This appears to be a great year for the Census-designated place of Osprey. Only six square miles in area, and with less than 10,000 residents, the community is experiencing tremendous growth in hospitality and retail venues.
Chef Rolf Zahnd moved his New Florida Kitchen to Osprey from Sarasota a few months back, Mel Weber opened Southern Vines Fine Wine & Spirits on Tamiami Trail and now the Phelan family is opening a seafood restaurant, Deep Lagoon, on Blackburn Point Road.
Statistics will tell you that Osprey harbors a fair amount of wealth and, since it controls the northern access to Casey Key, it's not hard to imagine why. A large plaza sat mostly vacant for years at the corner of Blackburn Point Road and Tamiami Trail, before Benderson Development purchased it, brought the plaza up to modern standards and added a Publix anchor. After that, the tenants, like Southern Vines, rolled in.
Southern Vines is owned by Mel Weber. It's a full-service store selling wine, liquor, beer and more. Weber has worked in the hospitality and retail business for many years. As with many of us, she left the cold north for the sun in Florida, but, unlike most of us, she arrived from Alaska. Her retail wine operation in Fairbanks was named Northern Vines and she reworked that name for her new project. Her vision is to create a welcoming neighborhood store with a wide selection of popular, affordable wines, plus special personal selections.
A recent celebration marked Weber's first month in business. Her goal is to present the finest wines and spirits, as well as artisan cheeses, various charcuterie products and other deli items to create an upscale tasting.
“We want everyone to have fine wine, bread, jams and jellies, and custom baskets,” she says. While she is aware that Publix has extensive wine offerings, she says her unique selections, wine tastings and outside events can more than make up for the competition. Her extensive experience provides her with contacts at small wineries, and her focus is on highlighting these producers, as well as other niche winemakers that small Florida distributors provide.
Deep Lagoon, meanwhile, is a concept begun by the Phelan family, creators of Pinchers. The new location on Blackburn Point Road joins others in Naples and Fort Myers. The concept is to provide upscale dining with a focus on fish. Located just before the swing bridge, the location is amazing, with great views of Blackburn Bay. Wines will be priced below $12 per glass, with six-ounce pours costing $8 and nine ounces costing $10-$12.
Chef Rolf’s New Florida Kitchen, meanwhile, is now located in the Casey Key Resorts Mainland. Before leaving for Sarasota, Zahnd ran the Saltwater Cafe and produced a number of TV cooking shows. According to the restaurant's website, the menu is extensive, as are the wine selections. Another reason to steer your way to Osprey soon.
Bob McGinn has spent his entire career in the wine industry—forming wine clubs, working in wine sales marketing and engaging in all facets of the winemaking process, including vine management, fermentation and yeast analysis. He has developed wine programs for companies such as Marriott, Sheraton and Smith & Wollensky, and consults with local restaurants. You can read more of McGinn’s work at gulfcoastwinejournal.com.