COPIA’s long, strange saga continues

So, the news is in…COPIA will likely be selling off its 12-acre property which is struggling with a staggering amount of debt and move operations into San Francisco. Word is that the food/arts center may try to lease back part of the building to stay maintain its Napa presence, but that’s still up in the air.

From day one, Napa’s luxe food, arts and wine center, COPIA, has struggled to find its raison d’etre. Pretty much anyone who’s been there says the same thing to me: “It’s a really great idea, but I don’t really get it.”

Winemaking philanthropist, Robert Mondavi’s grand vision of a home where food, wine and art intersected was a noble idea that turned quickly turned quixotic. But in the booming 1990s, excess and passionately indulgent ideas could be passed off as quirky and interesting. We might not get it, but who cared. It was art. And food. And wine. In Napa.

As bank-accounts dwindle, however, excess seems less amusing. COPIA tried to reinvent itself numerous times, cutting back on the bizarro art, adding more approachable classes, reaching out the community. Recently they asked Tyler Florence, the nice-guy Food Network chef who lives in Marin (and is working on an SF restaurant) to front its culinary program. This is the guy who shilled for Applebees. How everyday can you get?

Things seem to be continuing to digress, however. There are rumors that the building will be sold, that Julia’s Kitchen is in hot water and the natives seem restless (as evidenced by recent comments to turn the building into a go-cart racing center).

And though it would be easy to jump on the bandwagon of hostility toward this multi-million dollar fiasco, the whole thing is actually pretty discouraging. I have always loved the idea of COPIA. I’m proud to live in a place that had the gumption to support it for this long. I have been absolutely enamored of the Taste3 conferences held there each year, bringing together some of the greatest visionaries in food, wine and art. The sale also doesn’t bode well for the Oxbow Market, which has faced its own struggles but seemed inexorably tied to the food-focus of COPIA.

Is COPIA a lofty idea that’s out of touch with the current economic climate? Or did it ever stand a chance. Sound off…

– Snark from
– The PD article
Napa Valley Register readers suggest what should be done with the building…now for sale.