By: Susan Desjardins
A recent trip to Niagara included yet another fabulous lunch at Nicolette Novak’s Good Earth Food and Wine Companybistro, located on Lincoln Avenue in Beamsville. In this case, it was the Thai Shrimp & Lobster Burger with a tangy Asian slaw and tasty sweet potato fries served, of course, with the fruity medium-dry Riesling.
As we sat sipping and sampling, admiring the gardens and vineyards, Nicolette dropped by in her gardening hat, gloves and trowel in hand, to see how we were enjoying the experience. That’s what it’s like here—it feels like visiting a good friend who really wants to ensure your outing is perfect.
You experience a sense of history, and hardly surprising. Nicolette, owner and entrepreneur extraordinaire, has lived on this farm most of her life. Her father emigrated from Czechoslovakia, her mother from Ireland. He started with 5 acres of stone fruit, which grew to 220 acres over the next two decades.
Growing up, Nicolette worked closely with her dad on the farm, and came back to take over when he died suddenly in a traffic accident. Her introduction to farm management – the peach harvest on a farm which, at that time, produced 2 million pounds of fruit!
She moved to Toronto after several years, but the land beckoned and she returned with the idea of creating a small cooking school on the family property. Michael Olsen helped her define the concept and in 1998, The Good Earth Cooking School opened for business.
Nicolette’s openness, friendliness and candor, the quality of the experience and the food, the relaxed environment all worked their magic and created an entrepreneurial success.
With winemaking at the back of her mind, Nicolette planted 8 acres of the 55-acre site to vines, some as early as 2002, producing her first vintage in 2008.
“The wine is a great complement to the food, and was a natural way to extend the business,” says she. Taking a deep breath, she took the plunge and established the new bistro, dining room and tasting room, which opened in 2010. And there’s no looking back, as the quality of the wine, the food and the experience will entice you again and again, as it has me, to this quaint property.
There’s a theme running through everything that Nicolette turns her hand to, and that is ‘local’. As she puts it, the cooking school, the bistro and the winery all provide the opportunity to utilize and showcase fresh local produce and outstanding local talent. The menu at the bistro reflects the seasons, the bite-size sip/savour menu offering a fabulous opportunity to enjoy the food presentation, the tantalizing mingling aromas of food and wine.
As one of the local entrepreneurs on the forefront of the farm-to-table movement, Nicolette has also created a ‘slow food’ context for those of us who simply love the experience of eating tasty fresh food in a relaxing, appealing ambiance. What delights her about the expanded operation? “I get huge satisfaction knowing I can offer something special to the people who come through my world. It’s fun, meeting wonderful people all the time. It’s a happy place!”
Tasting notes for a few of Nicolette’s wines are sketched out below. The LCBO has limited distribution of her 2009 Pinot Noir (#282384) in south-central Ontario, and slightly broader distribution of the 2009 Medium-Dry Riesling (#268466) in Ottawa and south-central Ontario. You can also order this wine directly by calling 613-728-8926.
The Good Wine Chardonnay 2009, VQA, 12.5% alcohol, $22.00
Harvested from the Andrewes family vineyard in the Lincoln Lakeshore sub-appellation, known for its fertile sandy loam, this wine was barrel fermented as well as aged 10 months in French oak. A well-balanced, elegant wine, there’s a notion of toasted hazelnut & spice on the nose, golden apple, melon and pear. Dry, substantial, smooth and fruity, the well-integrated oak offers a note of toast, the fine citrusy acidity adding freshness to the lovely long finish.
The Good Wine Medium-Dry Riesling 2009, VQA, 10.5% alcohol, $20.00
Off dry, medium bodied, this is a quaffable wine, with attractive aromas and flavours of orchard fruit and citrus. Lemon-lime flavours and the underlying mineral character of the wine come through on the palate, mingling with lovely ripe pear notes that persist on the mid-length finish. An easy-going and tasty wine!
The Good Wine Pinot Noir 2009, VQA, 12.7% alcohol, $25.00
Hand-harvested from vines planted in 1999 in the Ann Weiss vineyard of the Twenty Mile Bench appellation, this wine also spent 10 months in French oak. Dry, mid-weight, this earthy wine entices with aromas of red fruit, vanilla, beetroot and campfire smoke. The flavours are complex—a hint of roasted coffee beans, underbrush, raspberry and pie cherry mingle. Framed by refined tannins and fresh acidity, substantial in the mouth, the wine finishes dry, toasty and nicely spiced.
The Good Wine Rosé 2011, VQA, 12.8% alcohol, $17.95
While the 2010 had a dash of Pinot Noir, this version is 100% estate Cabernet Franc, cold soaked and cool-fermented in stainless. So expect that vibrancy and freshness of a clean, crisp dry rosé, with aromas of red berries and herbs. Dry, light-mid-weight, it’s the perfect bistro sipper, with tangy flavours of mixed red berry and rhubarb flowing through to a nice refreshing finish.
Susan Desjardins has been involved with the marketing and promotion of wines for the last seven years, as an accredited sommelier. In addition to organizing and hosting both public and private wine and food events, she has participated in the LCBO’s Vintages release tastings for the last two years.
An Algonquin College-trained sommelier and avid amateur ‘foodie’, Susan spends her spare time traveling in Western Europe and the wine regions of Canada meeting winemakers, vineyard owners and other wine industry personalities.
Her background in business, horticulture and wine has created a broad interest in and familiarity with the diverse aspects of the industry. She seeks value and quality in wine tasting, and looks forward to introducing people to varietals and wines with which they may not yet be familiar.