A generous wine tasting and a hearty meal seems like a date night only reserved for holidays and anniversaries, but that is an everyday experience to be had at Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant.
Kenny and I had an opportunity to check out the new location that just opened at Liberty Center, and while we were both familiar with the chain, neither one of us had been before, so we were excited to check it out.
We wanted to make sure that we did Cooper’s Hawk right, so we started our night in the tasting room. There we had the option of three different wine flights and we both opted for the main September tasting, which included a prosecco, sauv blanc, chardonnay, and moscato, as well as a barbera, shiraz, lux cab sauv, and raspberry. The progression of both the whites and reds went from dry/dryish to super sweet, and the majority of the wines surprised me in good ways.
The unoaked chardonnay was particularly delicious. I am never really a fan of chardonnays, but this option rang more true to my moderate white wine drinking taste buds, feeling more to me like what I like in a sauvignon blanc. We then actually ended with two pours of the cabernet sauvignon because it was so good. We each didn’t want anything overwhelmingly sweet before heading into dinner, which was how the raspberry was described, so we were able to finish our tasting on a good high note with an extra pour of the cab.
What was also great about the tasting was that the menu included details concerning both the nose and taste of the wine, while also being upfront about the bottle’s price and what to pair it with. It is a life goal of mine to become more fluent in wine pairings. I want to be able to sip wine and think about what would go with it, and likewise take bites of food and immediately connect to a wine. Right now, everything in my life goes with sauv blancs and pinot noirs, but one day I’ll expand my horizons and knowledge. For now, I’ll settle with being informed by Cooper Hawk’s flight guide.
Starting in the tasting room set the tone for the night as an experience. It was there that Kenny and I got to hang out and warm up to dinner with quite a few heavy pours of wine. Also, the wine tasting was a heck of a deal – only seven bucks a person, and you get to try eight different wines, which amounts to almost two full glasses. That’s a pretty serious starter my friends.
After our tasting we were promptly seated in an oversized booth in the dining room. We started dinner with an appetizer, bowl of soup, and huge heaping bread loaf to share. The bread tasted like that great sweet butter bread you get at Thanksgiving and Christmas and I had no qualms about tearing off generous strips for myself. (My ravenous consumption could also have been the wine acting…)
Along with the bread, there was our appetizer of choice – the ahi tuna sashimi. Served raw with avocado, radish, wasabi cream, siracha, and ponzo-ginger vinaigrette, this satisfied me for all the reasons I love sashimi – it was fresh, slightly cold, and soft, with good accents of crunch. If you’re down with sa-shi-mi, then you know me, and know that I’m recommending it.
After the appetizer, I navigated the giant menu booklet and ultimately narrowed my focus down to either a seafood or pasta option. I surprisingly deviated from my seafood favs and set my sights on the gnocchis. I ended up going very simple and very vegetarian, choosing the gnocchi with butternut squash, mushrooms, spinach, and parmesan. While this one was seemingly straightforward, it was very rich and decadent. It was served in a sage brown butter cream sauce, and while that brought the richness, it also brought the punch. I knew it was going to put me over the edge but I finished it off without looking back.
I could have seen Kenny’s order coming from a mile away. Kenny’s pull towards any bolognese is as strong as the gravity that keeps us on earth. This was specifically a gnocchi bolognese, with short rib, tomatoes, pancetta, and burrata cheese. This was definitely a heavy dish, rich in flavor and texture. Kenny said that the short rib was particularly tender and the gnocchi was perfectly fluffy. All components were individually well done, and together made for one mean dish.
While I feel compelled to admit that large box chain restaurants are not typically the places I seek out, Cooper’s Hawk is an option that I feel defies my preconceived prejudices. It is clear that there is both effort and quality when it comes to all that they offer, from the wine (which is all their own) to the food. I can be weary of places that offer small novels as menus, but I can stand behind everything I tried that night. Each part – the bread, the sashimi, the gnocchi, and the wine, wine, wine – was very respectable and satiating. Cooper’s Hawk felt like a pretty big night out, but not just as a treat for special occasions, but rather for whenever you can make the date for yourself.
::CLOSED:: Cooper’s Hawk at the Liberty Center would now like to treat one of you to a big night of your own by giving away both a dinner and wine tasting for two. That is precisely the night Kenny and I experienced and I know we can both attest to how sweet that deal is. So if you are liking what you are hearing, all you have to do is like across the board – like this blog post by commenting, like the Facebook post, or like the pic on Instagram and you’re entered to win! Do all three and triple your chances! Winner will be announced next week…good luck!
Congrats to Rebecca of @rebeccagrows, who won via Instagram!