On Saturday, September 6, 2014 the Glaucoma Service Foundation will host our Annual Wine Tasting and Dinner, Escape to Napa, at the Gulph Mills Country Club in Conshohocken, PA. We are pleased to announce that Amy Dixon, the Blind Sommelier will be our guest.
Amy Dixon is an internationally recognized specialist in fine wines. She was the fine wine expert and buyer for all eight Stew Leonard’s Wine Stores in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey for six years. Amy left the corporate wine world to focus on the small family-owned retail store of Nicholas Roberts, featuring sustainable artisan wineries, where she teaches classes, sells wines that drive her passion for small family farms, and works with clients to change the way wine is perceived in all contexts using her education and palate to guide them
Amy’s blog, The Blind Sommelier, is read by thousands for her unrivaled ability to discover the highest-rated and the hardest to find wines in America and throughout Europe. Her followers depend on her exceptional access to the finest wineries and are devoted to her wry wit, approachable voice and descriptive tales of travel, food and all things wine.
The name of her blog refers to the heart of her inspiring story. At the age of 22, Amy was diagnosed with a rare eye disease that would slowly render her completely blind. At the time, there were only 30 known cases of the disease. Within months, Amy had lost 80 percent of her vision. More recently, her vision has been reduced even more severely due to the development of severe glaucoma and has undergone 16 surgeries in less than 4 years to save her remaining vision. Yet with her trusted Yellow Labrador Guide Dog, Elvis, Amy has continued her pursuit of an enriched life. Her inspiration and expertise have been recognized and rewarded around the world.
For the past three vintages, she has been elected by the Italian Albeisa Trade Commission to serve as one of 13 judges from around the world to taste more than 500 wines for the vintage. She also serves as an ambassador for the Piedmontese wine region.
Amy is the Cellar Master for nine of the most accomplished private wine collections in Fairfield County, Connecticut, for whom she inventories, appraises and advises on the purchase and auction of the finest wines in the world. She holds a Diploma Certification from the prestigious Wine Spirits Education Trust, as well as being recognized as a Certified Specialist of Wine by the Society of Wine Educators. Amy continues her wine education, currently working toward her Master of Wine certification. She is a sought-after public speaker on wine and a frequent television and radio commentator, and has produced innumerable videos and podcasts as well. She is a graduate of the Dale Carnegie Institute and teaches its Public Speaking Course in Stamford and Shelton, Connecticut.
Amy is extremely involved in five charities, Achilles International (a team supporting disabled athletes), Team RWB (A veteran’s advocacy group that supports vets through social and physical activities), Challenged Athlete’s Foundation, The Greenwich Lion’s Club, and Guiding Eyes for the Blind (the school from which she received her Guide Dog Elvis). She is also a standing member of the Near and Far Aid Wine Board, helping to run their extraordinarily successful Silent Wine Auction each year. She most recently received the “Above and Beyond Award” for her work with the Trumbull Public School System for educating children about people with special needs and disabilities and speaking at their annual “Sensitivity Day” in various schools. Amy and her guide dog Elvis spend their free time traveling with Guiding Eyes for the Blind to raise funds and awareness of how special these incredible canines are, and how Elvis has changed her life. Finally, Amy spent ten days in Antigua as the World Glaucoma Patient Ambassador, helping Dr. Jillia Bird raise awareness and education about the epidemic of Open Angle Glaucoma so prevalent on the island.
After developing neovascular and steroid-induced Glaucoma and having 9 more surgeries to protect the 2% of sight she has left, Amy found herself struggling with her weight from the meds following chemotherapy and steroids to protect her remaining sight. She turned to her local YMCA in Greenwich CT, where she began Aqua Jogging, as she wasn’t yet allowed to put her post-operative eyes in the water. When finally given the OK, she began to swim- first a lap, then more than 100, when she entered her first swim race to raise money for the Y. When she became stronger, she turned to spinning to begin dropping the pounds, as it was the only exercise she could do safely on her own. At a spin-a-thon in Danbury CT, she was introduced to a woman who guided Visually Impaired Athletes in Triathlon races, and learned about the veteran’s advocacy group, Team RWB. Caroline Gaynor offered to guide Amy for a spring triathlon, and helped her acquire a donated tandem bicycle from a former director of USA Para triathlon.
Amy began training in NYC with Achilles International, a group of disabled athletes who ran and competed at triathlons locally. She and Caroline successfully completed her first Sprint distance Triathlon on June 9th at the Sleepy Hollow Triathlon in Tarrytown NY in 1:34. Amy got the bug to do her first Olympic Distance, the NYC Triathlon, finishing in second place at her very first attempt at this distance. Amy is now a sponsored para-triathlete, and is now officially training for the Paralympics in Rio 2016 with team USA Paratriathlon. She recently won a bronze medal at the Pan American Triathlon Championships and at USA Para-cycling National Championships.
Miss Dixon qualified for the Para Triathlon Nationals this season, and is currently training with USA Triathlon coaching staff for the World Championships next month. Amy has her eyes on completing a half Ironman distance in 2014, and who knows from there. Her future is looking bright in Para triathlon and cycling.
Her goal is to educate people about wine, living an active life without boundaries, and celebrating our individual abilities. Amy’s memoir, “Blind Tastings” is in the process of being published in 2015. She uses her enthusiastic humor and her witty, sharp writing to captivate her audience, and her personal story to inspire all of her followers to seek the most from everything life has to give. Even without sight, Amy has ‘vision’.