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By day, Rada Griffin works long hours as a software engineer for NASA, toiling away at the agency’s top-secret project that will send the first woman to the moon in 2024. By night, the Huntsville, Alabama-based space worker uses her spare time to expand her bustling wine business, Anissa Wakefield Wines.
“It’s a big responsibility for us to ensure that everything goes perfectly,” Griffin told The Cornell Chronicle. “Whenever I can find the time, I do my thing with wine.”
Griffin, who also works as a personal chef, explained that she’s been obsessed with wine ever since she could remember. “Wine to me is food. 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,” Griffin added.
The NASA contractor honed in on her winemaking skills and knowledge in Cornell’s Wine Essentials course taught by Cheryl Stanley. After completing the program, Griffin launched her company, Anissa Wakefield Wines in 2019, becoming the first black woman winemaker in Alabama. The bustling entrepreneur earned her certification credentials in wines hailing from California, the Pacific Northwest, and New York in early 2020. Since then, Griffin has extended her passion for all things “vino” into a local club called the Black Cuvee for other wine aficionados living in Alabama. Griffin travels back and forth to Napa Valley, California regularly to check on the progress of her first vintage, which is a wine that is created from grapes that are all, or primarily, grown and harvested in a single specified year.
Starting a new business can be challenging and Griffin has been delivered several setbacks like during the California fires in 2019. The Black winemaker’s grape harvest was damaged in the unruly blaze. “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. Luckily, the businesswomen’s wine crops are finally starting to grow back healthy again. “We watched the grapes just take off this past April – all the way through harvesting in September and October,” Griffin continued, “Now I’m blending.”
Griffin also noted how the wine world hasn’t always been inclusive of Black women.“Particularly for African Americans, we’re trying to catch up with being included in the wine industry,” she added. “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.”
Ultimately, the star said she is determined to get her wine on some airlines to expand the brand beyond Alabama.”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,” she added.