For planners looking at ways to infuse a wine-themed activity or event location into a meetings program, the options have never been so rich and varied. Wineries, along with wine-focused venues and excursions, are raising the bar on ways to provide groups with life-enhancing knowledge and experiences to remember.
CIA at Copia
Copia, the long-shuttered food and wine education center on the Napa River, reopened its doors in February under new ownership by the Culinary Institute of America. The landmark venue created by legendary vintner Robert Mondavi with support from Julia Child closed in 2008 despite years of playing a pivotal role in the revitalization of downtown Napa.
Now called CIA at Copia, the reimagined 80,000-square-foot venue is again up and running, offering daily cooking and wine-themed classes, a tasting showcase for local wineries on a rotation basis, a restaurant and numerous areas for private events. Coming later this year will be the Chuck Williams Culinary Museum, built to honor the late founder of Williams-Sonoma, and the Wine Hall of Fame. Both will feature interactive exhibits on the history of gastronomy in America. Another upcoming addition to Copia will be the Reserve Tasting Salon, where guests can sample rare and little-known wines from around the world.
“It’s been a really great experience bringing Copia back to life—we’re taking the original vision and building on it,” said Amy Thomason-Richardson, director of event sales for CIA California. “We’re offering a lot of different possibilities for groups. There’s not a spot in the building that can’t be used for events.”
Event spaces include a new 600-seat outdoor amphitheater overlooking the river and equipped for audiovisual presentations, a 226-seat indoor theater, demonstration kitchens, an atrium area for receptions, seminar rooms and private dining rooms.
“Anything we offer can be customized for groups, including hands-on cooking classes or interactive receptions where the chef makes hors d’oeuvres right in front of you,” Thomason-Richardson said. “Wine education is also emphasized. We can build a wine component into any program. One option that groups can do is a wine class here prior to going out to the local wineries. It’s a great way to start a visit to the area.”
Hall Wines St. Helena
One of the most ambitious and event-focused winery expansions in Napa Valley in recent years debuted at Hall Wines St. Helena in 2014. The vision of Kathryn Hall, a former U.S. ambassador to Austria, and Craig Hall, a venture capitalist, the winery features artworks from the couple’s private collection, outdoor “garden rooms” and a culinary demonstration center.
Its signature event space is the historic Bergfeld Winery, an 1885 stone structure where many early Napa vintages were once produced. The renovated building offers areas such as Peterson’s Loft, with vineyard and mountain views, and the Bergfeld Founders’ Cellar, which features a long table crafted to resemble a solid log, wine barrels and a hand-blown Murano glass chandelier. Other event spaces include the Great Lawn, a spacious area adjoining the Bergfeld Winery, and the Olive Grove, a garden with dramatic wicker art installations by Patrick Dougherty.
The winery’s new glass-walled Visitors Center, which features a central demonstration kitchen with cameras and flat-screen monitors, is another popular area for groups, according to Myriah Mutrix, private experiences manager for Hall Wines.
“We can do hands-on cooking classes for smaller groups,” she said. “For larger groups or for those who don’t want to cook, we can have the chef do a demonstration and give people the recipes to take home.”
Other customized experiences can include teambuilding activities with bocce ball and other games or pizza making at the outdoor pizza oven. For wine-savvy groups, a popular option is the Ultimate Cabernet Experience, which features the chance to sample the winery’s highest-end cabernets not normally available for tasting.