Unplugged, a Wine Bar, Offers Fine Wine with a Casual Vibe
September 19, 2013
by Bree Collins
Unplugged is exactly what a wine bar should be – intimate, mildly lit, and showing the historic brick in its best light.
Owners Cyler Varnum and Frank Lietzau. wanted an authentic old building, and 118 E. Congress was the right size for their venture. Since the space is only 13 feet wide, it was a challenge to accommodate tables, bar, kitchen, keg cooler, and fire code all at once, but they’ve managed it.
Unplugged is shooting for the same quality of knowledge and service as Scott & Co., but featuring wine instead of cocktails. Varnum is himself an experienced wine-maker, while Lietzau imports wine and has access to exclusive, quality small-producers available nowhere else. They are bringing on another sommelier, Christoffe Huser, who ran the tasting room for Sterling in Napa Valley, and worked at Hacienda Del Sol, Tavolino Ristorante Italiano, and the Adobe Wine Deli here in Tucson. They will hire people with good service backgrounds and a passion to learn the wine trade.
While Unplugged will be full of wine experts, it’s meant to be casual and information won’t be forced on anyone. Patrons have the option to learn about wine or not.
There will be no keg wine. “The quality is not there, and the storage doesn’t work,” says Varnum.
“It’s not authentic,” says Lietzau.
Instead Unplugged will feature rare, old world wines. They will import from Germany, Italy and France wines. “If you want to go to France, go to Unplugged,” says Lietzau. Their domestic program will include small wineries in Arizona, California, Washington and Oregon. They plan to connect with local distributors and representatives who can bring them unique wines. “We’re always looking for wines that represent what we are trying to do,” says Varnum.
Varnum fell in love with wine during a study-abroad trip to Australia in 2006. From that point on he knew he wanted to somehow be involved in the wine business. He started with service, with the intent to learn about what wines people buy and why, and found that what people buy dictates what is being made. Then he met Lietzau and learned about old world wine.
While working at Time Market, Varnum found that he enjoyed sharing what he knew about wine with interested customers. He realized that such knowledge created a food and beverage culture that could push Tucson forward, something he thinks Tucson is ready for. Varnum convinced Lietzau to open the wine bar, and they’ve been having fun with it ever since.
Unplugged will offer appropriate fare for wine, including cheese plates, paninis, and salads. They will also offer a variety of beers.