In 2004, Cindy Cosco left a 15 year Law Enforcement career in Northern Virginia to pursue her passion for winemaking. After studying enology at Napa Valley College and working a few jobs within the industry, she decided to start making her own wine in 2007. She launched Passaggio Wines with just 50 cases of Unoaked Chardonnay. Since then, she has slowly but steadily evolved her business. She opened her tasting room in 2014 and her own wine production facility in 2016. Today, Cindy produces nearly 1,700 cases of delicious and thought-provoking small lot wines from traditional and off-the-beaten-path varieties ranging from a skin fermented Pinot Grigio to a single varietal Teroldego.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Cindy and learn more about her journey into wine, challenges she faced along the way and her vision for the future of Passaggio Wines.
Know your winemaker, know your wine
TVP: What motivated you to leave your 15 year career in law enforcement and become a winemaker?
Cindy: I found myself not wanting to finish out my career in law enforcement. I started to see the change back in 2003 and 2004. Things were getting more difficult in dealing with the aspects of law enforcement. I was on patrol one day and saw a guy on a dirt bike on the main roads. In the ares I was in, it was illegal to ride a dirt bike on the main highway. I flipped my lights on to pull him over. All I was going to do was tell to get the bike off the road. Well…he took off and I had to pursue. He eventually dumped the bike and took off on foot through a very wooded area. And, of course, I took off on foot after him. I stopped about 50 yards in and said to myself “What the hell am I doing” – that was my epiphany. I did recover a stolen dirt bike to say the least. At that point I knew it was time for me to find something else to do job wise.
TVP: What was the most challenging aspect of establishing Passaggio Wines?
Cindy: Most challenging was coming up with a name and label. I wanted something along the lines of a voyage. I wanted Viaggio, but it was taken. And so the term Passaggio came into being with the help of a friend I was working with.
TVP: Whats the significance of the name ‘Passaggio Wines’?
Cindy: Passaggio means passage way in Italian. It’s a tribute to my great grandfather who came over from Italy in 1905. It’s also a reflection of my journey that I have taken on this path in the wine industry.
TVP: How would you describe your winemaking style in 5 words or less?
Cindy: Food friendly, complex, drink now
TVP: You work with a fun mix of traditional and ‘off the beaten path’ varietals. Which is your favorite to work with in the cellar and why?
Cindy: That’s a tough question. This past year I enjoyed the Trousseau Gris. The aromas as it was fermenting was absolutely fantastic. I loved watching that wine evolve. It’s one of the favorites in the tasting room.
TVP: What’s coming on your horizon that you’re most excited about?
Cindy: A couple of things for sure. This Fall I am releasing an Italian blend of three varietals. Teroldego, Aglianico, and Sangiovese. I didn’t realize what I had done until I had the three varietals in barrel. I realized I had varietals of three different regions of Italy. The blend came out fantastic! At lease I think so.
I also purchased an amphora barrel this pst year and have the 2018 Aglianico in it. Can’t wait for that!
I have contracted for harvest of 2019 some Montepulciano and Alicante Bouschet. Fun stuff ahead!
TVP: What advice would you give the younger Cindy just embarking on her career in wine?
Cindy: The thing I wish I had done earlier on this journey was open a tasting room. I think it’s pretty important for the public to be able to taste the wine before they buy. It wasn’t until 2014, 7 years into my journey, that I opened the tasting room. Before opening a tasting room, I had to sell wine the hard way. Pouring at every event I could to get my product in front of people, and also trying to sell online. Not an easy task.
2018 CHENIN BLANC
This Chenin, sourced from Heringer Estates in Clarksburg, is a delicious summer sipper. Pale lemon in color, the nose is crisp and youthful with aromas of apple, pear and lemon. On the palate it has a nice light mouthfeel with fresh citrus flavors, a delicate floral element thats really enjoyable and a nice amount of acidity. Give this wine a chill and enjoy it on a hot summer day or pair it with spicy Thai food.
2018 AGLIANICO ROSE
My personal favorite of the Passaggio Wines I tasted, this 100% Aglianico Rosé has a beautiful rose color with delicate aromas of fresh strawberries, raspberries and dried herbs. On the palate the wine is light and balanced with flavors that match the nose and the perfect amount of acidity. A refreshing crowd pleaser that is perfect for the summer but can be enjoyed all year long.