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Napa's Copia closes

December 03, 2008|Russ Parsons | Parsons is a Times staff writer.

Copia, the nearly $80-million museum of wine and food started in the town of Napa by the late vintner Robert Mondavi, has closed and is filing for protection from bankruptcy.

The nonprofit center has been struggling to find an audience for years, and various reports have had it losing as much as $4 million a year since it opened in 2001. In September, it laid off 24 of its 80 full-time employees and cut back to being open only three days a week.

Also known as the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts, Copia was greeted with great fanfare. An article in the Los Angeles Times shortly after its opening called it "a monument to the good life." Included in the project were massive fruit and vegetable gardens and a fine-dining restaurant named Julia's Kitchen after the late television chef Julia Child.

The 80,000-square-foot center was envisioned not only as a place to learn about fine wine and food, but also as a way to allow the town of Napa to share in the economic benefits of tourism along with the "up-valley" communities of Calistoga, St. Helena and Yountville.

Officials at Copia said in a statement that they are working on a Chapter 11 debt restructuring that "will allow it to continue to serve its food-and-wine education mission."

The closure, they say, is temporary, but as of yet there is no firm date for reopening.

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russ.parsons@latimes.com

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