I’d like to think that I have some measure of self control – well, Good Earth Winery proved me wrong. One rainy night after work, not wanting to cook dinner, I decided to take a co-worker’s advice and stop at this quaint winery tucked along the Niagara escarpment. Considering my friend’s taste and the name of the winery I expected a good dinner – little did I know (and I probably would not have believed you had you told me) that I was about to have an amazing experience!
Good Earth Winery is a sight for sore eyes and although it is just moments from the QEW, when you are there you feel miles away from everything. It is fantastic! Owner Nicolette Novak has impeccable taste and each small detail of the property reinforces her obvious love for living a life of local luxury.
The property started 15+ years ago as a peach orchard and in 2003 Nicolette opened the doors of the Good Earth Cooking School. The school has it’s own quaint building, but do not be fooled by the vine covered wood building from the outside. Inside this rustic cabin is the most gorgeous state-of-the-art kitchen I have seen in a long time – not to mention Nicolette’s impressive solid-wood and huge family-style dining room table. Anyone who sets food into that cooking school cannot help but feel inspired and excited.
Next to the school is The Pantry – a quaint and small shed that operates off of the honour system. Anyone and everyone is welcome to enter to see what is for sale – maybe some vanilla pods or chicken stock. There was duck fat and tea towels and a small shelf of preservatives. Each is labeled with the price and you drop your payment into the cookie-jar on the table. Naturally, if you’d like to pay using debit or credit you can do so in the retail shop. Otherwise, the honour system is OK with Good Earth.
The vines at Good Earth Winery were planted in 2006 and what a great idea that was! Today Good Earth Winery has a colourful selection of VQA wines including:
- RED: Regular and Late Harvest Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Rosé
- WHITE: Medium Dry & Dry Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Betty’s Blend and Chardonnay
As if that wasn’t enough, those who visit the winery can also enjoy a gourmet lunch or dinner for a modest price in the Good Earth Winery Bistro. With a coral patio and perfectly picturesque dining room this bistro is, in my opinion, one of the best in the beautiful Niagara region. If you’ve been here before then you know that without a reservation at lunch-time you may have to wait a few moments for a table. Having just launched dinner starting July 1st of this year, I’d suggest going in the evenings. It’s quiet and the evening sun shining through the vaulted ceiling windows sets the perfect relaxing mood. Not to mention, Chef Michael Pasto‘s culinary creations are exquisite to see and, although I didn’t think it possible, taste even better than they look!
Here is where I must admit, I went back to Good Earth twice in one week. First on a Thursday for dinner after work and then again on Saturday, again for dinner, but this time with my in-laws (mother, father and sister) and my two little nieces … oh, and my husband of course. On Thursday we had (everything is 100% home-made):
- Daily Soup: Pureed Mushroom Soup Topped with Bacon and (what I think was) Sour Cream
- Thai Shrimp and Lobster Burger with Zingy Asian Slaw & Sweet Potato Frites
- Daily Tartine Sandwich: Pork on Olive Bread topped with Peaches & Mozza with Potatoes & Heirloom Tomatoes
- 2011 Rosé & 2010 Cab Franc
- Peach, Strawberry and Vanilla Panna Cotta with Blackberries
- French Pressed Coffee & Earl Grey Tea
Dinner was fantastic, but what made it even more memorable and enjoyable was our “flight” attendant Rebecca (sorry Rebecca if I spelt your name wrong)! Social worker by day and wonderful hostess and server by night, Rebecca is knowledgeable about Good Earth – telling us all about the winery’s history, responsive and encouraged us to take a walk through the Pantry and Cooking School. The food and environment made our experience a 9/10, but having Rebecca as our server pushed it over the top!
As you can image, after dinner on Thursday I was more than excited to first, thank my co-worker for her divine recommendation and second, start telling everyone I know about Good Earth Winery! That night it was decided that my in-laws and nieces were going to come and visit from London for the weekend, so it was natural to decide that we’d go back on Saturday night for a family dinner.
The reception, even with a 2.5 year old and 7 month old in tow, was as warm as the last. This time we were served by two wonderful young ladies who were again responsive, helpful and made our dinner a wonderful experience. The chef was more than willing to make a smaller (yet still gourmet) grill cheese for the little one and threw some fruit and other perfect finger foods onto the plate. The adults, we indulged in these “new” dishes (I’ve left out any repeats):
- Daily Soup: Fresh Ontario Sweet Corn Bisque
- Succotash of Charred Corn, Peppers and Tomatoes with Seared Scallops and Crisp Prosciutto
- Daily Tartine Sandwich: Sirloin on Rosemary Bread topped with Mozza with Fingerling Potatoes & Bacon Salad
- Ground Lamb Kofta on a Toasted Pita with Cucumber Raita with Yukon Fries
- Daily Blackboard Salad: Grilled Walleye with Salsa on a Black Lentil & Heirloom Tomato Salad
- 2009 Medium Dry Riesling & 2011 Sauvignon Blanc
Every plate went back to the kitchen completely empty (including the 2.5 year old’s plate!). And, it’s worth mentioning that the presentation was still surprisingly fresh as the succotash was served in a mason jar with no detail left to chance. Check out how some of our dishes looked in my pictures below.
As if we hadn’t had the most wonderful family dinner in a long time, we took to the grass at the back of the winery and played a small soccer game together on the back patio by the beautiful outdoor kitchen and bar. Just as we were about to leave, wouldn’t you know it – a rainbow appeared over the vineyard. It was a dream – a reflection of what life should be – in the words of Good Earth Winery …
good food ~ good wine ~ good times ~ good people
I could not have said it better myself! From their cooking classes, to cooking demos, to lunch & dinner, all the way through to their “Plein Air Painting” in the vineyard – there is something for everyone. If you haven’t been to this Niagara paradise, I suggest you go – it truly is one of the top luxuries for locals here in Niagara!