Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants: Wine Snobs Not Allowed

In 2009, when I first heard of Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants, my interest was peaked.  Their winemaker, Rob Warren, had done a stint at a small winery in Virginia, my home state, and the concept of a restaurant serving their own wines was new to the Chicago area.  Friends and acquaintances who had dined at Cooper’s Hawk enjoyed the food and by all accounts the wines were pretty tasty, too… Read More

Naples Daily News: But wait, there’s more: Local restaurateurs expanding; look for newchains in 2015. Tim Aten

Many existing restaurateurs and chains in Southwest Florida are adding new locations this year as more newcomers enter the marketplace.Flourishing economic conditions and development opportunities are ripe to support new players as existing operators plan expansions. What’s different this year is that many new shopping centers are planned, under construction or coming online, providing new square footage for growth potential.

Look for a few chains to make their first moves here in 2015. You might not be familiar with some of them, but you soon will be.For example, North Naples will see a couple of new, high-end chains this year. Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant is targeting to debut here this fall. The former Vision Nightclub and Breeze Plaza on the southwest corner of Walkerbilt Road and U.S. 41 North soon will be razed to make way for the Illinois-based company’s first location in Southwest Florida. The 2-acre property will be redeveloped for an 11,000-square foot restaurant with a 3,000-square-foot dining patio, Collier County records show. The 10-year-old winery, which has nearly 20 locations in only seven states, already has two operating in Orlando and one in Tampa. The Cooper ’s hawk concept includes an upscale, casual dining restaurant, full-service bar, a private barrel aging room and Napa-style tasting room, as well as a retail gift store. Its own wine club offers members exclusive classes, parties and events, according to its website,

The menu at Cooper’s Hawk features bin numbers listed next to each dish on the menu, guiding guests to its handcrafted wines that best complement it. The restaurant’s signature dishes include pistachio-crusted grouper, red wine-braised short ribs and Mexican drunken shrimp.

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Tim McEnery: The Daredevil Behind Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants

Who would think combining the risky restaurant and wine businesses would yield $121 million a year? Tim McEnery, of Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants, did

BOTTLE ROCKET | Tim McEnery, founder and CEO of Cooper’s Hawk Winery & RestaurantsENLARGE
BOTTLE ROCKET | Tim McEnery, founder and CEO of Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants TODD WINTERS FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

I’D NEVER TASTED an almond sparkling wine before I traveled to suburban Illinois earlier this week. And I’m still not entirely sure how to describe it. Fortunately the wine catalog of Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants offers the following: “Powerful aromas of almond cookie, maraschino cherry and nutmeg.” That was a pretty accurate characterization—and no, it was not served in a parfait dish but a wine glass.

The almond sparkler is the best-selling wine at Cooper’s Hawk, according to the company’s CEO and founder Tim McEnery. “The second-best-selling wine is our Pinot Noir. That speaks to our range of consumers,” said Mr. McEnery with a laugh.

When Mr. McEnery says “our Pinot Noir,” the use of the possessive is key. Almond sparkling wine and Pinot Noir are two of almost 60 wines produced by Cooper’s Hawk Winery for the 18 Cooper’s Hawk restaurants scattered throughout the Midwest and South. And according to Mr. McEnery, the Illinois winery is the fifth-largest winery outside California, producing about 240,000 cases in 2014.

A group of restaurants that offers its own wines and no others would seem to be a risky business model. After all, the restaurant business has a notoriously high failure rate, and the wine business isn’t a lot safer. A company that combined the two seems like fiscal madness, yet Cooper’s Hawk is projected to end 2014 with $121 million in revenue. And though Mr. McEnery declined to discuss profits, he said, “We have a very healthy business.”

‘A company that combined the risky restaurant and wine businesses, Cooper’s Hawk projects 2014 revenues of $121 million. ’

I’d actually never heard of Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants, which feature traditional American fare such as crab cakes and steak, until a month or so ago when I was browsing the OpenTable’s Diners’ Choice Awards for the top 100 restaurant wine lists. Cooper’s Hawk was named eight times, for locations in many different states, albeit all with the same wine list.

When I admitted my ignorance to the 38-year-old Mr. McEnery as we sat down at his company’s headquarters in Countryside, Ill., about 20 miles from Chicago, he wasn’t surprised. “A lot of people in Chicago haven’t heard of us either,” he said, laughing. Mr. McEnery has a warm and open demeanor, and his favorite word, bestowed upon both ideas and people, is awesome.

Chicago proper may see a Cooper’s Hawk outpost one day, said Mr. McEnery, but it’s not on the immediate horizon. He will open another restaurant in the Chicago suburbs (Oak Lawn) next year, however, as well as two more in Florida and one in Virginia. His real-estate team is scouting sites in Florida, Virginia and Maryland, but nothing is solid save one certainty: “We won’t open a restaurant unless we can get to $10 million,” Mr. McEnery said, referring to a location’s potential annual revenue.

The first of 18 restaurant locations, in Orland Park, Ill.ENLARGE
The first of 18 restaurant locations, in Orland Park, Ill. TODD WINTERS FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

It’s hard to believe this empire started with a 2002 trip to a small winery in suburban Illinois. Mr. McEnery, living in Orland Park, Ill., at the time, took a rare day off from his “80- to 100-hour-a-week” restaurant-management job, accompanied by his girlfriend Dana, now his wife. “I thought it was too bad they didn’t have a restaurant with the winery,” he recalled. His research turned up just two wineries with restaurants. “One was Domaine Chandon, in Napa, and one was in Michigan in the boondocks,” he said.

The thought became an idea: He would open his own combination winery-restaurant. Mr. McEnery created a business plan, working on it for 3½ years. He had received a B.A. in restaurant-and-hotel management from Purdue University, but now he consulted books and experts at local community colleges. “Once I got into it, I realized why it hadn’t been done before,” he said. The challenges were considerable, from raising the necessary capital to navigating legal prohibitions. He worked on the plan so long his wife told him he had to either start the business or abandon it altogether.

Mr. McEnery chose the former. He had little money of his own but raised $1.3 million from 25 friends and family members, and secured a $1 million Small Business Association loan. (He has since bought out his partners and teamed up with a private investment company.)

In his hometown of Orland Park, Mr. McEnery found a 13,000-square-foot space, large enough to accommodate a winery and restaurant as well as a tasting room and gift shop. He leased the space, as he does for all his restaurants. “Our capital is better used managing restaurants,” he said.

When the restaurant opened, in 2005, Mr. McEnery was doing just about everything, including making the wine. He’d studied the craft informally, but after two years he turned the winemaking over to a professional, and the winery was moved to its own space. “The wine is way better now,” he said.

The Cooper’s Hawk winemaker is Rob Warren, an affable Canadian native who was working in Virginia when he and Mr. McEnery met at a trade show. Mr. Warren had recently returned from a trip to California to meet with grape growers.

Many of the wines are made from grapes purchased in the Central Coast of California as well as Michigan, New York, Oregon and Washington state. Mr. Warren also buys “finished” wines (fermented but not blended), as well as fruit and fruit extract. Fruit wines are a prominent part of the portfolio—eight in total, including raspberry, peach and even rhubarb. “They are the most expensive to make, but there’s no way we can charge more than $15 for a bottle of fruit wine,” said Mr. McEnery, who gave me a brief tour of the winery, a rather industrial space attached to the company headquarters.

The Orland Park restaurant grossed more than $5 million in its first year of business, according to Mr. McEnery, and is still the company’s most lucrative location, grossing about $12 million this year. It was also the first of two Cooper’s Hawk restaurants I visited during my Illinois trip.

I arrived just before five o’clock on Sunday evening, and the tasting room was already crowded, mostly with women. Every restaurant table was filled too, and by six o’clock, hopeful diners were waiting for tables.

The Cooper’s Hawk tasting room looks like that of any other winery, albeit with more glassware and trinkets, and a lot of chocolate. “This is one of the biggest draws,” said a tasting-room associate, pointing to rows of chocolate in a glass display case. Do people pair it with sweet wine? I asked. “They actually like to pair it with Cabernet,” she replied.

Four women standing next to me had driven from the south side of Chicago, about a half-hour away—“for the second week in a row,” one said. They were loyal fans and wine-club members. The wine club is another Cooper’s Hawk success; about one quarter of its customers—some 113,000 people—are members, entitled to tastings and special wines, which most pick up at the restaurant. “Shipping is expensive,” said Mr. McEnery, and of course he likes people to visit the restaurant.

The club-member wines are the more “serious,” said Mr. McEnery, although like all the Cooper’s Hawk wines, they are not vintage dated. Mr. McEnery was a bit vague as to why. (His office followed up with the explanation that the winery often blends multiple years to produce a consistent product.) After making vintage wines the first few years, Cooper’s Hawk moved to producing non-vintage wines around 2008. Mr. McEnery lay awake at night thinking the company would lose all credibility, he recalled. For no reason, it turned out: “No one noticed or cared.”

And the wines? I tasted a number of bottles at the Orland Park restaurant, including that almond sparkling, and several with Mr. McEnery at the Burr Ridge location. The range was quite large—red, white, sparkling, and fruit wines—and the prices reasonable: By-the-glass selections were between $6.50 and $8.50, with their Lux wines a bit higher. Bottle prices were mostly in the midtwenties (I can’t remember when I last had a $25 wine in a restaurant) although the highest price was $48. The non-fruit wines were mostly solid and well made, particularly an agreeably neutral, unoaked Chardonnay and the Cooper’s Hawk Red—a bright, lively blend of Merlot and Cabernet with a bit of Syrah—that was highly drinkable and an appealing $23. They were not transcendent, but they were solid and pleasurable and clearly have made a good many people happy for comparatively little.

That may be the great appeal of Cooper’s Hawk: The restaurant is reliably welcoming in every regard, from the unerringly cheerful staff and generous portions of food, to the eminently affordable bottles of wine.

“There are 150 reasons why you and I should not be standing here,” said Mr. McEnery near the end of my visit. “But my belief is that there is always a way.” And thanks to that belief and a well-honed business plan (not to mention a timely infusion of capital), his unlikely dream became a reality.

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants opens first Virginia location

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants opens first Virginia location

  • December 8, 2014
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A new restaurant, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant, opens today, Dec. 8, outside Short Pump Town Center at 11792 W. Broad St. in Henrico County. The 300-seat, casual-dining restaurant with a Napa-style tasting room is the company’s’ first Virginia location.

“We’re thrilled to be opening our 18th Cooper’s Hawk location in Richmond,” Matt Foody, general manager at Cooper’s Hawk, said in a statement.

The chain, which opened its first restaurant in 2005 in Chicago, now operates in seven states.  The concept behind the growing chain is to offer a modern, casual-dining experience with a menu designed to pair with Cooper’s Hawk handcrafted wines.

The Short Pump location also offers a tasting room where guests can sample the company’s wines. There’s also a bar area, a private dining room and outdoor seating.

The restaurant is the second new one announced for Short Pump in recent months. Richmond restaurateur Kevin Healy said in September that he plans to open what would be his third Boathouse concept restaurant in the area in the spring.


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Sneak Peek: Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant, Opening Monday

A wise man once said, “In wine there is truth.” If this is to be believed, color Short Pump Town Center’s newest resident, Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant, a flowing spring of the stuff.

The national chain, opening its new Short Pump location on Monday, Dec. 8, offers 48 varieties from its own winery — based in Chicago — made primarily from grapes sourced from Oregon, California and Washington state. “Within 36 hours after being picked from the vine, they’re in our facilities in Chicago,” says Matt Foody, general manager.

From there, the bottles begin their journeys to Cooper’s Hawk restaurants throughout the country, where they’ll be corked and served as part of a tasting room flight, poured by the glass or whole bottle and paired with contemporary American bistro cuisine, or sold in the retail lobby along with all wine accoutrement imaginable, not to mention an impressive chocolatier case filled with truffles made fresh daily.

Another intriguing feature is its Wine of the Month Club, a membership that includes one or two bottles of their winemaker’s new release, which will be unavailable to the public for full purchase, but available to try in the tasting room.

“One of the philosophies we have for wine is to make it accessible for everyone,” Foody says. ”Wine has had a reputation for being kind of pretentious and a little snobby, where the noses were turned up to people who were not as educated as some of the more sophisticated wine drinkers — which we have wine for as well — but we’re a teaching restaurant. We want people to learn about wine, and our wine, and wine in general, because it’s one of the things we’re so passionate about.”

It’s a warm, cavernous space with darkly tinted windows and booths, barrels and bottles around every corner. It houses a private dining room for 50, a large dining room that seats 170, and a heated patio and lounge — set to open in March — that will seat roughly 75 and include a view of Short Pump Town Center’s illuminated fountain. It is, at the very least, going to be a lovely oasis for the shopping masses, and especially a welcome boozy respite from holiday madness.

The food menu, comprehensive, is also worth noting with appetizers, steak, seafood, pasta, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and house-made pastries.

“Virginia has such a great food scene and a great culture here,” says Foody. ”It really is a little bit more, I don’t want to say sophisticated, but a little more tuned into what’s happening with food, and this is a great place to show that we’re on the scene now. We’re really proud of it, and we think it’ll fit.” So much so, in fact, that the general manager mentions another Virginia location in Ashburn, set to open in roughly 10 months.

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Doors open at newest Short Pump spot

Doors open at newest Short Pump spot


Cooper's Hawk Winery & Restaurant opens in Short Pump today. Photos by Michael Thompson.

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant opens in Short Pump today. Photos by Michael Thompson.

A new restaurant has popped the cork at Short Pump.

Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant opens on Monday outside Short Pump Town Center. The 11,500-square-foot restaurant and winery is the privately owned brand’s first in Virginia.

The 47 wines sold at Copper’s Hawk will either come from the company’s winery in Illinois or from aging barrels that will be on site at the Short Pump location. The lengthy menu includes steak, seafood, sandwiches and salads.

“We bring in grapes from California, Washington and Oregon and process the wines in our winery along with some wine production at our restaurants,” said Tim McEnery, CEO of Cooper’s Hawk.

Cooper's Hawk can seat up to 300 people.

Cooper’s Hawk can seat up to 300 people.

The Short Pump restaurant is the 18th Cooper’s Hawk location since McEnery opened the first in 2005 in Illinois. Its other locations are in the Midwest and Florida. Four more are slated for next year including a location in Ashburn, Va., McEnery said.

“When the opportunity for Short Pump came up, it was a no-brainer for our first location on the East Coast,” he said.

McEnery said it cost about $5 million to open the Richmond location, which seats about 300. In addition to a dining room and bar, the Short Pump Cooper’s Hawk has a wine tasting room and a retail store.

The land is owned by QIC, Forest City Enterprises and local developer Pruitt Associates. Those firms also own Short Pump Town Center.

The West End shopping mall has seen some changes in its dining scene in recent months. In August, theChili’s just outside the mall closed after more than a decade in business. And in September, Richmond restaurateur Kevin Healy announced plans to open a new location of his Boathhouse concept at Short Pump.

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9 Local Gifts for the Foodie – Michigan Ave Magazine

9 Local Gifts for the Foodie

December 03, 2014 | by Kailley Lindman | Food & Drink News


From an Italian cooking class to indulgent hot chocolate mix, we have something for every foodie on your holiday shopping list.

Cooper's Hawk Winery spiced winesSnowed In, Cooper’s Hawk ($30 for gift set; $14 for individual bottle).

Warm up a loved one’s holiday with local winery Cooper’s Hawk’s aromatic Winter Red and Winter White spiced wines—which are best served warm from the stove top. Both wines are available for purchase at any Cooper’s Hawk location, and online through their holiday catalog.

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SNEAK PEEK: Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant opens Monday

SNEAK PEEK: Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant opens Monday

The West End newcomer will be the first in Richmond to offer a full-service winery and restaurant under the same roof.



Short Pump Town Center, fresh off a wave of renovations, additions, and improvements, is about to add another unique feature to its repertoire. When Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant opens on Monday, it will hold the distinction of being the first full service winery and restaurant under one roof in the Richmond area.

The Richmond location will be the 18th for the small Chicago-based chain, and the first in Virginia (though another location is expected to open in Ashburn sometime next year).

A bold, upscale tasting room with an expansive bar, a bakery case with gourmet truffles and other desserts, and retail offerings greets visitors as they walk through the main entrance.

The large, open dining room inside the 10,545-square-foot restaurant can seat up to 170 diners at a time, according to Short Pump general manager Matt Foody. A private dining room towards the rear seats 50; the large outdoor patio (which management hopes can remain open much of the year thanks to 14 infrared heaters) seats 75 and overlooks the main entrance of Short Pump Town Center and its fountain feature.

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In the tasting room, patrons can enjoy a number of wine tastings featuring pours of seven to nine of Cooper’s proprietary selection.

The restaurant’s wine club, one of the largest in the nation, is more than 100,000 strong and entitles members to one to two bottles of wine per month depending on membership level. Other benefits include special discounts, invitations to exclusive events, and annual domestic and international wine trips.

The brand’s own wines are turning heads, too. Cooper’s Hawk’s catalog of wines across the spectrum have received more than 200 awards on the local, national, and international levels, including the Chairman’s Best of Class for its Shiraz at the 2013 Long Beach Grand Cru International Wine Competition.

The restaurant’s wine selection will remain consistent, with seasonal varieties rotated in and out throughout the year; its wine of the month (included as part of the wine club) changes monthly, which is featured as its Barrel Reserve wine, available on tap.

“Our philosophy is to make wine accessible for everyone,” said Foody. “For a long time, [wine] had this reputation for being sort of pretentious and kind of snobby.” He added that the goal of the tasting room is to make the entire experience more approachable, and encourage guests to learn about what they’re drinking in a comfortable, non-threatening atmosphere. “We want people to leanrn about wine, which is why we have the tasting room on site.”

Cooper’s Hawk has a wine to satisfy most any palate, from sweet whites to dry reds, and more adventurous, fruity blends made with pomegranate and rubharb. Food says customers can expect to pay between $17 and $47 for a bottle, with none exceeding the $50 price point.

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Unlike at many places, the menu at Cooper’s Hawk was developed around and tailored to its wines. In fact, the restaurant’s goal is to have a dish that perfectly pairs with each one.

The menu is robust and wide-ranging, featuring a blend of contemporary American, southwest-inspired, Italian, and Asian fusion dishes. Bin numbers next to each entrée guide guests to their selection’s ideal wine match.

Some of Cooper’s Hawk’s signature items include Pistachio Crusted Grouper, Red Wine Braised Short Ribs, and Mexican Drunken Shrimp.

Foody says all menu items are made from scratch, down to the restaurant’s sauces. “Pretty much everything but the Hellman’s mayo and Heinz ketchup,” he joked.

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The restaurant, which opens Monday evening, will create approximately 200 new jobs once fully staffed, Foody said.

The restaurant and tasting room will be open daily at 11:00 AM through 9:30 PM Monday through Thursday; closing at 10:30 PM on Friday and Saturday; 9:00 PM on Sunday. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 804.461.2244.

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