Sommelier Cha McCoy | At the Intersection of Passion & Purpose

Cha McCoy is now at the fruitful intersection of passion and purpose. As the creator of The Communion wine pairing gatherings, this is not the first time McCoy has gone after and seized what she wants.

When she was twelve, the Harlem native bought a train ticket on Amtrak to go visit relatives in the American south, much to the surprise of her parents. McCoy would continue blazing through her own path in life with a degree from Syracuse University in civil engineering and completing her MBA in Italy.

As an expat in Italy, McCoy threw herself into Italian culture and fell in love with wine. Little did she know she was planting seeds for her next venture.

“I just like to drink wine and the connection in Italy felt real. It felt like home. Italians eat out all the time and I developed relationships with bread makers and restauranteurs. I never had serious food conversations back home in New York. Food and wine are religions in Italy. Both the rich and poor drink wine,” she says, her high energy and infectious New York accent electrifying the phone on a recent interview with Griots Republic magazine.

When she returned to New York, McCoy had a hard time shaking off Italy. Equipped with an MBA, in an economy just edging its way out of a recession, she ended up back in her mother’s home and was faced with a deep realization.

“I couldn’t live like an American. I had to be around wine. It was like PTSD,” she says.

She got a job at a local wine shop because she simply sought a gig in wine that would get her an employee discount on a few bottles. Here, she met her first mentor, Eric White, who broke down the world of wine for McCoy. She began to learn about wine on a technical level. Her job was to drink and evaluate what bottles to keep in the store. What was meant to be a stop on the way to getting back to her degrees and off her mom’s couch, lead to a life-changing decision.

“I know I like to drink wine, eat good food and travel. I decided to create a business around these three things,” she says.

So McCoy buckled down and studied all she could about wine. She visited vineyards in South Africa, Argentina, and even spent seven weeks in Chile to deepen her studies. Eventually, she quit her job and became a Certified Sommelier through the Court of the Masters.

While working in the wine shop, McCoy noticed that too many of the patrons were actually intimidated by wine. The Communion is her vision of leveling the playing field. She started by hosting small groups of friends in her apartment (not her mama’s).

“I wanted to bring people together so they could geek out over food and wine with me,” she says.

The Communion is a safe space with an affordable price point that appeals to folks who want to learn more about wine. McCoy takes the movement a step further by pairing wine with cuisine that hasn’t been deemed ‘wine friendly.’ The challenge is that wine schools currently teach the cuisine from France, Spain, Italy, and Australia are the best, if not the only cuisines worth pairing with wine.

“I want to debunk the ethnic aisle in the supermarket,” she exclaims. “I am trying to break that section wide open. How can we pair wine with food that’s not mainstream? How can we pair wine with red velvet cake?”

Since then, McCoy has held Communion in Rome, Quebec, Oakland, Madrid, and the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York.  She plans on conducting more international wine retreats.

McCoy’s Communions are an immersive cultural experience where she brings out chefs to talk about the menu and the regions where the cuisine is featured. The result is a transformative, sensory evening for the palate. She places emphasis on using chefs of color  or female chefs because they take it to the ‘next level.’

“Wine has this veil of luxury and I want to pull that back. Wine is a key vehicle to connect worlds,” she says.

The Communion is an educating and relatable experience that crosses boundaries in a welcoming manner and McCoy has a firm foot on becoming the great equalizer.

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