Dan McFadden | Aug 17, 2014
[letter-to-the-editor published in the NVR on 08/20/14
A Register article on July 11 by Janelle Wetzstein reports on the Planning Commission review of development plans by the Copia Liquidation Trust for conversion of the Copia building to mixed use including commercial office space. Napa will lose a major economic and cultural opportunity, and a distinctive landmark building, if this development proceeds. Napa Valley has become a world center for wine, an event that Copia was originally designed to celebrate, but is still struggling to balance wine tourism with the lives of its residents and the operations of its wine producers. Both the residents of Napa County and businesses in Napa city will gain if wine tourism, and its accompanying hospitality services, are concentrated in the city and along the Highway 29 corridor, rather than spread over the rural areas of the county. Could a new Copia become the focus for this?
While Copia's previous incarnation was obviously not a viable business model, there is ample evidence that tourists will flock to facilities that provide the services they are looking for. Oxbow Market is one example, but a better example is how Beaune, at the heart of France's Burgundy region, promotes its wines. At its center is the Marche aux Vins, located in the 15th century Cordelier Church, that offers visitors the opportunity to learn about, taste, and purchase wines ranging from vin du pays to the grand 1st cru Burgundies. Organized like an exhibition of wine, with an opportunity to sample the finest products of the region, rather than as a bazaar of individual tasting rooms, the Marche effectively promotes the large and small vintners and négociants that produce these wines. It is a destination for international wine tourism, and efficient marketing tool for the region's wine producers. Readers can learn more from its website at http://www.marcheauxvins.com/.
What an asset it would be for Napa if Copia became a new world version of Marche aux Vins, encouraging wine tourists to come to the city to taste, eat, and stay. Napa vintners and the City of Napa will be the winners if they have the vision to negotiate development of the Copia property with an exposition of wine at its center, with affiliated restaurants, shops, and wine-related enterprises.