Empowering Latino Wine Workers on Long Island

Seferino Cotzojay, assistant winemaker from Bedell Cellars (Photo via Long Island Wins)

Seferino Cotzojay, assistant winemaker from Bedell Cellars (Photo via Long Island Wins)

When Seferino Cotzojay first started working at the Bedell Cellar winery on the North Fork of Long Island, he had never drunk wine before. In 2011, he would go on to become the assistant winemaker. This past spring, reports Long Island Wins, the 30-year-old native of Guatemala founded the Long Island Latino Vintners Association (LILVA), a first-of-its-kind nonprofit in the area that empowers the 250-300 Latino employees in the East End’s wine industry by giving them the chance to organize, as well as by recognizing their contributions to the field.

Richard Olsen-Harbich, head winemaker at Bedell Cellar – and part of a six-member committee at LILVA, which also includes Cotzojay – praised Latino employees for the highly specialized work they perform.

Latinos, said Olsen-Harbich, have been working in the vineyards and wineries of the East End since the late 1980’s, and today account for about 25% of the total agricultural workforce in Suffolk County.

If it weren’t for the support of Latino agricultural workers, Olsen-Harbich said, most vineyards and farms in the area would have been unable to stay open and probably would have been lost.

He added that they have not received an application from local non-Latinos in at least 25 years.

Read more on Cotzojay’s rise to one of the top positions at Bedell, and find out other areas of support his nonprofit will provide, including in education and medical emergencies, at Long Island Wins.

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