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Copia Reborn

Napa's food and wine lover's dream reopens with new culinary power

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It was an ambitious project—perhaps too ambitious. In 2001, downtown Napa cut the ribbon for a nearly 80,000- square-foot center for food, wine and art named after the Roman goddess of abundance, Copia. In its seven years of operation, however, Copia more closely resembled the Greek hero Icarus, who flew too close to the sun.

Between 2001 and 2008, Copia welcomed visitors to its museum, two theaters, classrooms, demonstration kitchen, restaurant, rare-book library and vegetable and herb gardens. But poor ticket sales and changes to Copia's focus and offerings left the center in bankruptcy in 2008, and Copia closed its doors.

But after almost a decade of darkness, new light is coming into the defunct space. In October 2015, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) purchased the northern portion of the property for $12.5 million to complement the school's St. Helena campus. It's now called the CIA at Copia.

The CIA is considered the premier culinary school in the country, with campuses in New York, Texas and the Napa Valley. The St. Helena campus, located at Greystone Cellars, has been in business since 1995.

The new Napa location is the first space that the CIA is gearing toward public events rather than programs for cooking professionals and students. Last year, CIA began hosting events at the center, like Flavor! Napa Valley and this weekend, Feb. 18–19, the CIA at Copia holds its grand opening.

Continuing with its ongoing schedule of cooking classes and demonstrations, the event includes several hands-on classes, available for moderate fees, that show you how to make everything from your own condiments to fresh cheeses to eclairs.

Many of the weekend's events are free and family-appropriate, meaning the kids can take part in activities like cookie decorating while parents attend book signings and film screenings in the Copia theater.

The weekend's special guests include CIA president Tim Ryan, author and cheese expert Janet Fletcher and Silver Oak Winery chef Dominic Orsini. Several Napa Valley wineries including including St. Helena's Clif Family Winery, Napa's Cuvaison Estate Wines and Calistoga's Storybook Mountain Vineyards will offer winetasting.

Keeping the original Copia's love of art in mind, the new center wraps its grand opening weekend with an art unveiling in the Copia Gardens. Napa artist Gordon Huether, whose large-scale art installations are renowned for their striking color and shimmering glass-like qualities, will be honoring original Copia backers Robert and Margrit Mondavi with a new work of art.

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