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Blind Taste Test

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It’s easy to imagine that the ritual of wine tasting is more theater than necessity. We often exaggeratedly swirl and stare, sometimes hold the glass up to the light, make jokes about legs or inkiness, sniff a bit, and then, at last, slurp, for we call it wine tasting, after all, and taste is about getting it into your mouth. Henry “Hoby” Wedler would beg to disagree. He leads a program called Tasting in the Dark at the Coppola Winery in Geyserville, where groups sample blindfolded. “Without the distraction of vision, your other senses do become more enhanced,” he says, “you focus on them more.”

Wedler should know, since he’s been blind since birth. That hasn’t kept him from much — he’s a Ph.D. student studying computational organic chemistry at UC Davis and in 2012 was honored at the White House as a Champion of Change for leading the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for people with disabilities. He studies olive oil and wine flavor molecules and can tell you how we taste and smell what we taste and smell, tossing about processes like gas chromatography and terms like terpene with ease. He says, “My goal would be to take my knowledge in chemistry and use it in the wine industry…”

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