Nice Guys Savor Their Rodeo Reserve Grand Champion Win

By Russell Kane / Photography By Nice Winery | December 27, 2016
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Ian Eastveld and Ryan Levy, owners of Nice Winery, Houston, Texas.

The passion of wine started seventeen years ago for Ryan Levy and Ian Eastveld when they lived in Paris in their apartment above a wine shop. Already enamored with food and the flare of fine cuisine, they were there studying at the Le Cordon Bleu.  Fast forwarding to today, their Houston-based Nice Winery find’s itself in the notable position of having its 2013 Notorious Malbec Mount Veeder appellation wine judged the Reserve Grand Champion wine from the field of 2850 entries in this year’s Houston Livestock Show’s Rodeo Uncorked International Wine Competition.  

Ryan and Ian give credit to the Paris wine shop’s sommelier for instilling the vision of what a family-run winery is and the importance of natural agriculture and winemaking, and a focus on artisanal, small-lot production that got them started.  Their passion for wine evolved to a full-blow winemaker’s quest once the duo was back in Texas to open their Dallas restaurant. In 2005, they sold the restaurant to move to California to continue wine education with Master Sommelier David Glancy in San Francisco. 

Ryan and Ian readying barrels for fermentation

According to Ryan, “In California, we gained experience working in Napa Valley and established relationships with seasoned grape growers and winemakers. In 2007, it was these relationships that allowed us to obtain some much sought-after Stags Leap District fruit. The grapes came from the Steltzner family who thought that two Le Cordon Bleu chefs making wine might create something special.”

It turns out that these Stags Leap grapes were obtained with Nice Winery’s very first fruit contract. The wine made from these grapes, received a 94 point score from the Wine Enthusiast. 

This initial success set the pattern for Nice Winery’s more recent endeavors. While being situated in Texas and making Texas wine, it is also making wine in other vineyard locations in California and Argentina.

Describing the mechanics of their Nice Winery winemaking concept, Ryan said, “When we started making wine in Argentina ten year’s ago, we made four trips a year there, spending one to two months at a time. We worked to evaluate the vineyard, analyzing the fruit, understanding the growing cycle, and bringing in the equipment and barrels we needed to make wine on the estate growing our grapes. While we have experienced people on site to assist, we make the decisions on harvesting, fermenting the wine, getting it ready for barrel aging and following it through the process.”

Ryan Levy punching down cap during barrel fermentation

Referencing their recent Houston Rodeo Mount Veeder Malbec Reserve Grand Champion win, Ryan indicated that it was accomplished in very much the same way they made wine for their Stags Leap and Argentina projects: an integration of personal relationships with remote and hands on work. 

Ryan said, “Malbec is something that we have become known for at Nice Winery. We have to admit that we have benefited from friends and associates, some of which are giants in the industry. They graciously shared with us know-how gained from decades of experience in some great wine producing regions. I just can’t say often enough how nice people have been. They helped us get to where we are today.”

Article from Edible Houston at
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