Cheers to a new venue in downtown Napa! The CIA at Copia, a consumer-oriented campus for the Culinary Institute of America, offers diverse opportunities for planners crafting wine- and food-oriented activities.
“We have the ability to do everything from conferences for 1,000 people that take up the whole building, to galas, theater presentations, product launches, private dining, and wine-tasting events curated by CIA sommeliers,” says Anne Girvin, the venue’s assistant director of strategic marketing. “We can do team-building, walk-around tasting events, anything you can imagine.”
The CIA, whose Greystone campus upvalley in St. Helena offers degrees and certificate programs in the culinary arts, bought the landmark Napa building in late 2015 and staged a grand opening in February 2017. It was a welcome resurrection of an acclaimed establishment that made its debut in 2001 as Copia: The American Center for Food, Wine & the Arts. Conceived and partially financed by wine legends Robert and Margrit Mondavi, and boasting a restaurant created in partnership with the famed Julia Child, the venture was geared to demonstrate how food, wine and the arts are interrelated. It features organic gardens tied to the American table, a library, museum exhibits, demonstrations, concerts, art exhibitions, educational programs staged in classrooms, theaters and an outdoor amphitheater.
Copia’s presence attracted additional development in Napa’s previously undistinguished Oxbow district. The Oxbow Market that opened next door proved wildly successful; Copia did not. The nonprofit facility went down with the economic recession, closing its doors in 2008. It sat empty for almost a decade while speculation swirled. There was talk of it being transformed into a convention center, an event space, even a housing and retail development.
While the original Copia charged a stiff admission fee, entrance to the reimagined CIA at Copia is free to the public. Visitors can peruse culinary artifacts, museum collections, art exhibitions and, of course, a gift shop without charge. Wine tasting, cooking demos and hands-on educational classes for home cooks are offered for a fee.
“We’re very versatile,” says Girvin, who so far has seen great demand for daytime events for groups that average 250 guests. These gatherings are frequently staged in a 250-seat theater that has a demonstration kitchen in front. “We can also use this space to screen movies, do panel discussions or host lectures,” Garvin adds.
Another popular option for groups: food and wine pairing classes in a 72-seat theater, followed by wine tastings at six stations set up in the atrium with rotating offerings from Napa wineries.
Private dining is available for groups of eight to 40 guests in a variety of spaces. Tables also can be reserved at the Restaurant at CIA Copia; under the direction of executive chef Polly Lappetito, it features a seasonal menu created with local ingredients.
In addition to classes, tastings, educational programs and demos, the CIA at Copia in its first year hosted author events, a summer concert series, an Oktoberfest celebration and even Napa’s version of Shakespeare in the Park.
Program development is still underway, Girvin notes. The Chuck Williams Culinary Art Museum, named for and featuring artifacts from the life of the founder of the Williams-Sonoma chain, will open early this year, and a teaching complex of three kitchen suites is also slated for an early 2018 debut.
VENUES AT THE CIA AT COPIA
Jackson Family Wines Amphitheater and Patio: Surrounded by olive trees and over - looking the Napa River, this scenic outdoor cultural and special-event space has tiered space for 700 seated in rows, over 300 seated for dining or 1,000 standing.
Culinary Gardens: This complex of raised-bed and in-ground gardens in front of the main building has room for a 1,500-person reception.
Mezzanine: Offering outdoor views as well as view of the floor below, this 5,212 square-foot special-event venue can seat 200 with room for 100 more in a reception setting.
Atrium: Copia’s signature space is a 9,600 square-foot atrium with wide-open views, doors to the out - side and the ability to host 1,000 people standing or 400 seated.
Napa Valley Vintners Theater: The 72-seat theater hosts daily food and wine classes and demonstrations.
The Theater at Copia: Home to the Napa Valley Film Festival, this 250- seat theater also hosts conferences and community events.
Private Dining Rooms: Intimate spaces that can be combined to seat 40 or accommodate 60 stand - ing guests. Room size ranges from 264 to 800 square feet.
Copia Boardroom, including the Vista Balcony: This 700 squarefoot boardroom seats up to 22 attendees.
Hestan Teaching Kitchen: Opening in 2018, this venue will feature six kitchen suites with a lecture and dining space adjoining each.
Garden Balcony and Reception Area: With an area of 1,110 square feet, this space accommodates 80 guests seated, with room for 120 standing.