A Survivor Gives Back: New Wine Benefits Cancer Patients
Brittany Rice doesn’t wallow in her struggles. She beat cancer once when she was three – acute lymphatic leukemia, which was eradicated after seven years of experimental trials. And she beat it twice when she was 39 – ovarian cancer, from which she’s free and clear today. The youngest of three who grew up in Palm Springs and the Santa Ynez Valley, she lost her mother, Linda, to cancer, too – breast cancer – in 2010.
“Lots of good and many tragedies,” admits Rice, 41, who is recently divorced. “But I feel it’s a responsibility of a survivor to tell the story so others having to go through it can learn.”
So Rice isn’t wallowing. No self-pity here. Rather, she’s melding her struggles and her talents to do good.
Rice just launched a new private label in honor of the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, which supports families living in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo Counties who have a child battling cancer. The non-profit focuses not only on the child, but on the family as a whole – close to 200 families in 2019 alone – providing wide-ranging financial, educational, and emotional support. That’s a big deal for Rice.
“Growing up having cancer, there wasn’t a lot of support for kids with cancer,” she says. “A lot of the guide and reassurance and balance weren’t there, so I think it’s amazing that Teddy Bear is there to support kids – and their entire families – that way.”
Rice is donating 25% of the sale of each Teddy Bear bottle to the Foundation. The 2017 Grenache Rosé ($42) was fermented for four days, “so it has a lovely red color, with raspberry and red currant notes, and a nice finish,” says the winemaker. The 2017 Viognier ($34) was fermented in stainless steel tanks, for a crisp mouth feel and flavors of apricot and Asian pear. And the 2015 Cabernet Franc ($48), “a soft, elegant wine that’s really bold and juicy, and with high tannins,” according to Rice, was aged in oak barrels that once stored dessert wine, giving the cab franc nuances of “caramelization, bourbon vanilla and a maple, though dry, finish.”
Rice was born into an entrepreneurial family who, in 1990, established one of Santa Barbara County’s great wine labels, Sunstone Winery; the 52-acre ranch in Santa Ynez features 28 acres of organically farmed wine grapes, including merlot, cabernet franc and syrah. Rice worked on the Sunstone team in the early 2000s and, in 2005, founded her own boutique label, Millésimé Cellars, to produce small lot, unfiltered Bordeaux blends. Millésimé produces about 800 cases of wine a year and sources grapes from throughout Santa Barbara County; the wines are showcased at a facility in Camarillo, where Rice has helped individuals and organizations create their own custom wines.
Rice’s other passion is food, which led her to earn a degree from the California Culinary Academy and, in 2010, found her own organic catering business, Rustik Chef. She’s also been a pastry chef at the Four Seasons Biltmore in Montecito and, until last week, at the Four Seasons Westlake Village. This week, with the 2019 harvest going into full swing, Rice returned to Sunstone as director of winemaking, overseeing an annual production of about 14,000 cases.
“It’s a little daunting,” she admits, “but totally exciting, too.”
The Teddy Bear wines are all sourced from vineyards throughout the Santa Ynez Valley and showcase a golden ribbon on a sky blue watercolor label. They’re available through millesimecellars.com and by emailing the winemaker directly: Brittany@millesimecellars.com.
To learn more about the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation, go to teddybearcancerfoundation.org. You can donate directly by texting TEDDY to 444999.