Cha McCoy on wine as the ultimate connector.

Credit: Aaron L. Ortiz

Cha McCoy inherited her love of food and wine, and all the places they can take you, from her father: “I would be dragged out of school when he had a taste for something, and we’d drive three hours away. Food dictated everything we did in life.” A trained civil engineer who worked in corporate real estate managing multi-million dollar projects, McCoy now runs Cha Squared Hospitality, a lifestyle company with a focus on tourism and gastronomy. She’s also a certified sommelier and hosts a pop-up wine tasting event series called The Communion. Her work centers as much on community and creating a sense of belonging as it does on wine, travel, and getting away.

JT: What makes you most excited about wine?

CM: I think it’s wine’s power to transport. I’ve always been a traveler. Back in the day I’d buy my Rick Steves book to get ready for a trip. Now when I prep for a trip, wine is my travel guide. Tasting the wines of a particular destination before I get there gets me ready for my excursions and helps me have that meaningful connection with farmers and winemakers, and then when I come home, I can share those connections and experiences with my guests. Wine is my virtual passport. It’s my vessel to connect people to each other and to places. It’s my way of bridging gaps.

JT: If someone is coming to one of your Communion events for the first time, what do you want them to feel when they walk in the door?

CM: A sense of community, immediately. It started out in my living room, and it still feels that way. People find their way and connections with each other. I’m trying to drive home bonding.

JT: And what do you want people to take with them when they leave?

CM: I want people to connect to a place through their glass and have that travel moment without having to fly. I know that not everyone can afford to travel, and I think wine allows you to transport yourself. I want to take the snobbery out of wine and make people feel open to sharing. It’s about educating people with no pretense, no judgment.

JT: What does it mean to you to be a Black woman running the show in an industry that has always skewed very white and very male?

CM: I run the show in my engineering career as the lead project manager, and there are many transferable skills between Cha Squared and construction consulting. I know what it feels like to be the unicorn in the room in both industries. I sit at tables where being a Black woman may be what makes me stand out, but I use this attention to deliver my message and mission. I have learned over the years to not let this intimidate me, and I have built up endurance to take on the food and beverage industry.

JT: You’ve spoken about injustices within the hospitality industry. What does a more equitable industry look like to you?

CM: When people of color and women are achieving in all roles and levels in the food and beverage industry. I believe we are at a time when "the first" Black person and/or woman should be a thing of the past. I am standing up for more opportunities and creating my own. People are encouraging me to be the first Black female Master Sommelier. I actually look forward to seeing other somms who have been training and studying before me achieve this title. I look forward to Black women being in a place of power in the wine industry and obtaining the resources to reach back and lift another woman up.

JT: And how do you see it happening?

CM: We need to fight our way in there and then look at who else we can bring along. We have to Harriet Tubman the whole situation. We have to keep making the same trips to keep bringing more people up.

The next Communion wine dinner is scheduled for April 28th in Brooklyn, NY.