long-time board member of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association.

The Temecula Valley Winegrowers Hall of Fame was introduced in 2016 by Phil Baily, owner of Baily Winery and current President of the Board for the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association (TVWA). The first inductees into the Hall of Fame were Vince & Audrey Cilurzo and John Moramarco. At the time, Baily noted “The recent passing of wine country pioneer Vince Cilurzo prompted the TVWA Board of Directors to consider ways we could honor his memory. In discussing this, we realized that other pioneers should be recognized, most notably Audrey Cilurzo, because Vince and Audrey partnered in their accomplishments. John Moramarco was unquestionably the key leader of our rise in the 1960s and for the following thirty-plus years.”

Since that time, the association’s Board of Directors has inducted the late John Poole and his son, Peter Poole, who founded and operated Mount Palomar Winery for over two decades, as well as Ely Callaway, founder of Callaway Vineyard & Winery and of Callaway Golf fame. 

“This year’s Hall of Fame inductee was similarly accomplished and very well respected within Temecula Valley’s wine community and we’re very appreciative of his effort on behalf of all of us,” stated Phil Baily.  Ben’s long service as a member and Chairman of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, and his service as a state-wide leader in the fight against Pierce’s Disease brought recognition and respect to our Valley.  To many in our industry, Ben was Temecula.  He was one of the three or four key players who did the most to grow the reputation of the Temecula Valley Wine Country.”

Ben was a fifth-generation farmer in Riverside County and a resident of Temecula since 1973. Ben founded Drake Enterprises, Inc., 40 years ago. They currently manage 750 acres of avocados and 450 acres of winegrapes in the Temecula Valley.  Ben passed away this past November.   

Ben accomplished much in his professional career, including being a long-time Board member and President of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association, President of the Rancho California Water District Board of Directors, Past Chairman of California Association of Winegrape Growers and Past President of Riverside County Farm Bureau, just to name a few.

When asked about Ben’s contributions to Temecula’s thriving wine region, the TVWA’s Executive Director, Krista 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.  Ben is missed tremendously, and this recognition is well deserved.”

Ben’s wife, Sharon, his daughters Katie and Courtney, his son-in-law JD Harkey, his three grandsons and his long-time assistant, Kathleen were on hand to accept the award on Ben’s behalf. 

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