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How Rada Griffin Went From NASA Engineer to Owner of Alabama’s First Certified Black Female Wine Brand

A senior subject matter expert at NASA and private chef has added wine vintner to her list of accomplishments.

After taking an online course and a certified program through Cornell University, Rada Griffin started her own wine line, Anissa Wakefield Wines.

Rada Griffin selfie photo on her vineyard

Griffin’s first harvest is expected to be bottled and packaged soon, making her the first Black female winemaker in Alabama.

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

Although there are more than 8,000 wineries in the U.S., about one-tenth of 1 percent of the winemakers and brand owners is Black, according to Phil Long, president of the Association of African-American Vintners.

John June Lewis Sr. is recognized as the first Black winemaker in the nation’s history. Lewis converted 10 acres of land he inherited from his father into a Virginia vineyard called Woburn Winery in 1940. Much has not changed since then.

Brown Estate, the first Black winery in America’s wine headquarters, Napa Valley, California, was only established in 1996.

Griffin said the gap is even wider for Black women. It was not until 2015, when Victoria Coleman saw her first vintage, that a Black female winemaker was recognized in Napa Valley.

While California’s flagship drink is the Cabernet Sauvignon, Alabamians are not traditionally pinching wine glasses on the weekend. Alabama’s signature drink, the Yellowhammer, better known as the Alabama Slammer, is a mixture of rum and vodka. The state also had laws that limited the growth of the winemaking Industry.

Read full story at Atlanta Black Star here.

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