NASA Engineer Becomes Alabama's First Black Winemaker

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A Black woman is redefining the phrase "you can do it all" with her barrier-breaking career at NASA and bustling history-making wine business.

Rada Griffin spends her day working as a NASA software engineer and is helping with a top-secret project that will put a woman on the moon by 2024. On the side, Griffin founded a wine business, Anissa Wakefield Wines, making history as Alabama's very first certified Black winemaker.

"It's a big responsibility for us to ensure everything goes perfectly," Griffin told The Cornell Chronicle of her work with the space institution. "Whenever I can find the time, I do my thing with wine."

Griffin –– who has also worked as a personal chef –– took her "obsession" with wine to the next level took Cornell's Wine Essential course led by Cheryl Stanley.

"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," Griffin explained. "So I just wanted to do more.

After successfully completing the course, Griffin launched Anissa Wakefield Wines in 2019, making state history. The engineer currently travels back and forth to Napa Valley, California to check on her specially-grown grapes at her first vineyard. She also opened a wine club, Black Cuvee, for other wine lovers in Alabama.

Griffin hopes to eventually get her wine on airlines and expand her company 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 to be there," she said. "That's the level I want to get to. That's some years away."

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