The seed for a boutique winery was planted in Cayman, but first it had to be grafted to Europe to begin life on the vine. Goran and Renee Radevic were living in Cayman when they conceived of the idea for Radevic Estate, and now, they are back to share their celebrated creation with the world.
Dr. and Mrs. Radevic will stage a tasting of their award-winning wines Saturday evening at the Tasting Room and Wine Cellar, but the event will really be a return to their former home.
The couple met and married while living in Cayman, and they moved back to Montenegro shortly after Hurricane Ivan in 2004. Dr. Radevic, an emergency room doctor by trade, worked at the Cayman Islands Hospital for months after Ivan before leaving for his native Montenegro and beginning his dream job.
“Every night when he got off his shift, we’d sit and discuss our dream of owning a vineyard,” Mrs. Radevic said. “We’d discuss it in great detail, down to how many buildings and how we were going to run the business. No holds barred. We were going to do it to the best of our ability or not do it at all.”
Dr. Radevic prides himself on being the 26th generation of his family born in Montenegro, and he lived most of his adult life dreaming of running his own vineyard. His 27-year career as a doctor took him to South Africa, China, the Middle East and Cayman before his calling brought him back to Montenegro.
“I’m a medical doctor and my grandfather was an Orthodox priest,” he said. “He’s the one who taught me about wines and grapes. I knew how to graft the grapes before I could read and write. Despite knowing so much about grapes, I became a doctor, and I’m kind of the black sheep in my family.”
And while that knowledge has been with him his whole life, the practical experience of beginning his own vineyard was a different story entirely. Radevic Estate is based in Rogami, Montenegro, and Renee Radevic said it took quite a bit of imagination to envision the vineyard becoming a success.
“We left the island and started the vineyard. From scratch,” said Mrs. Radevic, who earned degrees in criminology and sociology prior to her turn to the wine business. “There was nothing there. No water. No home. Nothing. Goran wanted to show me the land, and when we walked there, thank God, I had lived in Cayman and knew how to use a machete. Because that’s what I used to go up the mountain.”
The couple spent a few years getting their vineyard off the ground, and Radevic Estate had its first harvest in 2009. The wine label is very much a family enterprise and their son literally cuts the grass and trims the trees in the vineyard, but Dr. Radevic made sure to credit his winemaster Ivan Dasic and agricultural engineer Milena Mugosa for their contributions to Radevic Estate.
Mr. Dasic, a former employee of Plantaze, Montenegro’s largest vineyard, came up with the concept for the best received bottle in the vineyard’s arsenal. That vintage is a white port called Renee, named after Mrs. Radevic and a winner of multiple awards at the Monde Selection competition in France.
“He’s a gray-haired guy with a lot of life experience working in the winery and making wines,” said Dr. Radevic of his vineyard’s secret weapon. “He came to me and said, ‘Doctor, from my student days, I’ve wanted to make port.’ I said, ‘Why didn’t you?’ And he said, ‘During the Communist time, they didn’t have ears for it.’ They didn’t allow him. So he made his first port with us. We couldn’t use the word port because of copyright, so we named it after my wife Renee. We have a white and red Renee.”
Radevic Estate makes 16 varieties of wine, and it produces about 15,000 bottles a year. The Radevic family mostly sells their wares in the Balkans, but they have also begun selling in Germany and the United States. Learning how to sell in new markets, Dr. Radevic said, has been a challenge in and of itself.
“In 2009, our first harvest, we sent some samples to some friends in the United States,” he said. “They had a blind tasting with some restaurant owners, and they loved our wine. But they said, ‘Your bottle is not nice. Your cork is not perfect.’ So I told my wife, ‘Darling, America is a very spoiled customer.’”
Renee Radevic threw herself into solving the bottle and cork equations, and now the vineyard finds itself running in full bloom. The wines of Radevic Estate are made without pesticides, herbicides or insecticides, and Mrs. Radevic said they are made without adding any extra sulfites to the mix.
The wine label has become the signature wine for Aman Resorts, a luxury hotel line that is situated in 30 different countries, and Radevic Estate is growing alongside its reputation. Now, 14 years after leaving Cayman, Dr. and Mrs. Radevic are excited to come back and share the fruits of their vineyard.
There will be six wines to taste at Saturday’s event, including the white port that won the silver medal at the Monde Selection, and Radevic Estate wines should be available at the Tasting Room going forward.
“After experiencing the success we’ve had,” Mrs. Radevic said, “we wanted to bring our story full circle and bring it back home to the birthplace of the idea. That’s where Mario [Lacoviello] comes in at the Tasting Room.”