Tuesday, January 23, 2018

From Law Enforcement to Winemaker - Cindy Cosco of Passaggio Wines

I’ve known Cindy Cosco, owner of Passaggio wines for a number of years now. The first time I tasted one of her wines was through the Rosé program with Winestudio at a time when I wasn’t quite keen on Rosé and her Rosé was one that changed my mind. I wanted to visit and meet Cindy in person when I was out last February for a few days, but it just didn’t work out. I told her when I was in town for the Wine Bloggers Conference I would make it a point to visit and that is what I did.

Her tasting room is located right in Vine Alley in Sonoma Square and it was very easy to find. I was very excited to meet her in person, face to face as I felt like I’ve known her decades. To add to the experience, just as just as I finished the tasting, Jenn Nelson from WineAntics walks in as she came to taste and meet Cindy in person too.  Another person I know but never met.  Needless to say, I stayed on a little while longer and got to taste her entire portfolio.  Onto how Cindy got to Sonoma.

Born and raised in West Virginia and went to college in Florida and ended up in Manassas, Virginia working in law enforcement for 15 years. In 2004 she had had enough sought out to follow her passion. Growing up in an Italian household where her grandfather made wine in the basement, she really wanted to be on the winemaking side of things. So every 6 to 8 weeks she would fly out to California and she fell in love with Sonoma and realized this is where she wanted to be. So she relocated and began working for BevMo figuring she will meet someone in the local wine industry that could lead her into the local wine industry, which she did. She met a gentleman whose job on Saturdays was to do tastings for Chateau St. Jean and he got Cindy a harvest temp job at Chateau St. Jean. Thrilled and so excited, Cindy began working as a cellar rat during the 2004 harvest and then they moved her into the lab and hired her on full time after harvest. She stayed there for three years and went to Napa Valley College receiving her degree in enology.

Cindy had it in her mind to make an Unoaked Chardonnay and after attended the open house for Crushpad, a custom crush facility in San Francisco it led her to a lab manager position there and her first wine - 50 cases of Passaggio Unoaked Chardonnay. In 2011 Cindy left Crushpad and went to work for Chimney Rock and in 2012 went out on her own. In 2014 Cindy opened up the tasting room in Sonoma, bought a house and got a puppy, Phoebe and in 2016 she opened up her own production facility 5 minutes from the tasting room.

Passaggio is known for their white wines and she wasn’t going to produce any reds but people kept asking her at tastings, don’t you have a red. So her Pinot Noir was born and the so was beginning of her red portfolio. Cindy doesn’t want to be like everyone else so you are in for a treat with her portfolio. She produces a Grenache, Merlot, Syrah, GSM, Bordeaux Blend for reds, Roussanne, Pinot Grigio, Passion Blend (Grenache Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier), Riesling, Unoaked Chardonnay, Grenache Blanc, for whites and some new ones to come for both portfolios.

All the wines I tasted were so good it was hard to choose what to send home. Below are the wines the UPS man delivered when I returned from my trip. If you are in or planing a trip to Sonoma, make sure to stop by Passaggio Wines and tell them I Cindy I sent you! Remember her wines are produced in small lots, so if you taste and like them, purchase them.

2016 Unoaked Chardonnay, Namesake Vineyards Carneros, all stainless steel fermented. Really beautiful, balanced with notes of pineapple, green apple, pear and citrus. SRP $36

2016 Grenache Blanc, Matthes Vineyards, Sonoma Valley is a field blend of 75% Grenache Blanc and 25% Marsanne. Lots of stone fruit, hint of green apple and citrus SRP $33

2016 Roussanne, Hux Vineyards, Lodi aged in neutral oak. Well balanced with pear, stone fruit and a touch of honey. SRP $32

2015 GSM - a Rhone Style Red Wine Blend. When blending this wine Cindy was looking for something more on the lines of the French wines. This is 44% Grenache, 44% Syrah, 12% Mourvedre. Lots of red and black fruit, plum and a hint of black pepper. SRP $49

2015 Grenache, Heringer Estates Vneyards, Clarksburg a great holiday wine with red berry, hints of white pepper, cinnamon SRP $48

2015 “Connect” Red Wine, Coplan Vineyards, Sonoma County a blend of 69% Merlot, 23 Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot - lots going on here, black fruit, blueberry, red fruit hint of mocha and clove. SRP $62

Friday, January 19, 2018

Making a New Jersey Wine Lover Out Of Me

I’ve been coming down to the Jersey Shore since the mid 1980’s when I started dating my husband. He is from the Philadelphia area and his family has a house in Cape May we would visit during the summer. Family vacations growing up never took us to the Jersey Shore so my first few times coming down here I really liked it, and then it began a yearly vacation.

My first experience with New Jersey wines was with Cape May Winery. We would stop there every now and then on our way home from the beach. I found their wines to be okay but nothing to write home about. It wasn’t until about seven years ago the wine scene down here changed and there are now I believe seven wineries in Cape May County and yes, I’ve been to all of them. Do I have my favorites? Yes, there are two wineries that I feel are more superior than the others in terms of quality. But just this little corner doesn’t speak for the entire state. Besides the wineries in Cape May County, I have only been to one other in central Jersey for a food truck and bonfire event. The event was fantastic, but the wines not so much.

I’ve kind of been disappointed in Jersey wines. Then I had a lengthy conversation with John at the Winemakers Co-op and he insisted on sending me a NJ Wine care package to change my opinion of New Jersey wines. In addition, the #Winestudio program that I participate in had the entire month of November on New Jersey Wines. So by the end of last year, I had tasted a lot of New Jersey wines and learned a lot about the region and history. Did it change my mind. Yes! What it showed me that there are wines in New Jersey to be sought after, and as a wine region they are young and trying to collectively come together to increase the quality of the wine and make a name for themselves and a region to visit for wine tourism.

Wine in New Jersey dates back to 1739 when the first vines were planted. Jersey wines won awards dating back to 1767 when the colony’s wines won awards from London’s Royal Society of Arts. Between 1860 and 1920 the wine industry flourished and then prohibition hit. At the end of Prohibition in 1933 Tomasello Winery in Hammonton New Jersey was founded and it help revive the New Jersey wine industry. By 1980 there were only 7 wineries operating. In 2011 that number jumped to 34 wineries and today New Jersey boasts 50 wineries and more than 1,000 acres of vines in 15 of the 21 counties in the state.

While there are wineries all over the state a majority of them are located in the Outer Coastal Plain AVA and this AVA has been the leading factor in the growth and acceptance of New Jersey wines. The Outer Coastal Plain covers is 2.2 million acres in Southeastern New Jersey. The climate is influenced by the maritime effects of the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay. The soil is sandy or sandy loam. Recently, about 4 years ago the wineries of Cape May submitted an application to the TTB for designation of the Cape May Peninsula AVA. They are still waiting TTB approval.

If you are in the tri-state area of New York or Philadelphia you should take advantage of the Garden State Wine Growers Wine Trails Passport. You can have the paper form or use their app (available in Apple’s App store or Google play) You have three years to visit the wineries and you get entered to wine a wine trip if you visit all the wineries. For more information about the passport program visit https://www.newjerseywines.com/winery-passport/

Here are the New Jersey wines that I tasted that made a New Jersey wine lover out of me.

2013 Unionville Estate Grown Pheasant Hill Syrah SRP $32.95. I think this a a nice representation of a cool weather Syrah. Immediately after opening there was aromas of black fruit, black currant and a hint of barnyard that disappeared. The wine was a little thin, but that is cool weather growing. A nice complex wine as it opens and smooths out with flavors of cherry, cranberry, plum, vanilla and a tiny hint of spice.

2016 Sharrott Barrel Reserve Chardonnay SRP $24.99 Uncork and the aroma of oak, vanilla and lemon curd come at you. The wine was surlie aged with flavors of melon and butter and hint of lemon. Personally this was a bit to oaky for me, but if you like that in a wine, you will like this Chardonnay.

2014 William Heritage Vintage Brut Estate Reserve SRP $40 is 69% Chardonnay and 31% Pinot Noir. This sparkling is unoaked with no dosage. Nice, toast on the nose, crisp, dry with nice acidity.

2016 William Heritage Chenin Blanc SRP $18 The color on this was beautiful clear extremely pale yellow with complex aromas of peach, lemon wet stone. The wine had a touch of sweetness with nuisances of peach, green apple and pear. I would pair this wine with Asian dishes.

2016 Hawk Haven Naked Chardonnary $16.99 I have become such a fan of unoaked Chardonnay. I think you get such a great expression of the grape. Here you find pineapple, passion fruit aromas leading to a palate of apple with hints of citrus on the finish.

2015 Hawk Haven Cabernet Franc $39.99 This wine is part of their Signature Series where I received bottle #7 of 537. Felt very honored to be tasting this 100% Cabernet Franc. Lots of dark and red fruit, nice tannins and well balanced.

2013 Palmaris Outer Coastal Plain Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve SRP $40 This is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon 20% Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc and aged in French and American oak for 22 months. Black currant, black fruit, lavender with hint of forest smoke and evergreen in this medium bodied wine.

2014 Beneduce Vineyard Hunterdon County Pinot Noir SRP $29.99 Beautiful garnet color with aromas of mint, cranberry and cigar ash. A slightly complex palate of pomegranate, mix red berry, strawberry and finishing with baking spices.

2013 Unionville Vineyards Pheasant Hill Chardonnay SRP $42.95 This is a really beautiful and elegant Chardonnay. Well balanced with melon, tart green apple, pear and some salinity. It will dance on your palate and put a smile on your face.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Wine and Ouija Board

I was going through my notes and realized I never shared with you my wine and Ouija Board experience. Three years ago when we were cleaning out my moms house I found a Ouija Board that must have been from the 1950’s. I decided not to put it out for the garage sale, but to keep it, not sure why because they kind of creep me out, but I did. When I purchased a property in Cape May to rent out seasonally I put the Ouija Board in there so perhaps people on vacation would want to test the waters. After all, sometimes when you are on vacation you do things you wouldn’t normally do, right?

Well fast forward to this past October, we took a haunted tour of Cape May with a Craig McManus a medium who has spent years researching the paranormal activities in Cape May. There are a lot of haunted properties in this little town with the history behind the person and why they are still here. I found this tour fascinating and so did my friend Jen. Shortly after this tour she suggested we get pizza one night and go over to my rental and get the Ouija Board out, and so that is what we did.

Our evening began with pizza and a bottle of Alta Mora Rossa 2014 from the Mt Etna region of Sicily. The wine is 100% Nerelo Mascalese which is in indigenous grape to that region. The wine had nice acidity, flavors of blackberry, hint of sour cherry, black pepper and soft tannins that paired perfectly with our cheese and pepperoni pizza. (SRP $24) After we finished the pizza we sat and enjoyed the wine as we were delaying our event with the Ouija Board. After the bottle was gone we had to go through with our plan.

Out came the Ouija Board and I even got the directions out. We sat in the living room in the dark (light from kitchen was on) facing each other on two chairs knees touching, the board on our lap three fingers of each hand on the planchette. We closed our eyes and began. The beginning felt like yoga, focusing on, I am not sure what, asking if there was a spirit in the house and all of a sudden the planchette began to move. Our eyes opened and we started with our questions, which we learned had to be simple, yes, no, or numerical. The person contacted was named P.T. she lived in the house previous before the knockdown to the home that is there now. She was born in 1936 and has five kids, three of which were girls and she didn’t want to talk about them or her grandchildren. She did say all the vacationers that stayed at the home were lovely guests. She told us when she was tired as the planchette began to slip off the board and she finally moved it to say goodbye.

After that Jen and I just sat there in the dark speechless. We actually asked each other if we moved the planchette which neither of us did. Realizing we drank all the wine (maybe PT had some too) and really needed a drink we packed up the board for another time and went to the bar up the road for a shot!  

One thing I will say, she was a very nice spirit and it was a lovely warm experience. When I have the time I will go up to the county records department and see if I can research who previously lived at the property and see if their initials are P.T. If they are, I want to find out if she has a cemetery plot locally and I will visit and leave her some flowers.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Thinking Back to Boating with Esporão

As I sit her and begin to write about these two nice wines from Portugal I think back to the summer when I spent the afternoon boating with Esporão Verdelho and right now it’s snowing and we have a blizzard warning. Boy do I wish I was back on the boat sipping this delightful wine full of acidity, minerality and tropical fruits.

I haven’t experienced many wines from Portugal so when these two Esporão selections were offered to me as a sample I graciously said yes and so glad I did. I’m just sorry it’s taken me this long to put it down to share with you.

A little history on Esporão, they are a family owned producer of wines and olive oils. In 1973 José Roquette purchased the property Herdade do Esporão which is one of the oldest estates in Europe dating back to 1267. His vision is to produce exceptional table wines, but due to the Carnation Revolution their first vintage didn’t happen until 1985. Today José son João Roquette oversees Esporão and in 2008 they expanded to the Douro with the purchase of the 1714 historic property Quinta dos Murcas.

Very in-tune with historic preservation in 2003 Esporão received the approval to restore the Medieval Esporão Tower which was built in 1457. Today the ground floor houses the Perdigões Museum where you will find artifacts excavated from the Perdigões Settlement dating back to the 3rd Millennium BC.

The two wines I tried were the 2016 Verdelho and the 2015 Trincadeira, Herdade do Esporão from the Alentejo region in Portugal. Located about 100 miles southeast of Lisbon this estate has 4,500 acres which 1,300 are planted with vines and olive trees. The climate is very hot with not much rainfall and the soils are a combination of granite, schist and clay.

Herdade do Esporão 2016 Verdelho is a new grape varietal for me. It’s the white grape associated with Madeira wine. The grape thrives in hot sunny areas such as the Alentejo region. I immediately fell in love with this wine. Reminded me a little of a Sauvignon Blanc. Nice acidity but not overly zingy with tropical fruits like pineapple and grapefruit and hints of minerality. I enjoyed this on a hot summer day boating, but will pair well with fish and any occasion, just open and enjoy. SRP $14.

Enjoy the video from the winemaker talking about the Verdelho and you can see the estate it’s grown on.

Herdade do Esporão 2015 Trincadeira is another varietal new to me. This wine is 100% Trincadeira which is an indigenous grape to Portugal. The grapes are harvested by hand, fermented then aged for 6 months in cement tanks. The wine a nice color with aromas of cardamon, blckberry and black cherry. Soft on the palate and full of black fruit with a touch of licorice on the finish. Paired this with tomato soup and grilled cheese. This will be a nice everyday red wine. SRP $15

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Winephabet Street Season 1 Episode 7: G is for Gruner Veltliner

I thought I’d begin the new year with some wine education. So if you missed Winephabet Street in December, here is your chance to catch up and learn about Gruner Veltliner the signature grape of Austria.

Winephabet Street is a series where every month Lori Budd of Dracaena Wines and I work our way through the alphabet exploring wine and wine regions. The show is live the third Monday of the month at 8pm. It’s free but you must register to attend. Put it on your calendar, pour yourself a glass of wine and hang out with us. If you miss it, you can always catch up here on my blog.

December took us exploring Gruner Veltliner which is the signature grape of Austria. It wasn’t until 1990 through DNA analysis they identified who the mother of Gruner was which is Savagnin and in 2007 the father was identified as St. Georgener-Rebe. Most of the Gruner Veltliner is grown west of Vienna in in the lower hills of the Wachu, Kremstal and Kamptal regions. In the hill of these regions is where they plant the Riesling.

     I had a tough choice deciding on what Gruner to open.  I had three of them in the house.  I opened for this episode was a 2016 Buchegger Gruner Veltliner “Pfarrweingarten” Kremstal Reserve that I purchased for $19.71. Just for your notes the other Buchegger was priced at $13.81 and the Mayr was priced at $9.98. The reason I opened the Pfarrweingarten over the others is Lori was joking on us trying to pronounce it, so I thought, might as well give it a good try. The wine had nice minerality, but I was a little disappointed on the acidity. I thought it would have a bit more zing, but I think that is what I was expecting. A little nectarine, grapefruit and hint of white pepper.
If you like Sauvignon Blanc you will like Gruner Veltliner, I urge you to try it. It has nice zing of acidity, it’s food friendly. Let me know if you pick up a bottle and how you enjoy it.
I hope you enjoy this episode of Winephabet Street. Please let me know if you have any comments or questions.

Want to listen on the go - download the podcast below.

Register for January's webinar at https://events.genndi.com/channel/HHH 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Happy Holidays - The Year in Review!

It's been quite a year and I am very fortunate for many things. As I take a look back I am not quite sure how I accomplished everything I did but without the help of family and friends, I couldn't have done anything.

 I did drink my share of wine, of course, but I got to visit California twice, Paris and Burgundy. In fact Paris reminded me very much of New York City and Burgundy of the Hudson Valley, especially the train ride. I felt right at home. The wineries and towns we visited awesome.  I loved getting up in the morning and taking a walk through the vineyards. The hotels  version of a Continental Breakfast is way more filling than what I am use to and I loved the cheese and bread. Many of the wineries we visited had so much family history. During my free time on my tour I got invited to Chateau de Pommard .and our guide gave us an incredible tasting along with the history of the clos estate - everything is walled in the Chateau grounds, building and vineyards. During my trip to Paris I tapped all my tastings and lectures to share with you, including the one that was through a translator.  Bad news, in October my computer crashed and I lost everything, all my notes and recordings so that is why you haven't heard about my trip.

We had a few milestones this year.  In April I published my first book Tapping the Hudson Valley. I can't believe I published a book and I want to thank everyone for their support during the project. The book is available on Amazon.  After the book launch we drove to South Carolina and picked up a new puppy, Gigi. I forgot it was like having an infant. A few weeks later, my daughter Melanie received her Masters Degree in Hospitality from Johnson & Wales University and I partnered with Lori Budd of Draceana Wines for Winephabet Street. I have so much fun doing this monthly education program. It's a learning experience for me just as much as it is for our audience.  I couldn't of asked for a better video webinar partner than Lori and our mascot Elmo.

Through my wine life I have met some wonderful friends and I got to meet some I only know through social media in person.  Meeting Tanisha in Paris was a great way to get introduced to Paris.  Then in October I got to meet some wonderful ladies from #winestudio, an educational program I participate it, in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Needless to say we had a great time and great wine! Next it was off to California for the second time.  I got to go to Sacramento and visit my friend Patty and she took me up to the El Dorado Hills and Shenandoah Valley for some wine tasting.  First time I was in that area and was quite impressed. Some of the towns time did not take over and it was like the wild wild west. From there I headed down to Santa Rosa for the Wine Bloggers Conference.  It is such a great weekend when I get to spend time with my wine friends that I talk to all year long on social media, learn about wine and wine regions and taste wine from all over the world. During this trip I got to take a tour of Sterling Vineyards and Beringer two iconic wineries (blog post in January). Dinner at Jordan Winery takes the cake. They take hospitality to the next level, they are personable, gracious and lovable as are their wines.

That leaves us to now.  I want to thank all of you for your love and support all year.  If it's wasn't for my family, friends and you my audience, I wouldn't be where I am today. I want to wish you all the best this holiday season.

May your 2018 be filled with love, laughter, good health and great wine. See you in 2018.  Cheers!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Happy National Sangria Day!

Holiday White Sangria with Aime Sweet Moscato

Among all the hustle and bustle of December we have to take a moment and celebrate National Sangria Day.  Sangria is a fun and festive beverage that began in Spain.  During the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York, Spain introduced Sangria to the visitors and everyone loved it! So began the Sangria craze.

Today we celebrate the wonderful beverage. My girlfriend Teri makes a killer Sangria. We had it a few Christmas Eve's ago, but she wouldn't share her recipe with me for today.  I created my own recipe for White Sangria. The only thing I would change, well two things. First I would only add 1/2  the bottle of hard cider and second I would cut up the cranberries in half. The tart cranberries with the sweetness of the Sangria made the cranberries edible. What you will need is a nice pitcher, something I didn't have. 

Ingredients is listed in order.    I will be making a Red Sangria tonight with Aime Red Blend.  Look for the pictures on Facebook and Twitter.  Here is the recipes.  Happy National Sangria Day!

Holiday White Sangria


  • 1 Apple chopped
  • 1 clementine peeled
  • 1/2 cup cranberries halved
  • 1/2 bottle hard cider
  • 1 bottle Aime Ruca Malen Sweet Moscato


  1. Add all to pitcher and enjoy.

Holiday Red Sangria


  • 1 bottle Aime Ruca Malen Red Blend
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 apple diced
  • 1 clementine peeled
  • 1 cup strawberries sliced
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup grapes halved


  1. Add all ingredients to pitcher and enjoy.