Food and wine writers are asked to attend a variety of events, some of which are too appealing to pass up. Such was the case with an invitation last week to visit Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant at the upscale Annapolis Towne Centre, a mix of shops and restaurants that surround the development’s luxury condos and apartments.

Opened with little fanfare in mid-May, this is the 23rd location for a unique chain that is the brainchild of its founder and CEO Tim McHenry.

What makes his restaurants unique is the combination of wines from his Illinois-based winery (using the finest grapes from vineyards nationwide) and a menu created by executive chef Matt McMillin that pairs the foods with the wines.

Located around the corner from Brooks Brothers, the two-story establishment includes a ground-level tasting room and a second floor featuring a grand verandah seating 126 and an indoor dining room with the same capacity. Our mid-week visit found both dining areas buzzing with happy talk among couples and families celebrating special occasions.

We sampled wonderful appetizers of “Drunken Shrimp” swimming in a buttery tequila sauce, pork belly tacos, house made crab-lobster bisque and a tasty white-bean and sausage soup; entrees of pistachio-encrusted grouper and a trio of filet mignon medallions; and house-made deserts of a chocolate-lover’s dream cake and the restaurant’s signature “upside down key lime pie.”

We were so impressed that we returned the next evening, after I changed the location of my oldest son’s birthday from his favorite restaurant to my new “personal fave” at the Annapolis Towne Centre. This is a great place to combine shopping and lunch (11 am - 3 pm), happy hour Mon-Fri (3-6 pm) or an evening meal (choices range from sandwiches and flat bread pizzas to full-on entrees). Parking in the Target lot is just across the street. I think you will be as happy as I was to discover Cooper’s Hawk, Annapolis style.

Stop by Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant at 1906 Towne Centre Blvd., Suite 238, Annapolis, MD 21404. 443-837-9989.

Photos courtesy of Darren Heater.