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Napa of the Midwest? We Try Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant

What is so great about living in California? Well, let’s see. They’ve got beaches, a great climate, beautiful scenery, year-round fresh fruits and veggies, movie stars and my all time favorite—wine!
Not to knock the Midwest; we do have four separate seasons, snow at Christmas, fabulous lakes, a lot of cows (is that a plus?) and now our very own Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant.
Cooper’s Hawk is the newest establishment to grace the Country Club Plaza, a trendy shopping and dining venue in Kansas City. Originating in Chicago, the upscale winery and restaurant attempts to package all the ambiance of Northern California’s wine country in one fell swoop.
The restaurant is artfully decorated with wine bottles, casks and panoramic pictures of vineyards and the pièce de résistance—the tasting room—is front and center, gift shop included, when you walk in the door—just like Napa. They do not accept reservations during the prime-dining hours or what they call “the golden hours” so that customers will have plenty of time to belly up to the tasting bar for an eight-glass sampling of some of the 45-plus wines they offer. Smart marketing.
Cooper’s Hawk is very much about the wine: it came first. The menu was then purposefully developed to enhance each of the private label’s handcrafted wines. A bin number is attached to every item on each of the three menus—regular, lighter fare and gluten-free—to make wine selection foolproof. And what a menu it is. The sheer number of wines that they are trying to pair food with requires an extensive array, everything from soy ginger salmon to cannelloni to jambalaya.
An impromptu après-shopping celebratory visit warranted a glass of wine, but sadly the tasting choices were not that intriguing. Three out of the eight didn’t interest me or my friend, and two others where labeled “fruit” wines—blueberry and peach. We ended up at the bar, intending to order a glass, but decided to go with flights instead.
My sparkling flight was fun (how could it not be?), but the “hint” of raspberry, almond and peach, as they were described to me, was a bit overwhelming and felt contrived.
The red flight my friend ordered was better, but nothing to write home about. The four glasses were identical in color and viscosity. Tasting, she was hard-pressed to discern the Petite Sirah from the Zin.
Our late-afternoon lunch, however, was delicious. We both opted for sandwich/salad combos, which were perfectly presented. They were fresh, portioned appropriately and had a decent price point.
I would definitely go back for dinner but would be a little more discerning in my wine selection. Others I have spoken to thoroughly enjoyed the award-winning Barbera and the on-site barrel Bordeaux.
Fit Bottomed Line: Napa can rest easy. It is definitely not the same as a trip to wine country, but it’s about the closest you are going to get here in America’s Heartland. —Karen

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