Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurants combines great food with great wines.
Combine a winery with a restaurant concept and what do you get? Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurants, now with two locations open in our area: Ashburn and Reston.
It was an idea that should have happened long ago, but it took founder Tim McEnery to bring Cooper’s Hawk to the table. A graduate of business school, with former work experience in both a winery and managing restaurants, McEnery created a business plan, met with investors, and opened the first location in October 2005. He never imagined how big it would get, however. Cooper’s Hawk just opened its 30th location, with more to open in 2018.
With its unique concept, guests have several ways to enjoy the Cooper’s Hawk brand. They can savor a wine tasting in the Napa-style tasting room, gather for social hours in the friendly full-service bar, enjoy upscale, casual dining in the open dining room or on the airy patio, or shop in the artisan retail market. In addition, Cooper’s Hawk features a wine club, with benefits designed to educate and enhance the wine experience.
Cooper’s Hawk is best known for its hand-crafted wines, with a wine menu featuring sparkling, white, blush, red, sweet, dessert, fruit, specialty, and International wines. There is even an almond wine that begs to be sampled, and mulled red and white wines for the holidays. A Winemaker’s Barrel Reserve and Large Format Cabernet Sauvignon round out the options.
“We only serve Cooper’s Hawk wines. There are around 50 total, with about 42 mainstream wines in our typical varietals and special wines for our club members,” General Manager Ryan Delisi explained. All grapes are sourced from California, Washington or Oregon and shipped to the Cooper’s Hawk winery in Woodridge, Illinois, the brand’s flagship location.
Cooper’s Hawk now produces more than 600,000 gallons of wine each year under the artistry of winemaker Rob Warren, using 20 tons of grapes from the wine-growing regions, and has won more than 450 wine awards since opening in 2005.
The tasting room experience is designed to emulate that of a Napa Valley winery, with knowledgeable staff who can extol the highlights of each wine in your flight. Wine flights are available in Sparkling, White, Red, Cooper’s Hawk Lux, Dessert and Create Your Own. Our flight consisted of a delicious array featuring their Super Tuscan, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Adding to the experience are the talents of Master Sommelier Emily Wines, in a corporate role to enhance guests’ enjoyment of the wines through educational, experiential and membership opportunities.
A full bar rounds out the alcoholic beverage selection, with each Cooper’s Hawk location featuring local beers. “It is our way of staying true to our local community,” Delisi explained.
The Wine Club
The Cooper’s Hawk Wine Club was designed exclusively for members to explore, share and pair wines with wonderful food, and enjoy access to rewards and one-of-a-kind events. Members earn points toward dining rewards with every dollar spent, take advantage of domestic and international trips, and enjoy members-only dinners with chefs, sommeliers, and cooking demonstrations. In addition, members receive special bonuses and gifts to celebrate birthdays, Cooper’s Hawk anniversaries or just to say thanks.
Each month, members are offered exclusive wines not available to the public, wine, food and retail purchase discounts, and a free monthly tasting for two in the tasting room. One- or two-bottle-per-month programs are available for as low as $19.99/month, with a membership cancellation option at any time. Gift memberships also available.
Modern, upscale, casual dining is how the food experience at Cooper’s Hawk is described, “with a menu designed around the wine, with each dish specifically designed to pair with one of our wines,” Delisi said. Utilize the “no-risk” tasting policy to sample a wine or two before ordering a glass.
Although the 110-item menu is designed by corporate’s Executive Chef Matt McMillan, it takes the skill of the local executive chef, like Reston’s Laurence Cohen to bring it to life. “Our local team drives the quality and consistency our team in Chicago outlines,” Cohen said.
Who would have thought that Crispy Brussel Sprouts would be one of most popular appetizer items, but one taste of the dish will convince you as well. They are coated with a layer of cashews, mint, sweet Thai chili and sesame-sriracha aioli and deep fried for a minute and a half. A squeeze of the accompanying lime over the top and you’re ready to enjoy. Choose this or one of many other appetizers to begin your meal.
Entrees include beef and pork, seafood, pasta, chicken, surf & turf combinations and specialty dishes. As more casual fare, burgers, sandwiches and chopped salads round out the options. For those seeking a lighter meal, a variety of items under the Life Balance menu provide meals for fewer than 600 calories each.
We chose two entrees. First, the Churrasco Grilled Steak, a chimichurri-rubbed skirt steak with a cilantro-lime aioli, parmesan fries and oven-roasted vegetables. According to Chef Cohen, “this classic Brazilian dish is created with a three-step process— brushed with Chimichurri marinade, seasoned, and char broiled to perfection.
The Pan-Roasted Barramundi was also a mouth-watering choice, served with blistered green beans, grape tomatoes, ginger rice, and a Thai lemongrass sauce. Seasoned lightly and pan seared, it came together perfectly, with the fish flaky and the perfect amount of sauce.
Menus are changed once a year, with staples remaining, with new items like the Barramundi added to create a whole new layer of taste experiences.
Top off the meal with one of Cooper’s Hawk’s house-made desserts including a lemon ice wine cheesecake or a salted caramel crème brûlée. Or choose a confection from the case like a chocolate truffle (or truffle of the month) or cheesecake lollipop, accompanied by one of the dessert wines like the Ice Wine or Nightjar port-style wine. Or what the heck, go all out and order the Wine & Chocolates, a selection of chocolates and truffles from the bakery paired with a flight of three sweet wines.
The Artisanal Market
Entering any Cooper’s Hawk location puts you into the tasting room and Artisanal Marketplace where you can find all kinds of wine-related merchandise including glassware, corks and corkscrews, decanters, cookbooks and holiday-themed gift options. This is also where the tempting pastry case is—it’s so very hard not to stop in awe of the many delights contained within.
The Cooper’s Hawk Difference
“The mantra at Cooper’s Hawk is that we want to create community in four ways,” Delisi said. “1) We are all about the people: our guests, our staff and our vendors. 2) We look for ways to be different. 3) We are committed to offering the best in food, wine and service. 4) We have fun and celebrate. Our founder, Tim McEnery, says that if we’re not having fun, we’re not doing it right.
“The community and truth behind what we do here is why I love this restaurant so much. I don’t see myself ever leaving, and I couldn’t say that with any other restaurant chain.”
Cooper’s Hawk is open for lunch and dinner, with tasting room and extended bar hours. Valet parking is also offered at the Reston location Wednesday through Saturday, and plenty of free parking is available in the adjacent parking garage.
The people who run the show at Reston’s Cooper’s Hawk bring years of varied experience to the mix. Chef Cohen described his interesting background that took him from a graduate of Woodbridge High School locally, to becoming the chef for movie and TV show sets (like The King of Queens), sports entertainment (Washington Nationals and NY Mets), and most recently the Capitol Grill in Texas. General Manager Ryan Delisi attended culinary school in Portland, Oregon, and built a career with the Red Lobster brand before joining Cooper’s Hawk and opening several of its locations prior to landing in Reston.
Meet Emily Wines, Master Sommelier
In June 2017, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants named Master Sommelier Emily Wines its Vice President of Wine & Beverage Experience. In her role, she will engage with guests, staff and the company’s 250,000+ Wine Club members to create unique experiences centered around wine. It is the brand’s step forward to making the world of wine more personal and accessible.
Working her way up the ladder through apprenticeship programs and in various restaurants, Wines began to “fall in love with the history of wine and the unique cultures of the various reasons where wines were made traditionally,” she explained. “So I abandoned my college aims and went full-time into becoming a sommelier.”
She became head sommelier in the restaurant where she was working, with a wine list of more than 1,500 selections, many of which were luxurious, high-end wines. “Once I took over as lead sommelier, I wanted to push myself to become credentialed. It would force me to learn more than just my wine list and help me to be further respected in the industry,” she explained.
Wines pursued her higher-level exams, passing the advanced and master’s levels, and obtaining the Remi Krug Cup award, given for those who pass their Master Sommelier examination on the first attempt. (She is one of only two women to do so.)
“Now, I concentrate on working with wines for everybody,” she said. In 2018, Cooper’s Hawk will launch a big education program for its guests that goes beyond tastings to include wine classes and more ways for Wine Club members to engage. “I go around the country to visit our various locations and train the staff so they have more stories to tell, like why our Super Tuscan is called that, or how the Meritage got its name. These stories make enjoying wine a richer experience.”
Her tips for tasting wine are to “find a baseline of what you like. Pay attention to the things you like or don’t like about the wine, including the aromatics, acidity, sweetness, dryness, and tannins. Tell your wait staff what you like about the last wine and that will help them show you something else you might like,” Wines advised.
Cooper’s Hawk Winery Locations
n 19870 Belmont Chase Drive
Ashburn, VA 20147
n 12130A Sunset Hills Road, Suite 101
Reston, VA 20190
All photos credit: Linda Barrett
Pictured at top: Imani Sanchez and Amorie Beasley