Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Copia: an idea too large for the canvas

“Our mission is fairly simple: we are essentially leading an effort to reopen Copia for the benefit of the community and preserve as many of Mondavi’s goals as we can, but in [a] sustainable way,” said John Salmon, a member of the Coalition to Preserve Copia, created about four months after the December bankruptcy announcement. [link to article here]
So in this context I take it "sustainable" is used to mean "keeps itself afloat"?
And perhaps "for the benefit of the community" means "give them another place to drop their hard earned cash"?

You have to hand it to Ol' Mondavi...he did mean well, and his vision was on the grand scale. Years ago I was talking with an artist friend of mine at her house, and I spotted a large canvas (maybe 4'x8') with a panorama in various stages of completion across it. I commented on how it must be nice to have the ability to put together such a painting, when she said that it was a pain in the ass because it wasn't falling into place. And her killing comment was that overall the idea was "too large for the canvas"...
It was beyond anything I could ever do and I told her so, but to an artist that's little consolation. Her disappointment lay in the fact that the project wasn't what she had envisioned in her mind's eye - that she couldn't translate what she imagined onto canvas. It just wasn't coming out of her and onto the fabric.
I think Copia has the same flaw.
Build a huge complex right in the middle of Napa, design it for international food and wine events...but in the end, fail to get the locals (who are needed for supporting something like this) to buy into the idea they need to use the center too. Too much pretension, perhaps? Maybe it was a pricing issue or management structure issue, we probably won't know for sure because it was likely a combination of factors. Don't get me wrong, there's always room for another pretentious complex in Napa (or so the conventional wisdom goes)...provided you can convince the clientele of that. Hell, you could probably build a Castle and get people to pay for it...damn, that's been done already. But Copia couldn't draw enough people. Didn't it always operate in the red? Wasn't there a huge amount of cash needed every year to keep it operating?
I think the logical thing to do is carve the complex into manageable chunks and sell it to various businesses which want a beautiful spot on the Napa River. There's a huge parking lot for them all to share, and some of the garden plots on the south side can be turned into stores or restaurants, but I think we need to scrap most if not all of Mondavi's visions for the place and think up some of our own.
Bully for John Salmon and the group for thinking about how to preserve what's there. The reality is that people need to see a reason to go there, and by people I mean PLURALITY! Many people need to use the spot, and that means a mix of business types and of different price and pretension strata . It's bold to declare that you'd love to keep the old vision alive, but sometimes that's the danger. It failed because it was "too big for the canvas"...and a new vision is needed for what that property will hold in the future.
And what happened to that old picture I started this rant with?
I saved it from destruction by the artist, and put it up in my house for a number of years. Later, after I had grown weary of looking at its incomplete nature I locked it away in my storage to collect dust. It was finally destroyed by one of the floods we have from time to time around here when the water got several feet deep in my barn.
Hopefully the complex formerly known as Copia fares better.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most people who visit or even live in the Napa Valley have a limit to how much they want know about wine. I know that is heresy, but I believe it to be true. What most people really want to do is explore the valley a little in their car and to eat great food and drink great wine in a beautiful setting. The Napa Valley offers them a multitude of choices.

Copia was ill concieved. Copia was a cold place, it always felt empty, even when packed for a tasting. It lacked the draw of vineyards, soil, and individuality.

The problem with Copia is they faced superior competition...the Napa Valley. That won't change under new ownership or management.

June 23, 2009 1:29 PM  

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