People in the Know: R.J. Passalacqua – General Manager of Ventosa Vineyards


How and when did you become involved in Ventosa Vineyards?

A good friend informed me that his aunt and uncle, Lenny and Meg Cecere, were building a winery and looking for someone to manage it. I met with Lenny on a Saturday in March 2005, when he was about three months into construction. We spent a couple of hours talking and viewing the blueprints of how the facility was going to be built. His plans included not just an incredible winery, but also a café and a banquet room to host large weddings and events. I was blown away by his vision and what he was creating. I was fortunate that I was offered the position, especially in Geneva where I was born and raised. Now here we are, 17 years later, and I’m truly honored to be part of the Ventosa family! 

What do you most enjoy about working at Ventosa?

I think mostly it’s the people I work with and customers we welcome on a daily basis. We have wonderful and passionate people that work at Ventosa, and the Ceceres have created a “family” atmosphere that makes it a very enjoyable place to be. There are definitely challenges, but I’ve been fortunate to meet so many wonderful visitors, brides and grooms over the past 17 years. Meeting new people and creating memories for them is what drives me day in and day out!     

What is the best part of managing a business in the Finger Lakes Region?

The Finger Lakes Region is truly amazing in so many ways! We are so fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. The Finger Lakes has become such a well-known destination, and the region has so much to offer from wineries, breweries and distilleries to cheeseries, restaurants, lodging and history. It’s so unique and filled with incredible and inviting people and businesses. It’s fascinating to me that the Finger Lakes has produced so many products that are known not only nationwide, but globally. Being born and raised here, I’ve seen how this region has grown into what it is today. I’m excited to see where we are in the next five, ten, fifteen years – and longer!

Do you have a favorite recent project that you completed? 

I’m very proud of how we handled the past couple of years. COVID-19 meant we had to rethink and reimagine what we’d been doing for years. It seemed like we created and implemented four, five or even six different business plans over the last couple of years. I’m proud of how our team came together day after day, week after week, to stay on top of regulations, restrictions and anything else we had to fight through and overcome. I wouldn’t call it a “favorite” project, but it’s definitely something that we can look back on and be proud of how we came together, pushed through and survived as a team. 

What are some of your latest challenges?

Things are definitely getting back to “normal,” or what we always thought of as normal. There are still some challenges with finding enough help, which I hope will improve over the next month or so. We are still experiencing delays in receiving some products and equipment due to supply and manufacturing issues, which is frustrating. However, these challenges seem miniscule compared with what we’ve gone through and where we were even a year ago. We were fortunate to turn a lot of challenges into ways that improved or even expanded our business that we are still implementing today.                

Ventosa Vineyards
3440 Route 96A
Geneva, NY 14456

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