Henry “Hoby” Wedler is a blind graduate student at the University of California, Davis, founder of the nationally recognized
chemistry camp for the blind and host of Francis Ford Coppola Winery’s Tasting in the Dark experience. 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
and how it relates 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 in the wine industry, 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 near Napa, California 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.
In between his studies and other projects, Hoby travels to the winery to host the monthly Tasting in the Dark, a blind tasting
experience that he helped establish with the Coppola winemaking team in 2011. The surprising and enlightening two-hour
wine tasting, where guests are blindfolded and led to the Winemaker’s Lab, 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, bringing out more flavors in a wine.
“Francis Ford Coppola Winery has been extremely fortunate to work with someone as talented as Henry Wedler to help
develop Tasting in the Dark,” said Corey Beck, Director of Winemaking and General Manager. “Not only has Henry been an
inspiration to our guests and the employees of the winery but he has one of the best palates I've ever been around when it
comes to wine tasting.”