Osprey emerged as a destination for wine and food

This seems to be a great year for a census-designated Osprey place. Only six square miles in area, and with just under 10,000 residents, the community is experiencing exponential growth in its hospitality and retail venues.

Chef Rolf Zand moved his New Florida kitchen to Osprey from Sarasota a few months ago, Mel Weber opened Southern Vines Fine Wine & Spirits on the Tam Miami Trail and now the Phelan family is opening a seafood restaurant, Deep Lagoon, on Blackburn Point Road.

Statistics will tell you that Osprey has a fair amount of wealth, and since she controls northern access to Casey Key, it’s not hard to imagine why. A large, mostly vacant yard, remained for years at the corner of Blackburn Point Road and Tamiami Trail, before it was purchased by Benderson Development, bringing the yard up to modern standards and adding a Publix anchor. After that, tenants rolled in, such as Southern Vines.

Southern Vines is owned by Mel Weber. It’s a full-service store that sells wine, liquor, beer, and more. Weber has worked in the hospitality and retail industry for many years. As with many of us, she left the cold north of the sun in Florida, but, unlike most of us, she arrived from Alaska. The Fairbanks wine retail operation has been named Northern Vines and has reworked that name for its new venture. Its vision is to create a welcoming neighborhood store with a wide selection of popular wines at affordable prices, as well as special, personalized selections.

The latest celebration marked Weber’s first month in business. Its aim is to serve the finest quality wines and spirits, as well as artisan cheeses, assorted charcuterie products and other delicacies to create a refined taste.

“We want everyone to have good wine, bread, jam, jelly, and personalized baskets,” she says. While she realizes Publix has extensive wine offerings, she says its unique selections, wine tastings, and outdoor events can make up for the competition. Her extensive experience provides her connections in small wineries, and her focus is on highlighting these producers, as well as other specialty winemakers provided by small Florida distributors.

Meanwhile, the Deep Lagoon is a concept started by the Phelan family, the creators of the Pinchers. The new location on Blackburn Point Road joins other locations in Naples and Fort Myers. The concept is to serve up fine dining with an emphasis on fish. Located right before the swinging bridge, the location is stunning, with great views of Blackburn Bay. Liquor will be priced at less than $12 per glass, with six ounces costing $8 and nine ounces costing $10 to $12.

Meanwhile, Chef Rolf’s New Florida kitchen is now located in the mainland resorts of Casey Key. Before leaving for Sarasota, Zahnd ran Saltwater Café and produced a number of television cooking shows. According to the restaurant’s website, the menu is extensive, as are the wine selections. Another reason to make your way to the Osprey soon.

Bob McGinn has spent his entire career in the wine industry – forming wine clubs, working in wine sales marketing and participating in all aspects of the winemaking process, including vineyard 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.

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