What was Copia? Well, no one was really ever sure exactly what Copia was, or aimed to be. Conceptualised by Robert Mondavi, who gifted some $20 million in seed money, the not-for-profit (and therein lies a problem) discovery centre struggled to define it's mission. With a 700 seat outdoor amphitheatre, 13,000 square feet of gallery space, a demonstration kitchen, a 3.5 acre edible garden and a restaurant named for famed chef Julia Child (I ate there, once) Copia potentially had a lot to offer the community. However, what Copia did not have was a supporting foundation, an endowment, or incontrovertibly any funding to keep what was a lofty enterprise afloat.
When Copia filed for bankruptcy it had amassed a staggering bond-financed debt of more than $78 million. The centre had struggled financially since day one. The projected 300,000 annual visitors never materialised and the support of Napa Valley residents was virtually non-existent: for many locals the lure of gourmet salt and internationally sourced mustard tastings did not prove to be a strong enough enticement to get them through the doors in any great numbers.
As part of the bankruptcy process, the administrators of the Copia liquidation trust are holding onsite and online auctions to rid themselves of everything - from the gift shop's retail inventory and the centre's 4,000 bottle wine collection to serving dishes and office equipment - and in the process perhaps put a small dent in that $78 million debt. In order to facilitate a good turn out on auction day, many Napa residents were sent a large postcard in the mail advertising the "truly...one of a kind collection of assets to be sold to the highest bidders." I won't be bidding on anything. For instance, I can't imagine wanting any white wine from Copia's bottle collection.
Copia was an ego driven idea with no concept of reality. From the onset, there was really no way this particular business model could work. A shrine to wine (amongst other things), really? With approximately 175 tasting rooms in the valley, beginning a mere 2 miles from Copia's downtown location, I think most visitors would want to pay homage to a living and breathing wine at it's source. Copia, was plainly a folly.
Of course, there is that life-size statue of Mr. Tchelistcheff (although I read that it may not actually be included in the auction), just in case you need one.