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Check Out Breanna Hamilton’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Breanna Hamilton.

Hi Breanna, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself
In 1999, my husband, Chris decided he wanted to start a winery in Arizona. Not only a winery but a 100% estate winery, something that had never been done in Arizona before. Our first vines were planted in 2002 and we waited two long years for our Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah vines to mature. In 2004, we had our first harvest and made our first wines. Our wine was finally ready to sell in 2006! We were awarded the best red wine in the state and after many years of anticipation, we opened our doors! We have continued to use only our own fruit to make our award-winning wines.

In 2018, we went to our local Humane Society and added an adorable Aussie-Beagle puppy, George Bailey, to our family. It wasn’t with us long but the impact he back will last a lifetime. After a few short weeks, George started showing signs of illness, it went from bad to worse in a matter of hours. We rushed him to the emergency vet in Tucson. It took hours to figure out what was wrong but at 3 in the morning we received a frantic call from the doctor. George was dying, his kidneys were not functioning, there was nothing they could do. I was unable to accept this answer, there had to be something we could do.

The next day the doctor said our only option was to drive through the night to UC Davis San Diego to meet a kidney specialist. We started our drive to San Diego at 11pm, it was the longest drive of our lives. We had to constantly monitor George’s blood sugar levels and make sure he wasn’t going to die before we got there. We arrived at the hospital at 4am, he was rushed into the ICU and we scrambled to put down our deposit of $10,000 for care. Then we tiredly searched for a hotel that would allow an 8am check-in.

Over the next week, George received daily dialysis. We ran test after test to figure out what could possibly be causing kidney failure in a 10-week old puppy. Nothing came back positive, it just didn’t make sense. After week one things were looking up! His body was responding well to dialysis and kidney function looked like it was going to return. We paid another $10,000 and continued with this treatment plan. Over the next three weeks, we had many ups and downs but we were still positive, there was hope. I stayed in San Diego for almost the whole time George was in the hospital, only going home when it was absolutely necessary. Chris did the same, even calling in sick to work to stay near. After week 2 George was finally able to come out of the ICU, we found a dog friendly hotel by the beach and enjoyed his excitement of being out of the hospital! Things were looking great, he only had treatment 3 times a week. His body was responding well and most importantly, he was happy.

San Diego was the perfect place to be for this journey, it’s so dog-friendly! We enjoyed our trials with walks to the beach(he enjoyed this in a baby sling, since he couldn’t walk on the ground without completed vaccinations). We continued this way for another 2 weeks with another $10,000 deposit. Every day seemed to get better and better. We even got to come all the way home for the weekend, with tests to run on Monday. On Tuesday, February 13th (my birthday), we got bad news, his blood work was not good. We need to rush back to San Diego.

On the 15th, we had the most difficult conversation of my life. He was no longer responding well, it was time to stop treatment. The doctor came into the room already in tears, we had tried everything. No expense was spared. No option was overlooked. When even discussed the option of a transplant, nothing was going to fix him. We decided to give one last round of dialysis and go home. We went home, called in to work and spent his last week doing ‘dog’ stuff. Chasing chickens, kayaking, running through the vineyard, and lots of snuggles. Then, George let us know he was ready. We only had 7 weeks with Georgie but it only took 7 seconds to love him forever. ​

In 2019, we decided we needed to give back. We started ‘Support a Rescue’ week. For one week every month, we donated 100% of the profit to our rescue of the month. That first year we raised $16,000 for 12 animal rescues. But, that was NOT enough! I filed for non-profit status and started Rescued Hearts Cellars at the end of 2019. Our first non-profit wine was for George, it was called, It’s a Wonderful Life. With this wine and other non-profit items, we raised over $20,000 in 2020. We now have 12 different non-profit wines featuring our rescue animals. As of July 2021, we’ve raised $7,500 and have plans for fundraising events so we can meet our goal of $21,000 by the end of the year.

In 2021, we awarded our first grants to animal rescues and changed the lives of two deserving cats. Our grants are always for extraordinary veterinary care. We couldn’t save George but we can AND will save as many animals as possible. Our non-profit has zero operating expenses so every penny donated goes directly to saving lives! We are so appreciative of all the support we’ve received and love that you all keep Georgie’s memory alive and well.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
In 2020, both of our vineyards were struck with an incurable disease, Pierce’s disease. It’s highly contagious so it killed all 24 acres of our vines. The last 19 years of work wiped away. It was devastating. But, we must continue on, in 2022 we’ll be replanting brand new varietals that are resistant to this disease. It’s a little bit poetic, we planted our very first vines in 2002 and 20 years later we will be doing it all over again. We are excited to see what we can do with these new grapes!

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
My husband is the winemaker and vineyard manager and I run our non-profit, the winery and wine club. We specialize in 100% estate Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, they are consistently awarded vintage after vintage. We are extremely proud that we use exclusively our own grapes, even when the going gets tough. We are also proud that about half labels we produce are 100% not for profit and used to save animals at rescues all over Arizona.

Contact Info:


Image Credits

Kristin Bendigo Photography

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