POSTED ON November 20, 2008 | IN Wine News | BY Joe Becerra

The latest rumor on Copia is that it is in deep financial trouble and there are signs that they intend to sell or lease the building and property it occupies on First Street in Napa. I am not a businessperson, but I would like to suggest a few ideas that might make Copia a leading venue for wine tourists. Maybe these ideas have already been tossed around, or maybe it is just too late and Copia is set to go under. Anyway, here goes.

To begin with, Copia should seek out sponsors in the wine industry like Gallo, Constellation, Jackson Wines and other major wine companies. Copia started out this way with a huge Robert Mondavi donation. Arenas and stadiums all across the country have corporate sponsors and it is great PR for the companies. Remodel the Copia building into different rooms called centers, each with a different theme and corporate sponsor. For example, in the Robert Mondavi (Constellation) Center, the tourists would find exhibits on the history of winemaking in California. Bring in important memorabilia going back to the Franciscan Fathers and Gaston Haraszthy, who founded Buena Vista Winery. Depict California’s wine story from the beginning to its present day. Bring in old grape presses and wooden fermenting tanks. Display a timeline of wine pioneers and winemakers through photographs and essays.

In the Francis Ford Coppola Center, the visitor would be mesmerized by watching a multi screen state-of-the-art, high tech video portraying a year in the vineyards. Have exhibits of barrel types, fermenting tanks, presses and anything to demonstrate winemaking.

In the Gallo Center, the theme would be Wine Appreciation. Tourists would be excited about testing their sense of smell at the aroma station. Copia currently has one but it is very low tech. How about a tasting education station, so visitors can learn what acidity, tannins, and fruit forward is all about? What about some simple food and wine pairings?

The Copia gardens are wonderful but let’s make it more about wine. In the Jackson Wines Garden, how about a set of vineyards representing all, yes all, the varietals grown in California. Demonstrate the different trellis systems and show examples of sustainable farming. Show different soil types in cross section.

What about a theme representing wine in art in the Diageo Center? Bring in artworks from around the world where wine is depicted in paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and photography.

Have the visitors follow the entire tour with an audio guide and/or a pamphlet. The tour could conclude at a tasting center, where each sponsor is allocated a tasting bar where folks could taste and buy wine and possibly join their wine club.

Visitors from all over the world come to visit the Napa Valley and other California wine regions. We need to have a center, a focal point for this amazing wine region of ours. Copia needs to be here. Copia should remake itself into a wine museum so memorable that visitors return home to rave about their experience. Copia should be so compelling that it is listed in every California tourist guide book in the world as the place to learn about California wine and the place to begin their wine country journey.

These ideas are not mine. We visited such a wine museum in Briones, Spain in the Rioja wine region, the Museo de la Cultura Del Vino. It is the most amazing and wonderful museum of any type we have visited. The historic Dinastia Vivanco Winery in Spain financed the museum as a way “to give back to wine what wine has given to us.” I’d gladly lend my DVD of this museum to any Copia official who would like to get a feel for what Copia could become.


  1. jai malaquaya says

    I loved the gardens at COPIA, but found the rest a little boring. The shops was very expensive and the restaurant was too. Sorry to see it may not survive as the gardens alone are worth the trip.

  2. JD in Napa says

    Copia is dying because it started out with an arts focus, which did not bring in the tourists. It has been struggling to reinvent itself in food and wine, but too little, too late. One of Copia’s fatal flaws is being too far off 29 (and too hard to access for tourists, given Napa’s one-way streets), so it is inconvenient, no matter what is happening there. Going back to art, as suggested above, will go nowhere. I’ve been a Copia volunteer, and can tell you that, in general, visitors are not looking for a museum experience. Wine tourists come to Napa for the wine experience; not that many are interested in the history of Napa wine country.

    Note that the Copia Gardens already display the various varietals and trellis systems. Also, Copia’s financial troubles are not rumor, they are fact. Finally, “Diagio” is spelled “Diageo” – know thy wine companies.