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Elaine Chukan Brown, aka Hawk Wakawaka

Photo by Robert Holmes

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -Gandhi

Elaine Chukan Brown serves as a writer, speaker, and educator specializing in wine, personal empowerment, and social justice. In 2021, she gave the keynote address, “Risk and Self-Doubt as Opportunity,” for the Femmes du Vin event sponsored by the US State Department through the Paris Embassy. The Hue Society also awarded her the Legend Award in Wine Education. In 2020, she was named Wine Communicator of the Year in the world by IWSC and VinItaly, and was named a Wine Industry Leader in the North American wine industry by Wine Business Monthly. In 2019, the Wine Industry Network named Brown one of the Most Inspiring People in Wine, and she was shortlisted for the IWSC Wine Communicator of the Year award.

In 2021, she contributed to the book On California from Academie du Vin Library, as well as Why We Cook: Women on Food, Identity and Connection by artist Lindsay Gardner. She currently writes as a columnist for Club Oenologique, and is a contributing writer to Wine & Spirits Magazine. From 2015 through 2020 she served as the American Specialist for JancisRobinson.com. She contributed to the 8th edition of the World Atlas of Wine, and the 4th edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine, both of which have since won multiple awards. Her writing has been featured in DecanterWorld of Fine Wine, the Robb ReportLonely Planet, and others, and recommended by Food & WineImbibe, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Vino-Joy and Lifestyle Asia out of Hong Kong, The Drinks Business and The Buyer out of the UK, Gourmet Traveller Wine in Australia, Cuisine & Wine in Singapore, and more. She has also contributed to other books on various subjects including Central Otago Pinot Noir, Arizona wine, California wine, and women in food and wine.

She has been a celebrated keynote speaker for events worldwide, and serves as one of the world’s most celebrated educators of wine. Her illustration work can be seen in a museum installation in Belarus, a wine list in Hong Kong, decorating restaurants in London and Europe, tasting rooms in Oregon and California, on wine labels in Australia, and has appeared in wine and food pop-ups worldwide. She has been interviewed for radio shows and podcasts around the world, on international television, for documentaries and feature length films, in newspapers, magazines, and books in multiple languages. She is also known for her online interviews with producers and wine professionals from around the world, her skill as a discussion moderator, and her ability to create insightful and engaging webinars on topics in both wine and social justice. Her webinar series, Behind the Wines, done for the California Wine Institute in collaboration with Katie Canfield won particular acclaim.

Prior to her career in wine, Elaine served as the Charles A Eastman Fellow at Dartmouth College, and a Tomlinson Fellow at McGill University, where she did doctoral work in philosophy specializing in race and racism, as well as gender, women’s and sexuality studies. She was a full-time philosophy lecturer at Northern Arizona University. There she helped develop new teaching methods focused on making esoteric subjects like philosophy and ethics more understandable and relevant to everyday life, and also regularly moderated public discussions on controversial but essential topics in women’s health, social equity, global politics, and more. She was nominated for multiple teaching awards, served on the faculty development committee, was a mentor for multiple student groups, and a member of multiple national and international research groups working on Indigenous issues in an academic setting.

Brown’s previous work as an academic philosopher informs her views of wine, and people. She brings the rigor, thoroughness, and clarity demanded of her previous career forward to her work with wine, and her experience as an award-recognized university teacher into her wine communication. In traveling wine regions, and interviewing people, her primary goal is always to witness the life in front of her, be it in the person or the glass.

She began life as a commercial salmon fisherman in Bristol Bay, Alaska, home to the largest wild salmon run in the world. At the age of 9, she began commercial fishing, started her own salmon fishing business at 13, and sold it at 23 before pursuing her life in academia. The rest of her family still operate their fishing businesses in Bristol Bay. However, her favorite job has been as an animal trainer and ranch hand, guiding physical therapy sessions for students with physical disabilities in their work with exotic animals, birds, and various hoof stock for River’s Crest Dragon Slayer’s in Aptos, California. She loved working with students, training camels and other exotic animals.

Elaine is Inupiaq, and Unangan-Sugpiaq, that is Indigenous, from what is now known as Alaska. Much of her time is spent mentoring young people and other Black, Indigenous, and people of color pursuing work in wine. She also advises multiple diversity initiatives, organizations, and committees in the wine industry in both the United States and Canada, and regularly speaks, and writes on diversity, equity, and social justice issues connected to the world of wine, food, beverage, and hospitality. She is an advisor and mentor for The Hue Society, served as a mentor for Vinica.ca, and on the scholarship committee for Canada’s Femmes du Vin organization. She also helped found the Diversity in Wine Leadership Forum, now led by co-founder Maryam Ahmed.

She uses WakawakaWineReviews.com to share more of the story, and is known online as @hawk_wakawaka. Elaine, her daughter, Rachel, and their pets currently live in Sonoma, California.

Cheers! Live Sincerely.




  1. Hi Elaine

    Your reviews make a refreshing change from stuffy points based ratings and one dimensional wine descriptions. Keep up the good work.


    Dr Miles Thomas
    London UK

    • Hi Miles,

      I really appreciate you taking the time to comment here, and for sharing your perspective on my wine comics. I’m so glad you enjoy them.

      I look forward to investigating your site Winepsych.com too.
      Thank you!

  2. Elaine,

    Hi, my name is Justin and I am the winemaker for StoneCap wines. When you reviewed our Syrah it was my first experience with your website and I must say it is pretty interesting. I like the way you are approaching wine reviews and making them informative but easy to understand, I think you are right when you say the “comic book” aspect allows you to better explain what some people see as complicated or stuffy when discussing what a wine tastes or smells like and putting it in a format that is not intimidating. Anyway I am glad you enjoyed the StoneCap Syrah, I would like to mention that we are using a composite cork on this project that is only good for 3 years so this is not the wine to put in your cellar rather something to be enjoyed now. The vineyard I work with on these wines has lots of age ability potential it is just not where we are going with these wines, you can check out Goose Ridge wines to see what we are doing with these grapes to make a wine that has more cellar potential.
    Thanks for the write up and best of luck.

    Justin Michaud

    • Hi Justin,

      I’m happy to hear from you. Thank you for taking the time to write, and for your perspective on the wine comics and reviews. I’ve added a post edit with your note about the bottling choices and aging potential of Stone Cap and Goose Ridge wines to the bottom of the review of your Syrah so that readers can see your advice there directly. I appreciate you taking the time to write, and share this important information with us!


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