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Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant, an Illinois-based chain of fine-dining restaurants to pair with an in-house winery, just opened its second Southwest Florida location.

The new Cooper’s Hawk is at 13671 Olympic Court, off Six Mile Cypress Parkway, just south of Daniels Parkway, in south Fort Myers. It joins one in North Naples as the second in the region.

Stock Development paid $1.5 million for the land in December 2021. Construction began last year, and the restaurant opened Monday following a weekend of serving friends and family of restaurant staff, which numbers between 165 and 175 employees, said general manager Clair Fleshner.

Clair Fleshner

“I’m extremely excited to be here to help build our community here,” said Fleshner, who moved to the area from Illinois last year to build her staff and manage the restaurant.

Lunch combinations start at $18, while most dinner entrees range from $18 to $42. Most wines cost $10 per glass and about $30 or more per bottle. Monthly wine club memberships start at $21.99. The restaurant is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. but will serve its last dinners until 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, Fleshner said.

Cooper’s Hawk dispatched many of its national team leaders to south Fort Myers last week as its first diners and drinkers were served. The restaurant seats 100 people inside, plus another 50 on an outdoor patio and 50 in a private dining room that can be rented for events, said Erin Vainer, the senior marketing specialist.

Fleshner encouraged newcomers to the Cooper’s Hawk concept to try a wine tour. Those last about 45 minutes.

“A lot of people will reserve a wine tour about an hour before dinner,” she said.

The menu includes an array of chicken, steak and seafood dishes and more than 50 varieties of red and white wines.

Crispy Brussels sprouts are the top-selling appetizer on the menu, said C.J. LeFevre, the company’s culinary training manager. He spends about six weeks at each new location, training the staff.

Emily Wines

The menu features wine-pairing recommendations as well. The pan-roasted mahi mahi, served with blistered vegetables, edamame, ginger rice and a coconut curry sauce, for example, can be paired with a Riesling; the gnocchi carbonara with a Lux Pinot Noir; the red wine braised short ribs with a Lux Cabernet Sauvignon, etc.

“It’s when food makes the wine taste better, and wine makes the food taste better,” said Emily Wines, who was well aware of the coincidence in her last name with being the master sommelier for Cooper’s Hawk. “They’ve created the perfect food and wine-pairing experience for you. It makes it really easy. It takes the guess work out of it.

“The big difference at Cooper’s Hawk, is that all of the wine we serve in our restaurants, we make. And the only place you can get our wines is at our restaurants.”

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