Rada Griffin is a NASA engineer and a winemaker based in Huntsville, Alabama. As a NASA engineer, she helps with the organization’s program to land the first woman on the moon in 2024.
“It’s a big responsibility for us to ensure that everything goes perfectly. And then, whenever I can find the time, I do my thing with wine,” the NASA contractor told Cornell Chronicle.
Despite her busy task at NASA, Griffin finds time to pursue other economic endeavors like winemaking. She is the founder of Anissa Wakefield Wines, making her the first certified Black woman winemaker in Alabama. She now hosts wine and food pairings on weekends.
Her journey towards becoming the first certified Black woman winemaker started when she registered for online classes authored by an instructor in the Cornell Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration. With the knowledge acquired, she launched her wine business.
“Wine to me is food,” said Griffin, who also works locally as a private chef. “The same way you view food when a chef puts a plate in front of you and it’s beautiful and you can’t wait to taste it, that’s the same way I think about wine. So I just wanted to do more.”
In 2019 when she launched her wine business, the 2019 fires in California nearly ruined it. “Because of the 2019 fires in California, the grapes absorbed some of the smokiness, and we just didn’t want to take a chance with that harvest from my first year,” she said.
The minor setback didn’t hold her back too long. She said her grapes just took off last April, all the way through harvesting in September and October. “Now I’m blending,” she told Cornell Chronicle in March this year, adding that bottling and packing will follow.
Only last year, the NASA engineer returned to Cornell’s online course to complete another certificate program centered on wines of France. And according to Cornell Chronicle, Griffin recently launched a local wine club, the Black Cuvee, for fellow wine enthusiasts in Alabama.
But becoming a winemaker has not been easy, especially being African American.
“Particularly for African Americans, we’re trying to catch up with being included in the wine industry,” she said. “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.”