About Us – Casey Key Wine Collector

Casey Key Collector Wine is about an evolution from a simple restaurant and tavern to a passion for wine, especially the great wines of the world. In 1976 Steve Harner and partners opened the Crow’s Nest Restaurant in Venice Florida. Located on the South side of the Venice Inlet (formerly known as Casey’s Pass) and across the water from the Southern end of Casey Key - a beautiful and relaxing sliver of land as unique as the great wines of the world.

d’Arenberg: Steve and Cheri with d’arty Osborn at d’arenberg Winery in McLaren Vale AU
Steve and Cheri with d’arry Osborn at d’Arenberg Winery in McLaren Vale AU

From humble restaurant beginnings, the Crow’s Nest grew to a destination for food and wine lovers. After an eye opening National Restaurant Association trip to Burgundy France in 1987, Steve decided he wanted The Crows’ Nest to be a wine destination restaurant. The result was a 1200 selection award winning wine list (Wine Spectator Award of Excellence 1993-2003 and Best of Award of Excellence winner from 2004-2016) among the best in Florida. It’s no coincidence that the growth and depth of the Crow’s Nest List was enhanced with the 1993 addition of Cheri LaRoche (later Harner!) as manager and eventually General Manager and Wine Director.

Over the years, both Steve & Cheri have enhanced their wine knowledge, though maybe surprisingly neither have formal certifications like MS, Certified Sommelier or CWE etc. However, daily involvement with guests, wine vendors and numerous seminars and wine trips have given them a great wine education.

Cheri has attended several week-long seminars at Napa Valley's CIA Greystone facility. She spent 10 days in the Rhone, Burgundy and Provence with Importer Robert Kacher greatly expanding her understanding of those regions. Hosting dozens of wine dinners at the Crow’s Nest over the years gave her an opportunity to interact with winemakers and winery owners. Cheri has also served as a wine judge several times at the Sarasota-Manatee Originals annual ‘Forks & Corks’ food and wine event. Cheri is a huge fan of ‘The Wine Bible’ by Karen MacNeil.

Cheri Harner tending the Crow’s Nest Wine Cellar

Cheri Harner tending the Crow’s Nest Wine Cellar

In addition to Steve’s initial trip to Burgundy, he also is a graduate of the German Wine Academy; a weeklong educational endeavor that included winery visits in the Rheingau, Rheinhessen, Pflaz and Mosel wine growing regions. Numerous trips to California regions- Napa, Sonoma, North Coast, Paso Robles, Central Coast as well as attending the Sterling Viticulture Seminar run by Evan Goldstein are on Steve’s resume.  Steve’s favorite wine educators are  Kevin Zraly and Andrea Robinson.  Zraly's  ‘Windows of the World Wine Course’ was the backbone of Steve’s ongoing staff training at the Crow’s Nest.

In Hermitage 2022

The past several years, Steve & Cheri’s ‘vacations’ have focused on wine and wine education – trips to Washington, Oregon, Niagara Peninsula, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Bordeaux , Burgundy, Beaujolais, Rhone River Valley (Hermitage & Chateauneuf du Pape), Provence, Tuscany and this summer (2023) Bandol France & Sicily.

Cheri visiting with Steve Smith MS MW at Craggy Range in Hawke’s Bay NZ

Cheri visiting with Steve Smith MS MW at Craggy Range in Hawke’s Bay NZ

Steve sold the Crows’ Nest in 2017 after 41 years but retained the extensive wine cellar. Those wines are the basis of Casey Key Wine Collector and a guarantee of the provenance of the wines we offer. We have continued purchasing wines to add to Casey Key Collector Wine.  We have recently sold our Wine Bar & Boutique Wine Shop in Venice Florida which now operates as Farfelu Wine & Cheese Cafe. However, we still retain the Wine Storage Lockers ( Temperature controlled, Monitored and generator backup protected) and our extensive Cellar of Wines sold Online.  

Steve & Cheri in Bandol June 2023