1. Good Earth Holds a Rich Soul

    Nestled amongst the orchards, vineyards and farmlands of Beamsville, Ontario is the Good Earth Food and Wine Company, a destination that’s a bit different from the rest. Unlike many Niagara wineries that started out making wine and then opened restaurants, Good Earth made food first and the wine came after. This approach to food and wine is what makes this small little farm stand out in a region that is chockfull of wineries and restaurants.

    Nicolette Novak grew up in the Niagara region on her family’s fifty-five acre farm. In 1998 she decided to open the Good Earth Cooking School on her farm and share her passion for the delicious, local food that came from her orchards and gardens. Shortly thereafter, she expanded her operations and began catering to serve more of her local Niagara fare. Then four years ago, she planted eight acres of Riesling and Pinot Noir vines on her property. After securing another ten acres of Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc at an offsite location, Good Earth released their first vintage in 2008 under the guidance of Flat Rock Cellars’ Ross Wise. In May of 2010 Good Earth opened their bistro and winery and began making their wine and food entirely on their property.

    I headed out to Beamsville on a warm, sunny weekend in September. The whole of Niagara was abuzz with activity as the harvest loomed (both literally and metaphorically, as the ripe fruit brings a stunning array of flying insects) and winemakers prepared for what looks to be a good vintage in spite of a damp spring. You are reminded of the impending harvest again as you sit amongst the heavily laden vines and fruit trees of Good Earth. I decided to start with a glass of Good Earth rosé (a blend of Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir) the perfect drink to enjoy on their patio. It was crisp and refreshing with a lively, fruity character that made it way too drinkable. As I was enjoying my rosé and looking over the wine list I caught the attention of Nicolette, who came over to help us make our choice on the wines. Nicolette is unpretentious and approachable, a lot like the food that she serves. She insisted that I not only try a flight of their wines, but that winemaker Andréa Glass have a chat with us.

    Good Earth is Andréa’s first gig as head winemaker, but this by no means her first kick at the can. She has worked at wineries in Argentina and California, as well as some stints at a few other Niagara wineries. I knew we were in good hands so I let her pick the wines we would sample. The first one that she picked was the 2009 medium dry Riesling, which had a lovely floral nose but a crisp spine of acidity on the palate. Second was their 2009 Chardonnay which had a touch of oaky smokiness on the nose but a rich and lively fruitiness on the palate. Finally, we had my favourite: the 2010 Pinot Noir, which had a touch of smoke on the palate but was like a mouthful of cherries. Good Earth produces two other wines, a dry Riesling (I picked up a bottle to bring home) and a Cabernet Franc. As we tasted the wines Andréa told us that each wine is designed to pair with the food served in the restaurant. She regularly collaborates with the kitchen staff to taste their food and have them taste the wines to ensure complete harmony between food and wine.

    Ah yes, food! After our tasting we settled on a cheese board and a charcuterie board. The cheese board featured a delicious assortment of Quebec cheeses, local honeycomb from Rosewood Vineyards and a jam made in-house by Nicolette. The charcuterie board boasted an array of meats from Pingue Prosciutto, a local butcher who makes traditional Italian charcuterie and sausage from Niagara pigs. The fresh acidity of the wines cut through the creaminess of the cheeses and the saltiness of the meats to make a fully satisfying meal. For dessert we had a dark chocolate tart served with peaches and blueberries picked from the garden all topped off with a dollop of whipped cream.

    In a time when the LCBO is promoting “Going Local” you can’t get much more local than Good Earth. Nicolette and the team at Good Earth obviously have a great passion for local fare that they want to spread. Though there are many restaurants that serve farm to table local food there are few that feel as authentic as Good Earth. The warm, friendly team at Good Earth not only make going local easy, but they make you feel like a local.

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