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BEAVER COUNTY TIMES
ROBINSON TWP. —
Michael Kavic is glad he majored in chemistry in college because it really comes in handy when he makes wine at his small Robinson Township winery.
Kavic Winery is Michael’s weekend gig when he isn’t lecturing at the Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown, Ohio, and serving as an adviser to first- and second-year medical students.
Kavic, who grew up in Hopewell and Independence townships, served as one of 25 people who originally brought laparoscopic surgery, also known as minimally invasive surgery, to the U.S.
After 15 years of being a surgeon, Kavic called it quits and, instead, took up wine making.
Kavic said it just seemed natural to him given that the family of his Italian wife, Patricia, and his Serbian family had plenty of experience.
“Both Patricia’s grandparents and mine made wine at home for years,” Kavic said. “I think that’s how my grandmother survived the Depression. It probably wasn’t legal, but she did that. We made wine at home, then we did this.”
The husband-and-wife team created Kavic Winery on a small property tucked away off Campbells Run Road. It is equipped with a tasting room for sampling their 14 wines — eight white, six red — and a laboratory below, where all of it is tested and bottled.
Business has been doing so well since they first opened their doors in 2009, that they are ready to expand.
The Kavics are currently building their own vineyard, which will be located four miles from their winery between Bayer Corp. and Settlers Cabin Park in North Fayette Township. Kavic said the project is time-consuming and labor-intensive, but that’s not stopping the family.
“We are doing it because there’s an allure to a vineyard — a romance to it,” Kavic said. “There’s stars in our eyes, maybe.”
By opening the vineyard, the family will be able to have control of their own grapes for the first time. Currently, they are purchasing grapes from vineyards near Erie.
Michael and his family are creating the vineyard literally from the ground up. They’ve so far measured the land, sprayed the herbicide, and made a deal with a New Jersey nursery to buy Marquette grapes, a hardy type ideal for cold weather.
Kavic and his wife have been dreaming big since they started filling out the state license application in 2005 for their business. They have entered their wines in state, national and international competitions — and brought home medals.
“When we first opened, Patricia wanted to put our Blaufrankisch, a pinot noir type of wine, into a competition,” Kavic said. “I said, ‘Are you nuts? What if they don’t like our wine?’ She said, ‘Are you going to tell anyone?’"
The Kavics took home their first bronze medal judged by the 2012 Tasters Guild International. It wouldn’t be the last, either.
Their blush wine won a silver medal at the Eastern Wine Competition, which Kavic noted was judged in California.
“They don’t have high opinions of Pennsylvania and Ohio wines, so we are really proud of that,” Kavic said.
The local winemakers have gone on to win other awards, which were in competition with international wines from Argentina, France and Germany.
But, before any of this happens, the Kavics have a ritual before they bottle their wine. On the eve of bottling, Michael and Patricia sit down in their basement and sample the wine. They make the decision whether to go for it — or not.
“I love this because it’s the excitement of tasting the finished product,” Patricia Kavic said. “You always start off with the same process, using the grapes, but when you taste it, each time it’s completely different.”
Patricia is the administrator behind the business who in charge of social media, their small-scale advertising and billing. Her Italian background and the couple’s many trips to Italy when Michael lectured on laparoscopic surgery inspired the winery’s European decor.
But, Michael credits their earnings to the amount of time they take to age their wines.
“All of our wines are aged in tanks for a three-year minimum for reds, and a minimum of two years for white wines,” Kavic said.
Kavic said it then takes a minimum of three to six months for bottle aging.
“By doing that you let the wines metal out,” Kavic said. “We are really happy with our wines.”
So happy with them that he travels to Harrisburg every other month to give a voice for small, local wineries like his.
Michael was recently elected to the Pennsylvania Wine Association Board of Directors, where he serves on the legislative committee. The group looks at issues pertinent to small local wineries in the state.
“One of the big issues concerning our state is the privatization of liquor stores,” Kavic said. “The Pennsylvania Wine Association has no pertinent stance in the issue, but it takes input from us so that folks at the state level get an appreciation of what local wine makers do and what they are up against and the perils and pitfalls of having a winery in the state.”
Kavic said that if liquor stores are privatized, it wouldn’t affect his winery since they are only dealing with local customers.
And, the customers that come into his winery are one of his favorite things about owning his business.
“The best part of making a wine is when it turns out good, it’s really nice, but the other good part is meeting the people,” Kavic said. “These people who drink wine can appreciate and enjoy something a little more fine, and the finer things in life are finer because they are. And that’s the same thing with wine.”