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Cha McCoy Transcript

 Cheers to Cha McCoy

Kerry Diamond: Hi, everyone. Welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe, the number one female-focused food podcast in the universe. I'm your host, Kerry Diamond. Still coming to you from my apartment in Brooklyn. It's been a serious period of reflection for myself, and I know for many of you. I've been giving a lot of thought to how I personally can change and contribute to the necessary change around me. And I'm grateful that I've had the time, space and opportunity to do that. I've also talked to a lot of members of the Bombesquad over the past week and a half, and I appreciate and value those conversations. I'll be sharing more about some specific Cherry Bombe initiatives and programs in the weeks ahead. Cherry Bombe has some good news to share! Cha McCoy, a global sommelier and wine authority has joined the full-time Cherry Bombe team as our first-ever Beverage Director and she'll be overseeing our new platform – Cherry Bombe Drinks.

Some of you might know Cha from Radio Cherry Bombe. Her first appearance on our show was in 2018, and it wound up being our number one episode of the year. Then at 2019's Jubilee, Cha gave a talk titled "I Am More Than Moscato." We aired it later that year. Her talk was a charge few had dare to make regarding discrimination in the hospitality and beverage industry. We'll be bringing you both the conversation with Cha and her Jubilee talk in today's episode. Thank you to the folks at Breyers Carb Smart and Cypress Grove cheeses for supporting this episode of Radio Cherry Bombe. We appreciate your support very much. We'll be right back with Cha McCoy after this word from Breyers.

As someone who thinks that ice cream should be a food group, I'm very happy that today's episode is supported by our friends at Breyers ice cream. Breyers is America's number one ice cream brand, and I'm pretty sure my family of Breyers fanatics helps contribute to that top ranking. Did you know that Breyers has a special treat that won't undo your day? It's called Breyers Carb Smart, and it comes in tubs and bars and in great flavors like mint, fudge and caramel swirl. There's even a flavor called almond bar that comes covered in an almond-studded chocolate shell and who doesn't love a chocolate shell. One thing I especially like about Breyers is that they use 100% Grade A milk and cream from cows, not treated with artificial growth hormones. Breyers colors, and flavors come from natural sources and their vanilla is sustainably sourced. Would you like to try Breyers Carb Smart when that next craving for something sweet and frozen hits? Look for it at all major retailers. Go to to get a coupon so you can try Breyers carb smart today. That's Now here's Cha's talk from our 2019 Jubilee conference titled "I Am More Than Moscato" with an introduction by filmmaker Maya Oren.

Maya Oren: I was born to immigrant parents and I've had the privilege of experiencing both Israeli and Trinidadian cultures from a young age. In Israel, at my grandparent's house, the scent of flowering Jasmine coupled with bus exhaust, hit my nostrils. The sun warmed my shoulders and the sound of children laughing, their shoes, slapping the sidewalks sounded in the air around us. We'd always be greeted by a plate of seasonal fruits. I would take a bite out of one, its soft flesh giving way to sweet, juicy goodness. My grandmother would lovingly place her hand on my knee. From a young age, I fell in love with everything that happens around the act of eating. My memories drip with detail and I grew up wanting to share these experiences. Naturally, this led me to enter the industry by way of filmmaking in my early twenties.

It was around 2011, and I remember telling my dad that I was going to film chefs in restaurants for a living. And he laughed at me. He suggested that I focus on weddings, where I was guaranteed pay. This is a Jewish dad. But I never planned to be a cinematographer or a photographer in that sense. My interest at the core of it all, always resided in food and telling the stories of the experiences around that. So I started a blog, following my stories of the culinary landscape in the US and abroad. Slowly, I gained a following and then clients and my business, Mojalvo, an agency focused on visual brand direction was born. Currently, I live in Washington, DC, where I'm a proud part of a vibrant female-dominated culinary landscape. It's really, really special. Clients of mine, including some currently in the audience who I spent some time with this morning – Chaia a vegetarian taco concept and Compass Rose, and Maydan – are owned and operated by strong women.

Last fall, I traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia with the Compass Rose team, documenting their visit to the vineyards they buy their skin contact wine from. We stayed with Baez Wine, a dynamic winemaker duo, to help them with their harvest. We awoke at dawn. I pulled back the curtains glowing with amber light from the sunrise and rows of green vines laid below us. We drank coffee and ate khachapuri and made our way to the vineyard with scissors and crates. I recorded the sound of snipping vines, heavy clusters of grapes thudding satisfyingly at the base of the buckets, and chickens clucked in the distance. I filmed visuals of hands as they became increasingly sticky from the grape juice and the impromptu chacha shots that were poured for us mid-harvest. I can still remember the taste of the grape that I ate straight from the vine before the harvest was carried off to the room of kvevries where the grapes would ferment.

While all these might just sound like details, we build our lives around these stories. We live to feel connected — to each other and to a greater purpose. And so when these visuals get shared in DC, suddenly a glass of wine becomes a journey to a vineyard halfway across the world where two sisters are tirelessly and passionately fermenting grapes harvested in the Georgian sun. Like my trip to Georgia, our next speaker Cha, has traveled to several wine-focused countries, uncovering similar stories, learning, and weaving together the knowledge she garners to share with her audience. She uses these stories to empower and educate across all ethnicities, fighting social stigmas and allowing for us all to embrace our sophisticated palates. I'm incredibly humbled to share this industry with powerhouses like Cha and I'm in complete awe of her story. Cha, like me, has taken her passions across many vocations and built a career out of them. She balances a life working in both engineering and hospitality and stands ground for a shift of representation and perspective in the wine industry.

Every morning, I wake up in this body, a woman of mixed race, proud to be a part of this shift. Cha reminds me that the women who are now coming into this industry are trailblazers. We are perseverant and we are not afraid to do something out of the ordinary. It's about time that we embrace our diversity and elevate one another for our accomplishments. So without further ado, I pass the stage onto Cha. I cannot wait to hear from this woman, who's doing some incredible things around my favorite topics, and probably many of you – travel, food and wine, and most importantly culture, and the art of gathering. Thank you [applause].

Cha McCoy: An NPR article from the Nielsen Group that tracks wine retail sales states the following: "African Americans are three times more likely to drink Moscato to some other type of table wine." It went on to say the following about Moscato: "much more African American, much more Hispanic, much younger, much lower income and much more female." Hi, I'm Cha McCoy, I'm a black woman, and I'm more than Moscato [applause].

Allow me to take you on a journey. So, my initial experience with wine began like most American millennials. To be honest, it was box wine. I thought it was a sweet yet classy version of what my friends were doing basically drinking Keystone light beer. So, I never questioned or had a second guess about the world of wine beyond the sweet category. And so, I took a leap of faith and decided to move to Italy. Nonetheless, I'm convinced like my move to Italy, entering the wine industry was predestined for me, and here's why. You see, my father at a young age was forced to change his identity due to his chosen illegal career path. He adopted a new date of birth, New Year's Day, which then inspired the last name Champagne. As a young adult in the streets of New York City in the 70s with the last name Champagne, I can only imagine the high expectations people had for him as it relates to food and wine [laughs].

Taking on this new persona, my father led to opening a restaurant, actually going to culinary school, and eventually passing on his sophisticated palates to his future children. My brother and I was exposed to the many cultures of New York City through food. And at the finest restaurants, we were often commended as black children from Harlem on how well behaved we were in primarily white and adult environments. In my preteens, I equally enjoy eating snails and black beans sauce in Chinatown as I did having escargot. My exposure to these abnormal spaces in gastronomy as an inner-city kid pushed me to perceive the world and my palate beyond Harlem and the cliché soul food. Perhaps this is why during my senior year of high school, when I was tasked to write my autobiography, I made a declaration for my future goals that I almost forgot about. Years later, as I was deciding to relocate to Italy and achieve my MBA, my mom pulled out that same high school autobiography, and it stated I moved to Rome [laughs].

I made my choice to move to Italy during the time of my life when I was feeling unfulfilled and in search of a new appetite of living. Yes, dare I say, a true "Eat, Pray, Love" moment. My experience while there gave me clarity, and in hindsight, elevated my vision for the world, my personal goals and my appreciation for the wine and food industry. Wine and food pairings became a way of life to me because, to Italians, it is basically religion. Learning "what grows together goes together" was the only wine lesson I needed to know living in Italy. And it was very easy to find complements because in Italy, all 20 regions are wine regions. Italy helped me to gain and expand my wine palate beyond box wines, Moscato, Pinot Grigio, and Prosecco, which were often served to me in New York City. I began to appreciate the subtle differences of Italian white wines, like those citrus, floral, and acidic notes, and the pairing ability of a Verdicchio, Vermentino and Vespaiola.

I was a new woman on a new journey. I developed a genuine interest in the industry after my time in Italy and eventually traveling to other wine countries on a quest for similar experiences and education. After returning to the States in 2012, I realized that New York City nor the world was ready for someone like me. My newly enhanced palate and wine knowledge didn't fit the mold, so I was continuously viewed in service like another statistic: black, female, and millennial, which was no surprise to me. While ordering in restaurants, I've been questioned. Yes, questioned by waiters because I chose an obscure grape. They say, "someone like me usually don't pick these type of wines. " I even selected a wine for the table in some instances, and the sommelier still chose one of my white colleagues to taste the wine after I made the selection, which my friend and I would then have to address and correct.

And no, I'm not just making this up. A New York City bartender quoted in the VinePair article states, "When a group of ethnic women comes in, I've been instructed to use bottom shelf booze. As far as I know, they've never been able to tell a difference, and there is how good I look and how fruity the drinks are." Dealing with reverse culture shock after my return to the States, I felt a call to be a part of the solution. I noticed there was a hole in the market for women of color in the wine industry. So at home, in a freshly gentrified Harlem, I applied for a job at one of the few curated wine shops in the neighborhood. Here, I was accepted, not trapped into how America sees me, and I was able to share my wine knowledge, experience in vineyards, and even drop a few lines of Italian.

I eventually enrolled in the following wine education programs, the WSET – Wine, Spirits, and Education Trust — the Court of the Master Sommeliers, and eventually became a certified sommelier. I recognize that in order to have a seat at the table and a voice in this industry, these exams and trainings will be required to gain respect from the wine industry. These certifications also help me to better serve my community and elevate our experience and wine knowledge collectively. While working in the wine shop, I often heard customers say how intimidating it was to select a wine. I took this as a charge to help remove the barrier between wine and people and decided to create the experience called The Communion. The Communion is a wine and food pairing multi-course tasting dinner. During this dinner, I share stories about wine pairings with fresh Buffalo mozzarella in Italy in the prestigious red wine region of Barolo, and popping sparkling Franciacorta, the Italians' true response to champagne, while driving my friends in a boat around the Island of Capri. I recognize this may not be in everyone's future, but through me, the community attendees receive a taste of a life that actually now seems obtainable.

I've also proven that we don't have to be rappers or movie stars to love all wine or have a sophisticated palate. I remind my guests that wine is simply fermented grape juice, tended to by farmers, and that it could be the beverage of choice for all people, which removes the snobbery and elitist views on how wine is marketed. Wine has become my vehicle to communicate, connect, and challenge people and societal norms within gastronomy. It's clear that my hospitality experience during my youth, my world travels and why certification makes me an outlier in relation to statistics, but it also makes me qualified to challenge the industry to take action. It first starts with the top-down approach to treat all guests equally, which should include, but not be limited to educating all consumers equally about the wine list and food pairings, hiring wine and spirits trained staff that match the demographics of your community, holding diversity sensitivity trainings for all employees, hiring people of color or women as your beverage directors and consultants to facilitate said trainings like me. Prejudice can be unintentional and unfortunately intentional. However, it's up to us to challenge it and shift the narrative in order to reclaim the hospitality industry as a welcoming place for all people. I'd be happy to speak with anyone further about solutions on how we can encourage and educate the key holders on how to market wine and spirits to women and people of color and create an inclusive service environment. Again, my name is Cha McCoy, I am a black woman, and I'm more than Moscato – and that's because I enjoy Barolo too. Thank you [applause]. 

Kerry Diamond: We'll be right back with Cha's 2018 interview on Radio Cherry Bomb after this quick message from Cypress Grove Cheese.

If you don't know the story behind Cypress Grove, the leading producer of delicious American goat cheese, well, grab a cheese board and gather round. It involves a mom on a mission and a herd of goats. Mary Keehn, the founder of Cypress Grove, wanted fresh goat's milk for her children, so she wound up with some goats and more goat's milk than she knew what to do with. Mary taught herself how to make cheese and helped kick off an artisanal cheesemaking revolution in the U.S. Fast forward – today, Cypress Grove is an international award-winning cheesemaker that promotes humane goat dairying, is still proudly based in California, and is known for its gorgeous cheeses, like one of my absolute favorites, Humboldt Fog, the distinctive soft-ripened goat cheese. Want to try Cypress Grove for yourself? Call your favorite cheese shop or visit the cheese counter at your local grocery store. You can also visit for store locations, perfect cheese pairings, and more.

Now, let's dip into the time capsule. Here's me and Cha from 2018.

Kerry Diamond: We are back with Cha McCoy, finally!

Cha McCoy: Hey!

Kerry Diamond: Wine expert, globetrotter and creator of Cha Squared Hospitality, a lifestyle company with a focus on tourism and gastronomy. She got her MBA in Italy, which led to her collecting drinking and eating experiences in close to 20 countries. Her admiration for wine led her to study as a wine professional, and she is currently preparing for her – let me know if I get this correct –  WSET Level Three Advanced Certification in wine, and the Certified Sommelier exams. It's a mouthful.

Cha McCoy: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: Cha McCoy. Welcome to Radio Cherry Bombe.

Cha McCoy: Thanks for having me, Kerry.

Kerry Diamond: Yay, I'm so happy. You're here. We have a lot to talk about. I am so hungry and thirsty after that conversation with Sky. I think you were in there listening.

Cha McCoy: I was.

Kerry Diamond: And probably nodding your head a lot because you spent a lot of time in Italy.

Cha McCoy: I know, it was a good person to follow.

Kerry Diamond: Exactly. Exactly. I love a show that's kind of thematic. And I should mention that you and I met totally randomly. We were at The Wing and Klancy Miller was doing a cooking class.

Cha McCoy: Shout out to Klancy.

Kerry Diamond: Shout out to Klancy. She was making something from her really wonderful cookbook, Cooking Solo, and you were helping with the wine. And I just, I don't know, just started pitching in. And we just started talking and you had a really funny sweatshirt on or tee-shirt or something.

Cha McCoy: Oh yes, my anti-wine wine club.

Kerry Diamond: Yes. And we just started talking and Cha is just one of those people who you take an instant like to. And you know, I was reading through your Instagram on the way over here because you had a long subway ride, and so did I to get here, and I don't know if anybody's ever told you this, but you have a really lovely way with your Instagram posts.

Cha McCoy: Oh thank you.

Kerry Diamond: And when you, you know, some people I know struggle with social media or try to find like what's a genuine voice for them, but you just have a really nice way.

Cha McCoy: Wow. I appreciate that.

Kerry Diamond: And I love the Cha list.

Cha McCoy: Of course.

Kerry Diamond: You've got all these good hashtags.

Cha McCoy: Now my best friend, if she's listening, she definitely she's like, “I don't come up with anything. Just let her let Cha tell me what the name's going to be.” She calls me the WordSmith.

Kerry Diamond: Honestly from now on, I want to know what's on the Cha list. I want to subscribe to your email if you have one.

Cha McCoy: Yes.

Kerry Diamond: It's always a good sign when you're on the subway and you're like caught up in somebody's cookbook or someone's Instagram and you almost miss your stop. And that almost happens every week with Radio Cherry Bombe because I don't know, I'm really blessed. I get to talk to women like you and Sky, and last week, Ruth Rogers, more talk about Italian food. And I was reading your post about spa adventures in Hungary. And I'm like, oh my God, I'm at the Morgan Street stop, and I had to like run through closing doors. So Cha, who the heck are you? Where are you from?

Cha McCoy: You know, I'm from New York. Wait, let me be specific. Cause we in New York, right? So I'm from Harlem. Everybody, you know, wants to hear that. They're like, oh, “she's, she's really from there.” I think that, you know, gastronomy in New York City plays a part just like gastronomy in Italy, you know, plays a part in your life and part of your culture until you go other places, and their whole lives is like, I don't know, uh Chevy's. Then, that's when you realize like, oh wow, I was blessed to be raised in a culture of food that kind of just came natural to my environment. You know? So it wasn't any of my doing, it was more or less me being raised here and in actually having parents who went out their way to give us that exposure. Now, I think it was not because I want my kids to know these other cultures and foods. I think it is because they personally had a liking in that case, my dad for other cultures and you know, working with them on the business level to now obviously sharing food at dinner with them to seal deals that turned into him being able to. So am I, I think when I was young, I actually thought my father actually flew to all these places because it was just like, oh, he must have a passport.

He must've been everywhere because he just knew exactly what to order. He knew what it meant. He knew what was going to be in it. And the menu was not in English. And I was like, I know you don't speak another language. So he must've been there, you know, touched it, you know, to know, you know, like she said, Vongole is going to be clams, so that kind of like amazed me growing up, just kind of watching how my father loved the art of ordering. I guess if I can come up with a book that would probably be one of them, you know? Cause that was one of the things that I remember my dad doing.

Kerry Diamond: That's so cool. I mean, we didn't eat out a lot as a kid. I think because I was one of five—I am one of five and it was just such a production to take us anywhere. My brothers didn't really eat much. And I just remember as a kid, you'd be so scared when you went to a restaurant and you didn't want to order too much because you don't want the bill to be too much for your parents. And it'd be like, you know, the thought of having an appetizer. So, I see how my nieces and nephews live today and it's like an appetizer. It's so funny. Going out was such a treat back then.

Cha McCoy: I know.

Kerry Diamond: Do you remember some of the places your parents would take you?

Cha McCoy: Yes, and I actually revisited one of them and I love this time that we have Instagram and everything like that. It's kind of cool to show the photos and stuff. So one of them is Hop Kee in Chinatown. Initially, it was my first time back there since the year I left to go to Italy. So that was kind of like me and my dad. I was like, “hey, I'm about to go to Italy, I don't know if I'm going to have good Chinese food, so we got to go to Hop Kee before I go.” So this is my first time there since 2010 – that's when I left for Italy – was this year for my birthday in March. My mom met with me there and we just pigged out. They feed family-style, so it's just the two of us and we're ordering everything we normally would order if our whole family was there because we just want to taste it, you know? And of course, everyone goes ballistic like, “oh, bring me back some of that, you at Hop Kee!” Like everybody who's out family or knew us for being I guess that family who always go out and go to these places, like “bring me back some snails.”

Cause we were just like obsessed with, you know, umami and savory dishes, and you get a ton of that in Chinese and Szechuan cuisines particularly. So I love Hop Kee. Around the corner is a Dragon a creamery. They actually make every – oh you're familiar, of course. So that was our tradition, and this is me eating at like eight, you know? My mom used to have cravings when she was pregnant with me for that same restaurant, so it just kind of continued to be in our family when we think Chinese food, we're always like, no one does better than Hop Kee if you want the top New York city for me. So it was great to be back. I even brought one of the pictures in black and white cause my father was really into cameras and film. It was a picture of me in black and white, even though he probably had a color camera of me eating at the table. I did a Throwback Thursday of me eating there again right next to each other. I probably was like eight in the picture. Aw. 

Kerry Diamond: Aw, I want to see that. That's awesome.

Cha McCoy: Alright. I gotta share it with you. But that's one of the places I always think about. And we go to a place called Little Venice in the Bronx for Italian food as well. He gave his 60th birthday there. For us, you know, even what I was saying before with Korsha talking about places that I eat in restaurants, I think that for New York City, it's always places that are very low brow, but very much as authentic as I feel like I can get in New York City. So it made you, it transported you to those places.

Kerry Diamond: So, you dropped in there that in 2010 you went to Italy.

Cha McCoy: That's correct.

Kerry Diamond: Why did you go to Italy?

Cha McCoy: It was not part of the plan. I can tell you, as I was applying for my MBA, I was living the life, and I guess the Eat, Pray, Love book got everybody or caught up too. So, I think I was a little bit nostalgic as well with the story and personally, things were shifting. And then I also realized that I was entering into a new journey cause I did apply for my MBA, but I still had a full-time job, a condo in Jersey and a dog. So, it still didn't make sense on how I actually was going to make that happen. But I think once you say yes, I'm one of those people was once I say yes, I fully commit everything. I don't care where this furniture go. People could take it for free. If you can come here and get it, it's gonna end up on the street, you know, kind of thing. I had my visa situation worked out and I said, “okay, that's what I'm gonna do.” I'm gonna quit my job and just go live out there and finish my full MBA. That was why Italy was one of the places on the list. But I was just fortunate that I just happened to pick a school that had that. I didn't go there with the intention of doing my MBA in Italy.

Kerry Diamond: Do you speak Italian?

Cha McCoy: I did. When I was dating Italian – that's another conversation.

Kerry Diamond: You can save that for your Eat, Pray, Love book. I mean, you've got to write a book, you know that.

Cha McCoy: Yeah, I've already—

Kerry Diamond: Do you have an agent?

Cha McCoy: I don't have an agent. Why, you have one for me?

Kerry Diamond: We're going to find you an agent because I want to read your version of that, totally.

Cha McCoy: Ooh! Yes. Carrie, please claim it.

Kerry Diamond: There's food. There's love. There's wine.

Cha McCoy: There's a lot of it.

Kerry Diamond: Alright, so how's your Italian now?

Cha McCoy: Eh, Va bene.

Kerry Diamond: Well, I guess the better question is if you moved to Italy, can you get by?

Cha McCoy: Oh, of course, I was just there in January. I gave my last event there. I'm doing like a pop-up international version of my event, The Communion. So the last one, or very first international one, outside of New York City was Rome. Of course, I've returned back home. I call it my second home. So, when I'm there, I mean, it's embarrassing because like all of my friends who I go with that who still lives there or returned there, they're looking like, “that's all you got, like, you're struggling still to like order? You sound like when you left, like this bad in 2012.” And I'm like, okay, “I'll do better next time.” So I mean, I know how to order my food. That's all I got.

Kerry Diamond: Sometimes, that's all you need to know how to do. I mean, yeah, yes, you can figure it out. You can walk through a city, get lost, and just figure out your way back. But if you know how to order you're golden, right?

Cha McCoy: Right, and that's the kind of get lost idea of like Europe that everyone loves, especially I think Italy with quaint, in Rome too, particularly with the narrow blocks, and kind of getting lost throughout the city and being in new neighborhoods like, that's part of the story too. So I think that when I go back, I don't, I technically don't want to struggle. I do want to be fluent and be able to have full conversations with people, but now my new language is wine. So sometimes even if I'm not, you know, I think people assume that I had Italian culture because I can talk fluently about the wine that I'm drinking. And so, that makes another connection since part of my days is usually spent around food and wine while I'm there, obviously. It's like, where do I sleep? And then everything else is about food and wine when I'm there, so, and then friends kind of meet me somewhere in between.

Kerry Diamond: So how did you fall in love with wine?

Cha McCoy: I would. I would say it's Italy. I definitely say food first. I think you kind of always want, I was one of those like foodie is kind of like shamed. I feel like when you talk to like real chefs, they don't call themselves foodies.

Kerry Diamond: But it's okay, I know people hate that word, but I feel like it does describe what you need to describe.

Cha McCoy: Right. When people get it, they respect my eating decisions, because I'm a foodie. So like, okay, she's official, let me let her choose the restaurant. But, so when I'm around my friends who are chefs or et cetera, I realized that they were playing a very particular role, which was being the chef who can critique this food or place that we're going to. I was just the foodie which we know now has become a little bit more a claimed thing to like a documentary on Netflix now about foodies flying all over the world just to eat in these Michelin star restaurants. You know, maybe one day, you know, that'll be like one of my chapters, too, of my book, being flown to places to eat.

But I realized, even easier if you had played a role at the table or in the restaurant. And I said, yeah, so this ‘somme’ thing made work, you know, let me take it professionally because even though people knew me as the wine girl like I'm the one who normally chose before I even got any certifications or did any practical studying. I was the one who lived in Italy and who did spend times in vineyards and who have been to particular vineyards in Chile, et cetera. So, people couldn't really, you know, they related to me cause I was a traveler. So they was like, “Oh, that's cool! You was seven weeks in Chile. Like, what did you see? What did you do?” And then when you say that you spent like three of the weeks, like on different vineyards and they're like, “Oh, so you really didn't get to see as much as like, if someone was just there to like be a tourist.”

Because now you actually all were working and learning about the grapes in terroir and understanding that and trying to, you know, another language barrier dealing with Spanish and this is now, Chilean Spanish. You know? So I think that made me connect in a more local, real way that, you know, as I say, travel deep, beyond just me being the tourist of Chile for example. So I take tourism very seriously and that's because I take wine and food very seriously as well. So for me it just, it was kind of like the connection through travel and, then me wanting to make sure I had a permanent place at the table when I'm around my sophisticated chef friends with their Johns Hopkins culinary degrees, yeah.

Kerry Diamond: I love that term travel deep because it's very evocative. It's not just going someplace for a few days, kind of coming away, you're not really an expert or anything. Nothing wrong with that if that's all you can do. But, I'd love to know more from you about a place like Chile because you have traveled deep.

Cha McCoy: Because my connection to all is truly, is still the ties of like traveling. At the end of the day, I'm still talking to other women who look like me, who traveled to way more countries than me. And I'm in a WhatsApp group chat. I remember particularly, and it was probably like five or six of us at the time. And I'm like, girl it's about to be, I was there around the holiday season. I went from like right after Thanksgiving and didn't come back until Martin Luther King Day. Obviously, I'm missing Christmas and New Year's and all that with my family. And I'm in a country that I don't speak the language, and I have no friends. I had no real connection to anyone. People actually connect me to people because I was there. And so I kind of like met people through Facebook in that way. I remember being on this WhatsApp chat and someone saying like, “oh Cha, what are you doing for Christmas and the holidays?” I was like, “I think I'm going to take this eight-hour bus ride down to see penguins.” And they were like, “yeah, girl, do it.” And I was like, “but it's an eight-hour bus ride.” Like, nothing in my heart would even tell me to do that in America. Like why would I go to Chile and do it? Is there no train? Is there no flight? Why am I getting in this bus for eight hours? And they was like, “that's what they do. You got to do what they do. You didn't plan this trip to like – go travel deeper.” I already traveled deep, now I'm trying deeper. And that's the way I mapped it all out.

I ended up in Valdivia, which is basically, interesting, very German culture in Chile, which I think you don't know about because we don't talk about it. Very Spanish and German language on all the signs there. Food, schnitzel, everything that's German is now in this area with the big volcano that's still active in the background and all these things, you know, walruses coming up to me. I was like, now I don't know where I'm at. Now, I'm in a whole ‘nother world because I left Santiago de Chile, which is a big city, still a lot of mountains with the Andes right along us. So it was still out of my zone but now I'm in like this idyllic place. I have no idea, I don't think people even know exists. So now, I was like thanking all my friends for encouraging me to still go and have that moment and kind of get into the beer culture of German beer in Chile. So now I'm visiting these breweries, you know, in like this very German area, but I'm in Chile. So, you know, I love that intersectionality of the countries and learning the history. And, connecting now back to spirits because now I'm having this beer, you know, experience there when I really came for the wine, you know?

Kerry Diamond: So amazing. Alright, so speaking of wine. Let's talk about Communion, which is a big project of yours. Tell us what that's all about.

Cha McCoy: So, The Communion I actually put it together just thinking like, how can I get more of my community to understand and love wine and appreciate it? Because a lot of people that are, I would say Americans first, but I would say people of color low income, middle-income families, usually drink sweet stuff. Let's just say that, whether it's wine cocktails, et cetera, no problem with drinking it and appreciating it. But if you understand, there are other groups besides Moscato that maybe even sweet, sweet wine is not what you really want. You actually want something that maybe a little bit off dried. That's a real terminology in the wine industry. And at first, I thought I was going to be so nervous. I remember doing my first one. I'm going to share all this amazing knowledge about climate change and well, you know, the judgment of Paris and talk about, you know, how the California wine industry picked up. And then I realized that people wouldn't even know how to drink wine. And I was like, wait a minute, I got to go way back to the beginning with some of this. And those are the things that I didn't learn in the classroom. Those are the things I picked up from just drinking wine. I would say more professionally or in different areas where I'm not just in my house, so people showing me and picking up things from being out there. So I made that a mission to like, I want my community to be able to understand, and now be able to know the difference.

If you still want to hold the wine glass, which your hand fully around it, no problem. But now you're not ignorant to how to do it, or why people were telling you to hold it by the stem. I'm telling you, you are changing the temperature of the wine when you do that. So clearly, if you're not doing it on purpose because it's too cold, then you should hold from the stem. So now people like, “aha,” like when you see me, “I always hold it correctly now, ” because I've shared that with them. So at first, I thought I was going to be given all this in-depth knowledge, and then I realized I just needed to probably go over a lot of the simple things because our cultures just have not been taught these things. And if you grew up in Italy and you were still low income and middle-income family, you grew up with wine, it's part of your culture. So technically, you didn't have to be rich to start ordering wine every day, including champagne, and you don't have to wait for your birthday. You know, you can literally do that every day. There's affordable champagnes and you don't have to substitute it for Prosecco. You can drink champagne when you want.

Kerry Diamond: So how often are you doing Communion events and where?

Cha McCoy: My next one is in Quebec. That's my next pop-up. Yes, Quebec City. I know, I'm so excited my first time there! That's going to be on May 6th at 7 o'clock partnering with a local chef there. He has a small restaurant, very kind of rustic feel, authentic to like, how I like them. It doesn't have to be the fancy, fancy restaurant with the cellar, even though I will be spending some time at the Fairmont in La Chateau. That's actually where the conference I'm speaking at is going to be at.

Kerry Diamond:  Is it a women in travel conference?

Cha McCoy: Yes, and this is my second time speaking, so it is very exciting to be a part of the conference. So follow me there. And if you're going to be in, if you're in Canada or your listeners in Canada are paying attention too, if you're going to be in Quebec. The next one in New York, I'm planning for May 20th, I'm trying to do something special. I may go a little bit further up. I'm in transit between what I'm doing, or I may come up with something a little bit different than what I did before. Because if you know, Harlem Eat Up is that same week from Marcus Samuelsson event. Maybe do something close to Harlem, but do a little bit different than my typical sit-down dinner, which was truly to get people to learn about wine.

Sit at the table, have communion with each other, you know, in the, I don't want to say a religious sense as well, spiritual sense, being able to share and socialize and you know. Besides taking pictures for Instagram, let's talk. Let's talk about food, let's talk about wine and let's get to know each other. And so I've been building a community around just eating at the table and I'm having my different networks come out in to be there to whether you're industry, whether you just love food and highlighting local chefs and chefs of color, women chefs. That's been a big passion of mine. Again, letting me, you know, how do I be able to give a platform for other people? Since I'm exposing my house, which is how I started at first and I have the room to do it here. And while other people can't do it in their situation or they work for big companies and can't be as creative at their restaurants, they can come do that here and do a little freestyling. I love that energy that we bring to the table of combining, making up menus, et cetera.

Kerry Diamond: That's so great. So, you are relaunching your website tomorrow.

Cha McCoy: If it's not live right now, it should be up right now. If it's not up right now, it will be up probably later today or tomorrow, but the landing page is still there. So it is still an active site. You can go straight to my name, Cha McCoy,, and I'm on Instagram as Cha underscore Squared, Cha_Squared. That's kind of where I post mostly. I have Facebook, et cetera, but that's all building up as I now have the website and have everything fleshed here, but come to the events and keep in touch. You have another question?

Kerry Diamond: No, no. I was going to say, so you can just go there and buy tickets or find out more information?

Cha McCoy: Yep, so I try to put my links, whether if it's through Eventbrite or straight through, pay me directly through PayPal. On my website will be the house of like housing all of my events that's coming up.

Kerry Diamond: And there's still, we didn't talk about Sunday School yet.

Cha McCoy: I know.

Kerry Diamond: And we've got this wine in front of us!

Cha McCoy: And we're gonna talk about the wine!

Kerry Diamond: I keep wanting to grab it.

Cha McCoy: Grab it!

Kerry Diamond: Yeah, I'm going to drink while Cha talks about Sunday School.

Cha McCoy: Yeah, so right here in Bushwick –

Kerry Diamond: Oh wait. Now I feel like I'm doing everything wrong. I'm going to hold it from the stem.

Cha McCoy: It's alright, you can do a little swirl girl. Girl, you drink and enjoy. Sunday School ser – I almost said sermon. Sunday School series.

Kerry Diamond: Well it's interesting. You have a lot of religious terminology that you use. You have Sunday School, you have Communion.

Cha McCoy: And that just may be, not that I'm like super religious. Something about me is connecting. I'm like a big like the thread has to speak. Your brand has to match. I'm like super, even when I met you, you told me what you was doing. I went to your conference, I had a blast, met people. I was there for like a flash. But I took in all the energy and it matched exactly what I got from you and only knew you for that one day. When brands connect and you don't feel disjunctive. I know in business school, right. I'm the one with the MBA, right. So, they tell you to do that, but it's good when you feel like it's authentic to the person, you know? So for me, it was very authentic, not so much that it had to be religious, but it was like, oh, I already said The Communion, so let's do Sunday Schools. What else happens at church? What else I can pull out of there. And I even had my WWJD – what would Jesus drink – hashtag that was going crazy because I was like –

Kerry Diamond: I didn't know that's what WWJD stood for!

Cha McCoy: It did not! But you know, it's kind of like now I'm just playing off of the whole, you know, now I'm just going crazy with it. So Sunday School Sermon, I actually worked with a local wine store that specializes in natural wines, organic wines small producers here in Bushwick as well. So Irving Bottle, shout out to them if they're listening, the owners there, we connected last year at the Raw Wine Festival. Did you go?

Kerry Diamond: I had so much fun!

Cha McCoy: Oh my God! We didn't know each other then, but we'll go this year.

Kerry Diamond: I can't even wrap my head around that festival. First time I went, it’s called Raw Wine? And it was the same place, in Bushwick, and I went the day before election day in 2016.

Cha McCoy: Oh, 2016? I went 2017. Okay.

Kerry Diamond: And I didn't know who was gonna, I'm like, who's going to be at this thing? I get there. It was packed to the was walls. It was like, people just came so thirsty and they were pouring and everybody's running out of wine and it was incredible. And it was such a celebration of this whole new movement that wine that we could do a whole show just talking about that.

Cha McCoy: For sure. I'll be back for that.

Kerry Diamond: And then I went last year and mind blown again and I can't wait for the next one.

Cha McCoy: I think that the attention, like at my wine store in Harlem, shout out to the Winery, if you're ever on 116th and 8th, you know, we have wines, we're big about, you know, my general manager, Eric, who was also my wine mentor, he's really serious about making sure – he's been in industry for years. I think that choosing wines that represent what we think, whether it's textbook version and some new-age versions of it, but we're not into trying to have, we're going to sell you a Moscato, but we're not going to put what you can get at the local liquor store that's literally one corner away from us, like in our store. So are we technically competing with them? Yes. And I think Irving Bottle, the same thing has happened with them. Right, they have a bunch of wines, so is this an area, but how can we, you know, show our niche? You know, in that case, it's natural, organic, small producers. And so it was cool to partner with them to highlight the wines that they actually have in their store during my tasting is basically what happened with Sunday School. So it was more educational, no food pairing. We did do cheese, in typical like a pair of like items, but it was just like meats, et cetera. But it was just more for the idea of understanding wine and getting to the root of it. I'm trying to make sure we scheduled one hopefully next over the summer.

They're not as intense as The Communion because I have a hired chef, I have a full venue space, it's a production, I'm printing menus. I'm basically a pop-up restaurant every time I do it, you know? I'm the sommelier, I'm the host, the maî·tre d', so in that case, it's kind of like I'm just educating people about wine and we have all different levels of people that's in the room because of that because I'm outside of my neighborhood too, so now my community grows a little bigger because of that as well. So, I appreciated that opportunity with them trying to put together a Wine and Wellness retreat. So please, please come!

Kerry Diamond: Oh my God, I want to sign up for all these things. Alright, we are running out of time and I'm so sad, but you're going to be back. I know it.

Cha McCoy: I will be back!

Kerry Diamond: All of you, you are going to hear a lot from this woman in the year ahead, you're going to blow up, Cha. I just know you are.

Cha McCoy: Well this is Cherry Bombe, so I'm hoping I blew up because I'm here, right? We're already blowing up.

Kerry Diamond: So sign up for Cha's, check out her website, sign up for her newsletter. Everything.

Cha McCoy: Follow me on Instagram. DM me. Stalk me.

Kerry Diamond: I would love to see some of you at the Communion

Cha McCoy: Yes, please!

Kerry Diamond: Or at her Sunday School or at Wine, Wellness, Women, whatever. Sign me up. I'm all about this. But Cha, I'm really happy we met at the Wing and got to talk.

Cha McCoy: Me too.

Kerry Diamond: And you're born in March. Are you a Pisces?

Cha McCoy: I am a Pisces.

Kerry Diamond: Did we talk about this already?

Cha McCoy: Are you a Pisces?

Kerry Diamond: Yeah, winter birthday.

Cha McCoy: Ooh, March 1st!

Kerry Diamond: Oh, I'm March 15th. So we're kind of separate, but together. Totally.

Cha McCoy: That's why we're sisters from the same soul. Yes, I love it.

Kerry Diamond: No, I liked you immediately when I met you. And you know what we're going to have to do this summer.

Cha McCoy: What?

Kerry Diamond: Le spritz.

Cha McCoy: Oh, of course. Le spritz all day. I'll bring the Prosecco. Right? I guess I have one role: bring the good Prosecco. Okay.

Kerry Diamond: Done, done.

That's it for today's show. If you'd like to know more about Cha, you can follow her on Instagram @Cha_Squared. Cha will be covering all beverage categories from wellness drinks to coffee, beer, spirits, and more. And, she will continue her work, breaking boundaries in the beverage world and spotlighting voices that deserve attention. She'll also be overseeing all the content on Cherry Bombe Drinks on Instagram, so be sure to follow that as well. And you will certainly hear more from Cha on Radio Cherry Bombe in the near future. Thank you to Breyers Carb Smart and Cypress Grove Cheeses for supporting our show. I don't know about ice cream and wine, but Cha could certainly recommend some wine to pair with that cheese. Radio Cherry Bombe is edited by Kat Garelli. Our theme song is All Fired Up by the band Tralala. Hang in there, everybody, and thank you for listening. You're the Bombe.