The CIA at Copia. This property was originally founded as Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts in 2001. Despite closing down in 2008, arguably when this center was built it brought recognition and interest to this part of town and opened the door for additional nearby tasting rooms. The public Oxbow Market is located just to the west (a short walk) and shares the parking lot – there are also a number of tasting rooms within a short walking distance of this property.
In late 2015, the Culinary Institute of America acquired the property and moved in – over the following months. After approximately 9 years of being closed it is nice to actually see people walking in and out of this building again.
The CIA as it is often called was founded in 1946 in New Haven Connecticut – and moved to to its central campus located in Hyde Park, New York in 1970. Today along with the New York Campus, and their two Napa Valley locations (Greystone in St. Helena was founded in 1995), they also have campuses in Texas and Singapore. Over the years over 49,000 alumni have graduated from their various programs.
The CIA at Copia is home to their Food Business School. That is certainly not all that is housed here, the Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum currently displays a number of historic items related to cuisine from the 18th century to the present (the full museum won’t be open until sometime in 2018). Chuck Williams was the founder of Williams-Sonoma and donated some 3,700 historical and culinary significant items to The CIA. Unfortunately he died at age 100 in 2015 before getting to see his collection on display.
In addition, the space houses the small Gutenstein Family Decanter Collection, the Restaurant at CIA Copia (open for lunch or dinner with an extensive bar including a number of craft cocktails), The Box Office features to go items including salads and sandwiches and the Copia store showcases fine products from numerous culinary related vendors.
The Vintner’s Hall of Fame wall features the whose who of the Napa Valley including those who have made significant contributions to both the wine industry and Napa. Most are dead but some are living – plaques lining the wall include Warren Winiarski, Charles Krug and André Tchelistcheff among many others. One name that is noticeably missing that most definitely should be in this Vintner’s Hall of Fame is Richard Petersen.
Two theaters are located on site, cooking classes are offered in the more intimate Napa Vintner’s Theatre – their larger theatre seats 250 and can be used for various events. And several tasting experiences are either currently offered or planned for the public. Currently several wineries feature their wines daily from 12 to 5pm.
The Tasting Showcase features six different wineries each with their own custom-built wooden bars that serve as the movable tasting stations; new vintners often rotate in every quarter. These tastings are held near the Wine Hall of Fame exhibit in the atrium. Guests can purchase tasting cards directly from the store (discounts given for larger quantities). If you don’t use all your tastings during one visit – save the card for your next visit. And the card can be used to purchase items from the store or even signup for one of their cooking classes.
For a sit down tasting, guests will be able to enjoy a more private experience focusing on excellent vintages or high-end wines from around the world. Staff will guide guests through a rare portfolio of fine wines of which the selection will rotate over time (this will be offered beginning sometime in Spring 2017).
In addition to the rotating wines from various vintners represented, the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone offers their ‘own’ wines, Greystone Cellars. This is a partnership between the Terlato Family, who own Napa’s Markham Winery. The Greystone Cellar wines are made at Markham and are served at the restaurant on site as well as distributed in select Kroger grocery stores. Some of the proceeds from the sales of these wines go towards funding scholarships for culinary students.
Greystone Cellars are California designate wines. They currently produce a Chardonnay, Merlot, Petite Sirah and a Cabernet Sauvignon. These wines are meant to be easy drinking, made with decent acidity and are to be (for obvious reasons), best enjoyed with food. The 2014 Greystone Cellars Petite Sirah shows sweet fruit forward aromatics, somewhat floral in nature and with notes of prune and blackberry – with hints of a spice sweetness (vanilla). The palate shows very good acidity – and balance with flavors of blackberry. The tannins are well integrated, more subtle in nature framing the finish gently rather then gripping the finish like you often find with wines that are 100% made from this varietal.
Robert Mondavi, of Robert Mondavi Winery was instrumental in helping fund and promote interest in building Copia. Noted artist Gordon Huether paid tribute to both Robert and his wife Margrit by creating a dramatic white foam sculpture of each of them simply called, “Is That Bob & Margrit?” This sculpture is located 75 feet above the ground on top of the ‘tower’ near the main entrance. Another impressive piece of artwork by Gordon, “Fork” is prominently shown near the entrance to the restaurant in front of the building. Remarkably this giant fork is entirely made up of over 8,000 normal sized forks. Where he collected all these and how long it took to ammass 8,000 forks is perhaps only a question Gordon can answer.
The gardens were always a part of Copia. These are still being farmed with the resulting seasonal produce being used by the restaurant. The gardens extend on the other side of 1st Street and are currently being shared by a number of local chefs – sourcing ingredients for their own restaurants.
A number of olive trees and some select citrus trees are also planted on site. The Colavita Olive Grove Terrace and Outdoor Kitchen serves food in a bucolic setting under the shade of the old olive trees. This is a partnership between olive oil producer Colavita and the Culinary Institute.
The property can be rented for events or weddings. For more information visit: www.ciaatcopia.com
Collections (Culinary Museum + Decanter)