Wine and food have always been the perfect match. One without the other is fine, but paired together, good food and complimentary wines create an unparalleled culinary pleasure.
Such was our experience at Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant on a recent Saturday evening when the wine was abundant and the dining was divine. The experience begins with an artisan market filled with dazzling rows of Cooper’s Hawk private label wines, along with other wine-themed gift items.
A Napa-style tasting room allows guests a complimentary sample of wines before heading into the dining area. Some make a date of the tasting experience alone, but then they’d be missing out on the food. The Cooper’s Hawk menu offers “American-fusion” cuisine, incorporating flavors from around the world and peak-season, local ingredients. Everything on the menu is made from scratch.
“We even whip our own butter,” says Senior Restaurant Manager Luis Datil.
It was 2005 when Cooper’s Hawk Founder Tim McEnery realized the potential of pairing a winery with a modern, fine-dining restaurant to create this unique culinary concept. He started in the Chicago suburbs (where the winery is located) and has branched to 25 locations in eight states. The Naples location opened in 2016 and already has 6,000 Wine Club members, adding to a membership of more than 250,000 nationally.
With a growth rate of 25 percent annually, Cooper’s Hawk claims the fastest growing wine club in the country. Members receive bottles of hand-crafted, limited-production wines each month, not available to nonmembers. They also enjoy extra samples at the tasting counter, member discounts and invitations to exclusive events like the monthly Wine Club Dinner, a four-course meal expertly paired with the latest Cooper’s Hawk wines.
“We want to create community,” explains Datil.
Food and wine naturally bring people together. The atmosphere at the restaurant is relaxed yet refined. It’s a place where all the senses are stimulated, from the sparkle of illumined wine bottles to the aroma of fine foods and sips of fine wine. The restaurant seats about 300, including a semi-private winery room for up to 14 and an expansive outdoor patio.
While the winery produces an impressive array of wines — sparkling, white, blush, red, international and sweet — Cooper’s Hawk has simplified the selection process by printing bin numbers next to menu items to indicate the perfect pairings. Of course, patrons are always encouraged to sample a few and select their favorites. We started with the Winemaker’s Barrel Reserve, a rustic Bordeaux blend served straight from the barrel.
The Cooper’s Hawk “pride and joy,” says Datil, is the Lux Pinot Noir, an Old World-style wine incorporating tart red fruits with earth tones which has won numerous awards including a Platinum score of 99 out of 100 at the prestigious Critics Challenge International Wine Competition.
Cooper’s Hawk Winery sources from various vineyards in the wine-growing regions of California, Oregon and Washington, as well as internationally. This selective process allows the winery to buy from areas where seasonal conditions have produced the most outstanding varietals each year. Winemaker Rob Warren and his team use artistry and science to produce about 600,000 gallons each year.
Lux Collection wines are aged in French oak barrels. When ordered, these elite-line wines are poured through an elegant grapevine decanter, allowing the wine to aerate as it flows around a glass ball, releasing the bouquet.
Cooper’s Hawk encourages restaurant patrons to try new wines by offering complimentary tastes before they order a glass. “We want to make sure the wine you order at dinner is the one you really enjoy,” says Datil.
Classic Tomato Bruschetta
This tasty appetizer combines garden-fresh flavor with soft cheese atop scratch-made toast. Instead of mozzarella, Cooper’s Hawk uses burrata, a fresh Italian cheese with an outer shell of mozzarella encasing stracciatella cheese with cream to deliver a decadent softness with fuller flavor. Fresh basil and balsamic glaze finish this Italian classic.
Asian Ahi Tuna Sashimi
High-grade ahi tuna is served raw with ponzu-ginger vinaigrette and topped with fresh avocado and radish slices drizzled with Sriracha and wasabi cream. This appetizer is perfectly paired with Gewurztraminer, a fragrant, golden wine with a sweet/tart finish.
Chopped Wedge Salad
The Chopped Wedge is far from boring. It combines savory with garden-fresh ingredients as iceberg is topped with succulent Applewood smoked bacon, poignant bleu cheese and sweet grape tomatoes. Try it with an artisan soup or flatbread for a light meal.
Short Rib Risotto
You will never want plain risotto again! This hearty version is a Cooper’s Hawk favorite, incorporating tender short rib meat into this creamy carnaroli rice dish with mushrooms, sweet onion, white wine and white truffle oil, topped with shaved parmesan cheese. Pair it with rich Australian Shiraz for maximum indulgence.
Dana’s Parmesan Crusted Chicken
Named after the founder’s wife, this succulent chicken dish is another local favorite, crusted in parmesan breading and topped with tasty lemon butter and tomato basil relish. It’s served with a comforting side of cheesy potatoes along with garlic green beans.
This house-made dessert is a sophisticated version of the gooey campfire treat featuring layered caramel custard, Valrhona chocolate mousse and brown-butter toasted graham cracker crumbs. The marshmallow topping is satisfyingly bronzed to bring warm memories with each, tasty bite. Finish with Nightjar, a rich and sweet dessert wine with notes of fig, raisin, dates, salted caramel, cocoa bean and toasted pecans.
Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant
11905 Tamiami Trail N., Naples