Copia, Over $50 Million is Lost on the East Side of Napa

Receiving the news on Monday, November 24, 2008, that Copia had closed its doors, I was instantly reminded of the Sonoma County Wine Center.

Neither facility has ever made sense to me.


When you’ve got valleys riddled with primary tasting locations – Winery Tasting rooms – who in their right mind would be venturing off to a wine center? It takes the charm right out of the experience that people so crave, which is visiting the actual location of the winery.

Let’s see, which would I rather do, go to visit with Carl Doumani of Quixote Winery… the man, the legend, the iconoclast, where I might actually see him in person… Or, visit a wine center, where someone will wax poetic?

While the intent was great, the marketing was flawed from the beginning.

How could either facility have survived; nay, flourished?

By being in the middle of New York City, where Eurocentric people believe that no one does it better than Bordeaux or Burgundy, and have yet to sink their teeth into a decent California Petite Sirah, Pinot, or Sauvignon Blanc, this location would have found a perfect home. I can call East Coasters Eurocentric; I’m one of them, having lived there for over 40 years, and having European roots that date back to the mid 1600s.

It makes perfect sense… Many of our forefather were imported from Europe. The east coast harbors bring in all that’s created in Europe and delivered to the US shores. This was going on long before the gold rush, and continues to this day.

Educating the East Coast about West Coast wines would have worked perfectly in Manhattan, where people love culture, a great performance, and a fine dining experience.

If I had had those millions of dollars, I would have opened up a center for wine, food, and the arts right in the middle of Manhattan. It would have offered a place for winemaker dinners – for all the winemakers who travel to New York and are ignored by wine writers as “Yawn… one more winemaker coming into town”… And yet would delight the consumer members of this center I’m dreaming up. Imagine, having a special place where once-a-week you’ve got a prominent winemaker coming into town and being at a consistent location. We’d have to hire a world class chef to pull this off, of course; and have Kevin Zraly come work for us as our sommelier.

Imagine also, an artist who devotes his or her life to painting images of all things wine country… a central location to see all of this art; like the Met or Guggenheim: each one specializing. In a wine center that also features art, a license could be procured for enjoying wine while strolling though the center enjoying arts that features food, wine, and wine country images.

It could be a place for consumers to watch food and wine cooking demonstrations.

It could be televised by the Food Network for the whole world to see.

Location, location, location… How many times can one hear that before opening up a business in the exact right spot instead of the exact wrong spot?

The Sonoma center was in Rohnert Park… A place where few people stop on their way to wine country.

Copia is placed on the eastern side of the town of Napa… A place where few people visit in Napa Valley.

In both instances, the intent was good. The marketing plan (if there even was a formal one) just didn’t measure up. It will be a miracle if Copia finds a way to entice visitors back to its doors. I wish it wasn’t this way, but it is what it is… Lost on the east side of Napa.

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