Henry Amato

Amato Winery and Cheeses Independence, LA

Laura Westbrook: All right; I’m in Independence, Louisiana talking with Mr. Henry Amato of Amato Winery; it’s November 3rd at oh about a quarter to three in the afternoon and the interviewer is Laura Westbrook. Will you tell me a little bit about how you got started in the wine business? You grew up in the Independence area, so you grew up with the Italian food traditions. Were there wine makers in the community that you knew?

Henry Amato: Well, at that time everybody in this area had strawberries, and then everybody made a little barrel of wine. It was small farms and everybody made their own little wine in this area.

And did your family do that?

Oh yes, oh yes; see, it’s legal to make 250 gallons a year per family.

Has that always been the case?

I think so; uh-hm.

Were people careful to stick with that or were there—?

Well, that was a lot of wine, so most people didn’t even make that much.

I can imagine that. When did your parents allow you to start, one-consuming some of the wine, and, two-participating in making it?

Well, we was around it so much, I never remember not being around wine because we was involved in actually making wine as kids. In fact, this thing goes back so far that the schools was set up for the kids to be off during harvest season of strawberries. We used to go to schools in different times than you (in New Orleans) because they had us out for the harvesting of strawberries. So I mean it—it goes back a long ways.

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Date of interview:

November 3, 2005

Interviewer:

Laura Westbrook, University of New Orleans

Henry Amato
[Hurricane Katrina] really tore up the cheese business because we had some real nice customers in New Orleans…We sold to Palace Cafe and a lot of it went to other—the other restaurants. And then we done a big cheese business with Brocato’s for the Cannoli cookies and—and all that's gone, you know. Right now all of it's gone.
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