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Wine maker honors friend's memory

About Rick Wills

By Rick Wills

Published: Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, 8:24 p.m.

Chukky Benetti says the wine he makes improved almost as soon as he met Michael McAndrew.

“He was fascinated by making wines. He was constantly improving on himself on the wines he made,” said Benetti, 82, a retired iron worker who has been making wine for 50 years.

After McAndrew, a retired state police officer, abruptly died last year, Benetti thought about how to best honor his friend.

What could be better than raising money by selling wine?

Benetti sold 24 bottles of his wine for $50 each as a fundraiser for Camp Cadet in Butler County. Camp Cadet is a summer camp run by the state police at various locations across the state.

“He was a great person. We hunted and fished and made wine together,” Benetti said of McAndrew.

Benetti donated the $1,200 he raised at a ceremony at the camp in August.

Camp Cadet accepts boys and girls ages 12 to 15. It is staffed by state troopers, local police officers and other volunteers and introduces participants to the criminal justice system. Participants are addressed as “cadet” during the week they attend.

“It is a great organization. This would have made my husband very happy,” said McAndrew's wife, Arda McAndrew of Butler.

Michael McAndrew, who spent 25 years as a state police officer, grew up in Erie near the southern end of the largest wine growing region east of the Rockies.

“He was Irish, and Ireland is not a wine country. But he had Italian neighbors in Erie. He never had formal training, but read books about wine and experimented. He said making wine is like chemistry,” Arda McAndrew said.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at



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