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Here's How NASA Engineer Rada Griffin Became Alabama’s First Certified Black Woman Winemaker

Here's How NASA Engineer Rada Griffin Became Alabama’s First Certified Black Woman Winemaker

She’s still got more dreams to chase!

A NASA engineer has now made history as the first Black woman winemaker in Alabama, Atlanta Black Star reports. 

Rada Griffin is an accomplished senior subject matter expert at NASA who is currently working on getting the first woman on the moon by 2024. Despite her success, she continues to chase new passions and dreams, becoming a private chef and now adding wine vintner to her portfolio. 

Recently, Griffin took an online course and certificate program at Cornell University, starting her own line of wines, Anissa Wakefield Wines, and simultaneously making history as the first certified Black woman winemaker in Alabama. 

Following in the footsteps of John June Lewis Sr., the first Black winemaker in the country, Griffin set out to be a part of closing the gap for Black women in the wine industry. 

“There’s a movement happening with Black people getting into the wine industry. You see it with celebrities and athletes alike. I’m hoping to do my part with bringing that forward,” said Griffin. 

Phil Long, president of the Association of African American Vintners, says that out of the 8,000 wineries across the country, only one-tenth of 1 percent of the winemakers and brand owners are Black. For Black women, the statistics are even more sparse. Napa Valley’s Brown Estate, the first Black winery in the wine capital, has only been established since 1996. Similarly, it wasn’t until 2015 that Victoria Coleman was acknowledged as a Black woman winemaker in Napa, after her first vintage. 

Griffin says in Alabama specifically, there were laws that created agricultural restrictions, a new bill signed by Governor Kay Ivey last year, opening up the pipeline for a burgeoning wine industry in the state. While Cabernet Sauvignon is the signature drink out of California, Griffin is committed to doing something that feels a little bit more like home, noting popular drinks in the state like the Yellowhammer, a rum and vodka mix. 

“The state is still behind the times when it comes to wine. We just got to the point of getting wines shipped to residences in the state of October last year,” said Griffin. 

Her first vintage was spoiled by the 2019 California wildfires but the latest one is prepped and nearly ready to go, Griffin having big plans for Anissa Wakefield Wines in the future. 

“Ultimately, my goal is to get the wines on the airlines. When you’re flying, and you’re choosing between white and red, and you open that booklet and read the wine brands, I want Anissa Wakefield Wines to be there. That’s the level I want to get to. That’s some years away,” said Griffin.

To learn more about Anissa Wakefield Wines, follow them on Instagram

Photo Courtesy of @AnissaWakefieldWines/Instagram