francis ford coppola
Henry “Hoby” Wedler is a blind fourth-year Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Davis, founder of the nationally recognized chemistry camp for the blind and host of truly blind wine tasting experiences. When he’s not busy working towards his Ph.D. in organic chemistry or leading his blind or visually impaired chemistry camp students in conducting lab experiments through touch and smell, he turns his attention to wine – where he’s passionate about wine flavor, accurate flavor descriptors, and how wine flavor and aroma relate to chemistry.
In May of 2012, Hoby was one of only fourteen individuals honored at the White House as part of President Obama’s Champions of Change program, for leading the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for people with disabilities. The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative that recognizes outstanding individuals for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities.
Blind since birth, Hoby was inspired by programs offered by the National Federation of the Blind in high school, and with encouragement from professors, colleagues and others, he gained the confidence to challenge and refute the mistaken belief that STEM fields are too visual and, therefore, impractical for blind people.
Hoby also founded and teaches at an annual chemistry camp held on the summit of Mount Veeder for blind and low-vision high school students. Chemistry Camp demonstrates to the students, by example and through practice, that their lack of eyesight should not hold them back from pursuing their dreams.
Hoby has hosted his Tasting in the Dark, a completely blinded wine tasting experience at Francis Ford Coppola and other Napa-Sonoma wineries for over four years. The surprising and enlightening wine tasting, where guests are blindfolded and led down a long path to the location of the tasting, explores how flavors and aromas in wine are accentuated when experienced in complete darkness. Hoby believes that when a sighted person is in complete darkness, he or she feels more vulnerable and his or her senses become more heightened because vision is not a distraction, bringing out more flavors in a wine. Tasting Coppola wines in complete darkness is rewarding and exemplifies the brilliance of Coppola’s wine making team and exemplary wines.