Your Chicago: Cooper’s Hawk Winery And Restaurant

WHEELING, Ill. (CBS) — For many people who love wine, they will tell you it’s not just about the drink but about the experience.

That is true for Rob and Katie Nunez of Gurnee, who invited CBS 2’s Rob Johnson to the only full-service restaurant in Illinois that makes its own hand-crafted wines.  

Despite the economy, Cooper’s Hawk is thriving.

 Rob and Katie have been customers for three years.

“When you come here you can taste whatever you want, anything you want, you can really get to know what flavors you like without having to order a bottle first,” Katie Nunez says.

There are now five Cooper’s Hawks in Illinois and two out of state. It is the brainchild of 33-year-old Tim McEnery, who opened his first one in Orland Park in 2005.

He now employs more than 1,000 people and, despite the economy, expects $50 million in sales this year. What makes Cooper’s Hawk different is they make their own wine, 50 different types, at a facility in Countryside. Then it’s shipped to all of the restaurants, where it ages in barrels.

McEnery says his difference-maker is not being tied to one type of grape from a single vineyard.

“We can purchase grapes from wherever growing conditions have ideal,” he says.

The fact that Cooper’s Hawk makes its own wine is a selling point for Rob and Katie.

“I knew it was their wine and it wasn’t just an overpriced bottle at a restaurant,” Katie Nunez says.

Cooper’s Hawk is opening a new restaurant this year in Arlington Heights and is aiming to open four more next year.

In a down economy, what accounts for its success? One analyst told us consumers are looking for value and also something different. A restaurant that makes its own wine, like a craft brewery, is something that stands out.

Your Chicago with Rob & Kate

Your Chicago with Rob & Kate

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  • william

    the food at cooper’s hawk absolutly SUCKS!

  • str

    I’ve have been to the one off of I55 and county line road and absoutly loved it. I especially enjoyed the jalapeno asian infuse calamari, and soo enjoyed the salmon. My favorite wines are the pomegrante and the romance wines. Never been disappointed. I guess it just wasn’t Williams day.

  • Jean M

    William, you are insane. You must have had too much wine! Food is excellent, never had anything that wasn’t good, especially the seafood. Service is also excellent. Have never had a bad experience at the one in Orland. Have to call for weekend reservations days ahead, so others must agree. Try the rhubarb if you like a sweet wine.

  • Will P

    William, I disagree.

    While it’s not great…in my experience the food was consistently above average….for what it is (they’re not trying to be One Sixtyblue or Alinea…more like The Cheesecake Factory with in house wines).

    I’d give the S. Barrington location we used to frequent 3 stars on a 5 star scale. (Admittedly, that rating is probably more generous than it would be if there were other quality dinning choices nearby, besides Ruth’s Chris).

    For me the big issues wasn’t the food, it was their wine…specifically their reds. I’ve tried every red they offer (save for the ‘sweet’ wines…sweet wines are an abomination against all that is good about red wine!), and found they were lackluster across the board. They lack depth and character and nuance….it’s glorified table wine.

    Thankfully they offer pulls direct from the in-house barrel which was invariably superior to any of the bottled choices.

    Recommend trying the Thai-style lettuce wraps, the soy-ginger salmon, the pistachio encrusted grouper…or the fillet! Bon appetit!

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