Find the Perfect Pairing at Cooper's Hawk
Southwest Floridians can travel across the country to Sonoma or Napa for the ultimate California wine-tasting experience—or they can get a taste of the real deal without ever leaving the area, at Cooper’s Hawk in Naples. The Napa-style tasting room and restaurant opened in March 2016, and its success has exceeded expectations, according to general manager Ryan Quisenberry. A part of the Illinois-based company for six years, he says, “It’s like nothing I’ve seen before; a tasting room, restaurant and bar.” When people first walk in, most are amazed by the size of the tasting room. It’s full of wine, gourmet food items and trinkets geared toward oenophiles. The tasting bar can accommodate big crowds and is a popular spot for birthday parties and predining congregating. While the tasting room certainly is unique to Southwest Florida, it’s the restaurant that seals the deal. Designed to bring the outdoors in, with lots of natural lighting, the design of this more than 10,000-square-foot space is contemporary rustic. The menu is also expansive. Emily Yarnell, executive kitchen manager, says, “The variety, the menu, it’s pretty big. It spans lots of cuisines, so you can bring a whole group and everyone
California-style wine experience comes to Naples
can find something they like.” One of her favorites is the short rib risotto, comfort food at its best with a rich mix of complementary elements that include mushrooms, sweet onion, shaved Parmesan and white truffle oil. “It’s something that is executed flawlessly every single time; I always recommend it,” she says. The risotto is one of Quisenberry’s favorites as well, but, he adds, “I can’t come here and not get a steak and glass of the barrel reserve; it’s one of my go-to’s.” The ginger soy-glazed New York strip is another crowd pleaser. The center cut is marinated for an hour in a machine called the tumbler; prongs hold the meat, gently tossing it in the marinade before it’s grilled. The gnocchi is made from ricotta instead of potato and is sautéed, resulting in a lighter consistency than what is served at most restaurants. It comes with roasted butternut squash in savory sagebrown butter cream or in a hearty Bolognese with braised short ribs. For an appetizer, the Mexican Drunken Shrimp is perfect for sharing, if you can surrender the plate. They are bacon wrapped and served in a tequila lime butter sauce with guacamole. The portions here are generous, so if you’re not as hungry or watching your caloric intake, the Life Balance menu has selections and serving sizes all fitting in the 600-calorie and under range. There are dozens of wines on the menu and special selections in the tasting room every month. It can be overwhelming to a first-, even second-time diner. That’s where Cooper’s Hawk elevates the dining experience by taking the guesswork out. Wine-pairing suggestions are offered for every single menu item, including the desserts. You can also order wine flights: four small pours of red, white, sparkling and more to taste side by side. Dessert wines include those made from fruits other than grapes, as well as an ice wine and a port-style red; it goes nicely with the s’more budino. Reminiscent of childhood, a thick layer of toasted marshmallow caps a clear glass full of caramel custard, Valrhona chocolate mousse and brown-butter toasted graham cracker. It’s insanely sweet. Consistency is an important word in the kitchen culture at Cooper’s Hawk, not just in the day-to-day service, but also from restaurant to restaurant, from Illinois to Florida. Not only does the staff go through extensive training, chef Yarnell says, “We have family mealtime where we talk about flavors, the menu, selling points. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.” Cooper’s Hawk is the creation of Tim McEnery. He got the idea for the venture during a tasting at a small boutique winery outside Chicago with his future wife. McEnery remembers, “They brought in grapes from California and Washington, and I thought, ‘Too bad they don’t have a restaurant here; that would be kinda cool.’ That was the genesis of the idea.” McEnery searches wine regions worldwide, sourcing grapes for the Cooper’s Hawk brand. It’s not just served in the tasting rooms and restaurants, but also purchased monthly by members of the popular wine club. The entrepreneur says he traveled to Naples 25 times over the course of a couple of years, looking for “the right corner” to expand. It was a good decision, according to McEnery, who says, “This is our 22nd restaurant, and by far it’s the most buzz we’ve ever had.” For as large as the restaurant is, it stays booked; reservations are suggested. Cooper’s Hawk celebrates its 12-year anniversary this October. There are now eight restaurants across the Sunshine State, nearly 30 nationwide.
Gina Birch is a regular contributor, a lover of good food and drink, and a well-known media personality in Southwest Florida.
11905 Tamiami Trail N., Naples, Fla. 239-449-1700; coopershawkwinery.com
Restaurant & Tasting Room Hours
Monday–Thursday: 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m. Friday & Saturday: 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Sunday: 11 a.m.–9 p.m.
Monday–Thursday: 11 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Friday & Saturday: 11 a.m.–11:30 p.m. Sunday: 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
Cooper’s Hawk Lux is a premium line of wines in the company's collection. Above, pan-roasted barramundi is on the Life Balance menu of lower-calorie dishes.
The menu includes wild mushroom-crusted chicken with sweet corn and pea risotto (top left) and Asian pork belly tostadas, held by chef Emily Yarnell (top right).