Do Regional Wine Centers Have a Place?

First Copia, and now the Finger Lakes Wine Center.

Copia was located in downtown Napa. The Fingers Lakes Wine Center was located in Ithaca, N.Y. Both were devoted to wine tourism. And both are now closed.

So what’s going on here?

In both cases, it’s easy to point the finger at outside events over which the operators had no control.Copia, you may recall, opened just after 9-11. Those terrorist attacks changed America forever, but the immediate impact they had on travel and tourism can’t be overstated. For many months thereafter, a lot of Americans “hunkered down,” opting to stay close to home and family, fearful that the “next shoe” could drop at any time.

Then came the economic downturn, and Copia—which had never gained a strong foothold even after management and programming changes—was doomed. It closed on November 21, 2008.

Barely two years later, the Finger Lakes Wine Center opened, even though the economy continued to struggle. According to Wines & Vines, its opening was rushed to meet a deadline for its liquor license, and that deadline came before a capital fundraising campaign had been completed.

A spokesperson called the closing a “pause” for reorganization. We hope that’s what it turns out to be, because such centers provide a valuable service for wine-focused travelers in need of a workable trip plan.

Plans for two more such centers—one in Texas Hill Country and the other in Washington’s Yakima Valley—are moving forward, although cautiously. Backers realize that timing may not be everything, but it’s very important.

It’s a lesson made all the more clear by the failures in California and New York.

Posted in Wine Buzz
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