Cynthia Cosco, Winemaker at Passaggio Wines, Sonoma and Napa Valley, California

Cynthia went from cop to artisan wine crafter, not a typical journey by any stretch. I adore her wines as they are delicious and straight to the point. They somehow taste more “honest” than many California wines in the same price range. The “bottle shock” question is a favorite of mine, and I find her answer to be one of the most creative I’ve heard. Please get to know Cythina a bit better, below…

21 Questions

1. What were you before you were a winemaker? Law Enforcement Officer for 15 years.

2. If you weren't a winemaker you'd most likely be a Police Officer.

3.  Happiest moment(s) during the wine crafting process (besides “finishing”)? I think some of the happiest moments are during harvest. Bringing in the grapes is one of the highlights of my year.

4. Worst moment(s)? Getting up at 4 in the morning is not my ideal moment.

5. For the rest of your wine-crafting days, if you could only make wine from one red grape variety what would it be? Pinot Noir

6. For the rest of your wine-crafting days, if you could only make wine from one white grape variety what would it be? Chardonnay.

7.  How do you define "bottleshock"? It’s like being on a roller coaster ride. It takes a while to settle yourself back down after you get off.

8. How long do you let your purchased wines rest after they have been delivered? I usually let them rest about 10 days.

9. Please list 5 words (or more) to describe Mega Purple and/or its use and/or users. Concentrate. Expensive. Texture. Weight. Cover-up.

10. What is your favorite beer(s), and why? I like local microbrews and have had the opportunity to taste quite a few during harvest. I think one of my favorites would have to be Elevation 66.

11. Your favorite cocktail(s), and why? Margarita – I like the simple cocktail drinks.

12. How long to you typically decant the following red wines prior to enjoying them? Cabernet, Merlot, Meritage and Bordeaux blends, Syrah/Sirah. Depending on the age, I would decant an older wine at least 30 minutes before drinking.

13. Under what circumstances would you decant a Pinot? The only reason I would decant a Pinot Noir is if it’s an older Pinot with lots of sediment – normally I would not decant a Pinot but you can notice, at times, the longer the wine is in the glass it begins to open up. Could be that it could have been decanted – personal preference I guess. It’s kind of a fun to watch it open up in the glass while drinking it. Makes for great conversation.

14. Under what circumstances would you decant a white wine? There are a few reasons I would decant a white wine. One being if the wine had some bottle stink to it. Again I normally do not decant white wine. I think watching it open up in the glass is an awesome thing and great conversation

15. Choose one or more of the following to describe vacuum aerators and similar apparatus.

A. Gimmicks.

B. Useful, have a positive effect on the wine above and beyond what decanting can accomplish.

C. Same effect as decanting, just quicker.

Answer(s): A

16. Choose one or more of the following to describe metal dipping devices and similar apparatus advertised to almost instantly “age” wine.

A. Gimmicks.

B. Useful, have a positive effect on the wine above and beyond what decanting can accomplish.

C. Same effect as decanting, just quicker.

Answer(s): A

17. Your favorite brand of wine glass is Riedel Vinum Extreme Cab/Bordeaux for reds, Riedel Vinum Extreme Chardonnay for whites.

18. Some of your favorite non-US and non-European wines come from where? New Zealand.

19. Have any wine / food pairing(s) that seem odd, but really work? Champagne and potato chips.

20. What work do you suppose you will do after your final wine is made? Who said anything about making a final wine? :) I plan on doing this the rest of my life.

21. If you could give any beginning wine drinkers one sentence of advice, what would it be? Explore and taste all the different types of wines out there and begin to find the wines you really like. Enjoy the journey…


Cynthia’s Biography

“Four generations ago my family embarked on a journey from Italy to America. Here they blended their heritage into their new surroundings, keeping the Italian winemaking traditions alive.

In 2004, I left a 15-year Law Enforcement career to pursue that passion and family tradition of winemaking. You will find my wines handcrafted with passion, rooted in my heritage, and made as part of my continual journey. I love watching each new year unfold as each harvest brings forth its beauty that ends up in your glass.

In 2004 I began working part time for Bevmo in Albany, CA. Hal would come in on Saturdays to conduct store wine tastings. He also worked for Chateau St Jean and was able to get me a temp job for the harvest 2004. I was hired on full time after harvest as a wine chemist in the lab. I was able to take enology classes at Napa Valley College and soon was promoted to Wine Chemist II. 

In 2007, I decided it was time to start making my own wine. I had heard about this custom crush facility in San Francisco called Crushpad. I attended their open house and while talking to the head winemaker as to what I wanted to do I was soon hired on as the Lab Manager. During my time with Crushpad I added Pinot Grigio, a Rose, and Pinot Noir to the Passaggio brand.

Crushpad moved to Napa in 2010 and I was promoted to Winemaker. I was responsible for all the white wine making and lab as well. In 2011, Crushpad moved to Sonoma. I decided that it was time to branch out and just focus on Passaggio Wines so I moved my production to San Francisco. You can find me at DogPatch Wine Works. This has been an awesome journey to say the least...I can't wait to see what happens next... 

I encourage you to join me…“Follow Your Passion”

About Passaggio Wines

Passaggio Unoaked Chardonnay is fermented and aged in stainless steel. It is a brilliant pale straw color with layers of melon, mango, lemon lime and a robust minerality on the nose. The clean lingering finish has layers of citrus, lemon lime, hints of stone fruit, and is balanced with minerality. It pairs well with most seafood dishes and chicken dishes. 

2011 Pinot Grigio is fermented and aged in stainless steel, this wine represents the New Generation style of the famous Italian Pinot Grigio. It shows wonderful layers of lemon lime, melon, pineapple, slight yellow apple, citrus, with a hint of floral notes, wet stone and strong minerality on the nose. On the palate you will find layers of robust citrus, pear, yellow apple, and enticing minerality with a crisp long finish. It pairs well with grilled or baked chicken dishes, Asian dishes, and pizza or pasta dishes. 

The 2011 Passaggio Rosé is a saignee style of 82% Dry Creek Zinfandel and 18% Napa Cabernet. Each was fermented and aged separately in stainless steel then blended before bottling. This wine is a beautiful translucent vermilion color with layers of raspberry tea, pomegranate, slight strawberry, hint of anise and a nice minerality on the nose. Layers of bright cherry, pomegranate tea, strawberry rhubarb, with fresh acidity and a long finish. This wine is awesome by itself or with grilled foods. This is a great wine to enjoy sitting on the deck with friends and family. 

The 2011 UNMARKED Pinot Noir was sourced from a vineyard in Napa on the cusp of Carneros. This wine is a beautiful garnet color in the glass. It offers intense seductive aromas of black cherry, spice, slight cola and earth tones. On the palate you will find dark cherry, slight raspberry with a hint of spices and black tea. A smooth texture, slight tannins and a balanced acidity. Pinot Noir may be one of the world's most versatile food wines. This wine goes great with poultry dishes, lamb, pork and even vegetarian dishes. Enjoy it around your table with friends and family.”

Next Winemaker in the Spotlight: Kerith Overstreet >>

Brain Wines wrote at December 11, 2012
0 Votes
Thanks Paul! Really appreciate that.
Brain Wines
Paul W. Giese wrote at December 11, 2012
0 Votes
Thank you to both Cynthia Cosco and Keith Hoffman for a terrific article. Stories like these make wine less about work and more about enjoying life.
Paul W. Giese