Longtime Temecula winery advocate and RCWD board member, Danny Martin, has died

Former Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association Board President and Senior Vice President of Rancho California Water District’s Board of Directors, Danny Martin, died Tuesday, Aug. 11. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Jeff Pack
Staff Writer

Danny J. Martin, the immediate past president of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association (TVWA) and current Senior Vice President of the Rancho California Water District Board of Directors, died at his home Tuesday, Aug. 11.

He was 62. 

Martin was a 1976 graduate of Cypress High School in Cypress and spent the majority of his career as a Commercial-Agri-business real estate appraiser as a certified general appraiser. He served as a winery appraiser and consultant from 1987 until his death, appraising and consulting on wineries from Temecula to Monterey. 

Martin lived in Temecula Wine Country, was also a winegrower, and was one of the region’s biggest champions, serving on the TVWA Board of Directors since 2014 and serving as the board’s president from 2017-2108. 

Martin was also at the helm during the 50th anniversary of Temecula Valley Southern California Wine Country in 2018 and still in the position when the American Viticultural Area made the list of Top 10 Wine Getaways by Wine Enthusiast magazine.

“I think it’s a true honor to be named as one of the Top 10 winery destinations in the world,” Danny Martin said during a celebration event in January 2019. “As president, of course, I’m totally biased, but I think we’re No. 1.”

Krista Chaich, Executive Director of TVWA, shared the news with member wineries Wednesday, Aug. 12. 

“Danny was a long-time grower member of the TVWA, served on our board of directors for many years, and led our board as president for two years,” she wrote in an email. “Danny served the association with much passion and led with his heart. He believed in our wine region and was one of our biggest cheerleaders; he will be greatly missed.”

Chaich said the association would distribute a statement and press release in the next few days. 

Martin was elected to Rancho California Water District’s Board of Directors in 2015 and his term was set to expire in December 2020 — serving as the board’s Senior Vice President in 2019 and 2020. Martin was the Chairman of the Engineering and Operations Committee and served on the Finance and Audit Committee.

Martin officially filed paperwork to run again for his seat on the board on July 23. In a candidate statement that Martin shared with Valley News on the morning of his death, told voters that he was “your advocate and voice on the RCWD Board of Directors. … It’s very simple. If it lowers water bills, I’m for it, if it increases them, I’m against it.”

During a meeting on Thursday, Aug. 6, Martin lauded Rancho Water’s board and staff for an upcoming vote on the continuing of a suspension of rate increases due to the COVID-19 pandemic until June 2021. 

“I think this is a really good thing that we’re doing to assist as many people as we can financially within the district,” Martin said. “And I think it will be appreciated.”

Jeff Armstrong, General Manager of Rancho California Water District, was understandably stunned when speaking with Valley News about Martin Wednesday afternoon. 

“Danny was a wine country resident and part of that community and he represented that community very, very well on our board,” Armstrong said. “He always considered impacts on the farming community, both in wine country and the avocado growers as well. And along those lines, one of the things that he did was push really hard for our CropSWAP program to help convert, higher water use and expensive crops to lower water use and more sustainable crops for a more reliable future for the ag community in our area. He was a big advocate and he did a great job on that front. 

“He was tenacious in his beliefs and his passions and was relentless on seeing progress happen.”

Armstrong said Martin was instrumental in leading the charge to bring COVID-19 testing for employees and their families to the district. 

“Danny was passionate about the safety and concern for our employees going through this and ensuring that they were working in a safe environment and we were doing everything that we could for them,” Armstrong said. “He wanted to make sure all of our employees had the opportunity to be tested, to make sure that they didn’t have the virus. He really spearheaded an effort to get the county to come into the water district for free and test all of our employees and their families, whoever wanted to do it. 

“My point is he really cared about the organization and the employees and their wellbeing as well,” he said. “It’s really nice to have a board member that cares about the community and his constituents and likewise about the employees that he’s working with as well.”

“Danny Martin was a passionate man that cared deeply for this community,” Rancho Water Board President, Bill Wilson, said in a press release. “He served his community in many different roles on many different boards and always did what was in the best interest of others. This valley lost a true advocate and dear friend.”

Previous to his time with Rancho Water, Martin served for just less than a year as an appointee by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to the Elsinore-Murrieta-Anza Resource Conservation District in 2015, which later became known as Temecula-Elsinore-Anza-Murrieta Resource Conservation District.

Martin is survived by his two daughters, Hannah and Emma, from a previous marriage. 

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com