Many of the Latinos employed at Long Island wineries come from countries where social, political and economic conditions are dire. These jobs represent a vast improvement over living conditions at home. But if the Long Island Latino Vintners Association has its way, winery work for Latinos will become not just a job but a vocation.
LILVA was launched in May by a committee of winemakers including Seferino Cotzojay and Richard Olsen-Harbich of Bedell Cellars, Victor Pirir of Raphael Vineyard & Winery and Miguel Martin of Palmer Vineyards to “promote and support the Latino community in the Long Island wine region, to advocate quality standards for its members, to promote and support the contributions of Latinos in the wine industry and to support education and professional development.”
Cotzojay, who is from Guatemala, went from harvest worker to assistant winemaker in 10 years. He says the nonpolitical association aims to give Latino vineyard workers greater opportunities to cultivate their own careers.
“Our goal is to celebrate and support winery workers and their families through education,” says Cotzojay. “We also want to start scholarships for those who want to study viticulture, enology and culinary careers. We want to promote them and promote better, more sustainable winemaking in the North Fork.”