Don Galleano

An Outsized Personality

March 26, 1952 – June 2, 2021

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A Legacy of Impact

Donald Domenic Galleano was the patriarch of the multi-generation Galleano winemaking family and a longtime community leader in inland Southern California. In addition to directing his family’s Galleano Winery in Mira Loma, California, Don was an important figure in the development of regional water solutions, and his work securing water for the area helped lay the groundwork for the formation of the cities of Eastvale and Jurupa Valley, which are now both thriving Southern California cities.

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Early Life

Don was born in Los Angeles on March 26, 1952. He was the only child of Bernard Domenico Galleano, known as “Nino,” and Mary Capellino Galleano, whose families both came from northern Italy’s Piemonte region.

Don grew up on the 160-acre ranch that his family purchased in 1927 from the family of Esteban Cantú, the former governor for the Northern District of Baja, California.

Operation of the winery was a focus of Don’s life, beginning in childhood. His father Nino, whom he remembered as stern and silent, ran the production side, while his witty, charismatic mother oversaw the retail store. Don’s outdoorsy, sociable paternal grandfather, Domenico, worked the fields and ran the picking crew.

“I got exposed to both worlds and developed skills in viticulture and enology,” said Don, who could run the entire winery operation by the time he was 15.

The experience also made him fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. He also worked summers on his father’s ranch in Bakersfield, California, tending crops of tomatoes, watermelons and cotton.

Don, who graduated from Rubidoux High School, grew up with the children of other well-known winemaking families in the Cucamonga Valley. “All the people we associated with were in this business,” he said.

He attended Riverside City College and San José State University, where he studied business.

Don’s real passion, though, was politics. He worked for Al Ballard, the former mayor of San Bernardino, and other U.S. Senate and Congressional candidates, becoming close friends with Rep. Ken Calvert along the way.

Galleano Winery

Don was 32 when he took over operations at the Galleano Winery following his father’s death in 1983, making him the third-generation vintner and winegrower at the Historic Cantú-Galleano Ranch. Galleano is the oldest winemaking operation in Riverside County and the last remaining bonded Prohibition-era winery owned and operated by its founding family in the Cucamonga Valley.

At the time, the Galleano winery was a small retail operation. Don put it on the map. In 1993, the winery was declared a historic landmark and now serves as a family compound, with two of Don’s children and their families living in other houses on the property.

Don was very proud of his family and its place in history – one of his favorite subjects. As a child, Don scoured abandoned wineries in the Cucamonga Valley and picked up artifacts. He also immersed himself in finding public records related to the Galleano history in Mira Loma, once known as Wineville.

Like his grandfather and father before him, Don passed his winemaking knowledge to his son, Domenic, who now produces Galleano’s award-winning zinfandel, sherries and ports from grapes grown on the ranch.

Public Service

Don served tirelessly as a leader and decision-maker for local and regional water agencies, where he was a champion of water supply reliability and sustainability, particularly in the face of drought.

He served continuously on the Western Municipal Water District Board of Directors since his election in 2004 until his death, representing Eastvale, Jurupa Valley and Norco, as well as other neighboring unincorporated areas. He was also Western’s sole representative to the Board at Metropolitan Water District of Southern California from 2015 to 2021, tackling regional challenges such as long-term storage and Delta conveyance for the State Water Project.

At the time of his death, Don was serving on the Board of the Chino Basin Watermaster, overseeing management of one of the largest groundwater banks in the state. He was also Western’s representative to the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority Board, planning projects to increase water supply and protect the Santa Ana River Watershed.

Don’s longest consecutive stint in elected office was at the Jurupa Community Services District (JCSD) from 1982 to 2004. His work at JCSD and his efforts to bring water to the area helped lay the groundwork for the formation of what are now the cities of Eastvale and Jurupa Valley – evidence of his skills as a businessman and a preservationist who balanced historical protections with economic realities.

Don’s legacy extended beyond water and winegrowing. He was founder and chairman of the Jurupa Valley Pro Rodeo, which began in the 1970s; served as President of the Western Riverside County Businessmen’s Association and the Jurupa Chamber of Commerce; was on the Board of the National Orange Show Foundation and Los Angeles County Fair Association; and was a founding director of De Anza National Bank.

Personal Life

Beyond his work as a community leader, Don was known as a family man and loyal friend.

His warmth and humor influenced everything he touched, from his personal and business dealings to politics and fundraising for candidates and community organizations.

Don was charming, selfless and kind. He was always impeccably dressed – even as a child – and rarely without a fedora. He was a lover of good food and good wine and likened the experience to “traveling the world.” Don was a gentleman and a generous soul – both in tangible goods and genuine compliments – who never failed to send visitors to his home away with few bottles (or a case) of their favorite varietal.

Don lived until his death in the home where he was raised. Don always entered the house through an unlocked side door, mere steps from the winery tasting room and store that bears his family’s name.

The interior was a time capsule of sorts, a cross between a bachelor pad and a cozy mountain cabin. The knotty pine paneled walls were adorned with historic family photos and framed, faded ribbons from wine competitions.

Don kept a cigar ashtray next to his favorite chair, a juke box with hundreds of favorite LPs from back in the day, and a gallon jug of Galleano’s signature old vine zinfandel on the door of the refrigerator. The home was always busy, with Don’s three adult children, grandchildren and other visitors stopping by regularly to visit.

Don’s first wife, Bonnie Bernard Galleano, was killed in a car accident in 1977, leaving Don to raise their infant daughter, Gina Marie, who was born in 1976. Don welcomed a daughter, Annamarie, to the family in 1983 and a son, Domenic, in 1985. Don has seven grandchildren, four girls and three boys.

Don managed to create a sense of community wherever he went, always preceded by his larger-than-life persona, whether it was at the Paso Robles winery where he held an interest or the vineyard where he treated employees like family.

In addition to his role as a winemaker, Don served as a wine judge in international wine competitions. He was Chairman of the Pacific Rim Wine Competition, a member of the Los Angeles County Fair Wine Competition Steering Committee and a member of the American Society for Enology and Viticulture. He served as a judge for the Los Angeles International Wine Competition, New World International Wine Competition, Riverside International Wine Competition and the California State Fair, among numerous others.