A passionate Wine Host shares pairing suggestions and more

Ryan Levy and Ian Eastveld of Nice Winery are certified sommeliers, wine educators and Le Cordon Bleu-trained chefs. They have also hosted four AmaWaterways Wine Cruises. We interviewed Ryan about food, wine, and how he creates magic and wonder for guests on board.

“Ama” means love and we like to celebrate love on board – what are the best wines for guests to toast their significant other?

You can never go wrong with a bottle of bubbles. Sparkling wine is a high-acid wine that pairs with almost everything and with so many different cuisines. Alsatian wines are also great. The bottles are tall and slender and evoke a feeling of celebration.

As a trained chef, what’s your go-to dish that has that “wow” factor?

Ian and I do a lot of collaborative cooking and what we’re most famous for is braised beef short ribs made with our Malbec wine. Braising is a lost art of cooking and doing it with one of our favorite wines makes a spectacular pairing.

How do you know when a wine will complement a dish?

We come to winemaking from the perspective of chefs. So, our decisions during the winemaking process are informed by how the wine is going to pair with food. It’s one of the things that drew us to AmaWaterways – that it’s a member of La Chaîne des Rôtisseurs and takes its food very seriously on the ship. Wine pairing is now driven more by flavor intensity than the protein. You can have red wine with fish, if the seasoning and preparation of the fish is bold and powerful enough to stand up to the complexity of the red wine. One rule of thumb is to pair flavors of similar intensity together: light flavors with light-bodied wines and bold flavors with full-bodied wines. I love to pair our nice Sauvignon Blanc with ceviche and crab cakes while our Nice Yakima Cabernet Sauvignon is perfectly paired with a cowboy cut ribeye or a hunk of Maytag blue cheese.

How do you strive to create magic and wonder through food and wine?

As an AmaWaterways Wine Host, the very first thing I do when I get on the ship is meet with the head of food and beverage, the head chef and the maître d’. We talk about service and glassware, making sure the right glasses are being used and that the plating is perfect. Everyone on the crew is on the same page about delivering the most over-the-top experience for the guests. On our cruise in Bordeaux this past summer, we spent a couple of hours talking about flavors, pairings and acidity with the head chef. It was an amazing collaborative afternoon and we were impressed by the level of care the chef had for ensuring that our wine and his cuisine paired perfectly. It made for a truly magical wine pairing dinner on board.

You have several awards and accolades. Which are you most proud of?

One of the largest wine competitions in the U.S. is at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo: Rodeo Uncorked and the proceeds go toward college scholarships. This year, over 3,000 wines were entered from 18 different countries. After a blind tasting, our Notorious Mt. Veeder Malbec was the number 1 red wine. At auction, a large bottle fetched $140,000, making it possible for seven kids to win scholarships. In 1993, when I graduated from high school, I was able to go to Rice University thanks to a Rodeo scholarship. My career was launched due to the generosity and philanthropy of this event and now my career will help other kids pursue their dreams.

Ryan is just one of many Wine Hosts who join AmaWaterways guests on our Wine Cruises. Meet some of our other hosts here!

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