Copia, the struggling American center for wine, food and the arts in Napa, has embraced a new focus on wine, says its president.

The institution, created in 2001, has decided to expand and push its wine-oriented programme

‘We concluded that it makes a lot of sense for Copia to very sharply focus on wine enjoyment, wine education and wine discovery,’ said Copia president Arthur Jacobus. ‘We’re more sharply focusing on wine, but not to the detriment of our food programs or exhibitions.’

According to wine curator Peter Marks, the Judgment of Paris 30 year anniversary tasting was a turning point for the center.

‘Many of our new programs were cemented at that time. We realized that we needed to see everything through the lens of wine,’ he said.

There are several levels of wine exposure for visitors from free Winery of the Week tastings to short courses on subjects such as wine faults, as well as diploma programs from the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET).

Large, walk-around tastings have increased from six to 10 a year, there are classes in wine-food pairing and blending, and debuting this week are 10 wine stations featuring Argon tanks to keep multiple bottles fresh for visitors. Six of the stations are educational, displaying how winemaking techniques affect the wine and the other four dispense samples for a fee.

Copia has struggled since its opening, with admission cut from US$12.50 to $5, and one third of its staff was made redundant last year in order to stave off financial disaster.

But it has also served as a catalyst for development in downtown Napa, with new hotels such as Westin and Ritz-Carlton under construction and the Oxbow Public Market to open this year.

The center had 196,000 visitors in 2006, according to Jacobus.

Written by Janice Fuhrman in Napa