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NIMBYism? Or just plain common sense?



COPIA crashed and burned pretty spectacularly. Some said it was because the location—on the “wrong” side of the Napa River—was ill-chosen. Others said the concept itself never made sense: What was COPIA anyway, a restaurant? Wine tasting place? Museum (and a pretty boring one, at that)? Turns out, COPIA did have an identity problem, and the location was a little out-of-the-way, so it was probably a combination of all factors.

Now, a Napa developer has applied to Napa City to build “a large event center and winery” at the well-traveled corner of Trancas Street and the Silverado Trail that would offer “wine tasting, a deli, gift shop, restaurant, offfices, meeting rooms and a wedding site,” not to mention “extensive outdoor areas for public gathering.”

Sounds like the only different between the proposed Altamura Wine Center and COPIA is that the former won’t have a museum. And it’s in a different, more crowded place.

The proposal has caused lifted eyebrows throughout the valley, as you might expect. Of the 23 comments published in the Napa Register as of yesterday, 15 were against, six were for, and two fell into the hard-to-tell category. Most of those opposed cited several reasons: increased traffic, earthquake and flood dangers, and overall resistance to further development in Napa Valley, which has been anti-development for decades.

NIMBYism isn’t new to Napa Valley, or to wine country in general. Remember the furor over Larner Winery’s now-failed plan to build a center for guest events? The neighbors rose up in arms and killed that one. My personal view, for what it’s worth, is that these things are best left to the locals, but those locals should take as broad a view of things as possible and make sure they’re not against something just for the heck of it. A little development is good for us all. Napa Valley survived the Wine Train, which lots of people predicted would be a horrible thing; and if the Altamura Wine Center eventually is built, Napa will survive that, too. Although I will say that it’s true that that particular corner of Trancas and Silverado Trail can get pretty crowded.

I liken this to my own reality. I live in a very dense, crowded urban neighborhood in Oakland. There’s talk of building a new Oakland A’s stadium nearby. I realize it will increase traffic, noise and a bunch of other hassles, but at the same time it would be good for the local economy. So I’m in favor.

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By the way – was this guy deceived, or was he just woefully ignorant? I’m thinking the servor who said “thirty seven fifty” was at fault. What do you think?

  1. COPIA failed because it sucked. People wanted an exploratorium and COPIA gave them a mausoleum… actually, mausoleums have much more to look at. Location was fine, money plentiful and there was a steady stream of visitors to the valley aching for more engaging experiences than just wine tastings and fancy meals. What did COPIA give them? Basically wine tastings and fancy meals with a few ultra-boring exhibits.

    If someone were to tell me *today* that they had an idea for a high-experience wine destination site downtown filled with interactive exhibits, hands-on workshops, and a behind-the-scenes look that 98% of visitors can’t get from wineries… I’d say it’s an awesome idea.

  2. Kurt Burris says:

    I agree with Michael that Copia failed because it was poorly executed. The Lodi Grape and Visitor Center is more engaging. And I am not a Lodi booster.

    Steve: I think the server, and restaurant, completely blew it. (And I waited table for almost 20 years.) I’m thinking she was dreaming about the automatic gratuity. It sounds like the table wasn’t ordering much wine and she wanted some significant wine sales on her 10 top, so dropping a couple of decimal points in reciting the price was a good way to make a “sale”. And to recommend a Screaming Eagle to someone who says he doesn’t know wine is crazy.

  3. redmond barry says:

    I think the 3750 business is a publicity stunt.

  4. redmond barry says:

    My guess is the 3750 business is a publicity stunt.

  5. Steve, on the Screaming Eagle item at the end, your link goes to a follow-up article.

    The link to the original article, which has a little more background, is here:

    As others have noted, it does strike me as a little odd that a waitress would recommend such an extravagant bottle to someone who claimed not to have much wine knowledge. But then, it’s an upscale restaurant, there’s 10 guys there on a business dinner, maybe she thought they wanted to splurge on something really special.

    But the customer’s story is a little fishy, too. Why, among a group of 10 diners, was Lentini — the self-described wine novice, who didn’t have his glasses and couldn’t read the wine list, and NOT the host who would be paying the bill — in charge of ordering the wine? Why didn’t the host complain when he realized what had happened?

    The restaurant seems very confident in its position, and given how desperate most restaurant managers seem to be to appease angry customers, I’m not taking the customer’s story at face value here.

  6. Ask yourself why people go to the Napa Valley. It is to visit wineries and to travel up and down the valley and “feel” the place. And even if one drove up to Napa to have a nice lunch, as I have done with visitors, the destinations were in the Valley, not in a commercial downtown.

    Napa City, as much as I like it, exudes zero “Napa Valley”. No vines, no vistas, etc.

    It is said that the three most important considerations in real estate are: location, location, location. Downtown Napa has nothing that a day-tripper to the Valley wants. Maybe dinner, OK hotels, etc, but it is not a “location” that generates is own traffic.

    Copia, regardless of its other problems (the “mausoleum” image is too true) had to fight uphill from the beginning because not enough people had any reason to go there.

  7. KCPhillips says:

    “There’s talk of building a new Oakland A’s stadium nearby. I realize it will increase traffic, noise and a bunch of other hassles, but at the same time it would be good for the local economy.”

    Yes, all valid points, but I suspect that economic benefits will occur in most any location that’s selected. The problem is understanding local impacts (good, bad, otherwise) and not just the regional benefits. I’m not a NIMBY by any means, but the project and its impacts are more complex than simply promoting economic development. At the least, the Napa project will need some traffic mitigation.

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