Unplugged aims to make wine a mainstream drink
When Frank Lietzau moved to Arizona from Germany 15 years ago, he was dismayed by the lack of drinkable wines offered in the U.S. After spending 10 years importing fine wines from all over the world, Lietzau is bringing the art of European wine to Tucson.
Unplugged is an intimate, 13 square-foot space at 118 E. Congress St. that owners Lietzau and Cyler Varnum felt was a necessary addition to downtown Tucson. The bar, Varnum said, is unlike anything else in Tucson and has something that will cater to everyone’s tastes.
“I think there’s something a little more traditional about wine,” Varnum said. “It’s a little more distinguished and dignified in the pure sense of the classic-ness of it. It’s a gentleman’s thing.”
According to Varnum, his interest in wine was first sparked on a study abroad trip to Australia in 2006. When he returned, he knew it was something he wanted to pursue. He met Lietzau and the two worked to open Unplugged, providing Tucson with a cultural experience that it was previously missing. The employees at Unplugged, like Varnum and Lietzau, all have extensive backgrounds in wine and look forward to helping customers share their passion for it.
“There’s [a] lot of people that are afraid to talk about wine and are afraid to like certain things because there’s a social aspect to it,” Varnum said. “I want to help spread knowledge about wine and teach people that it’s OK to like what you like to drink.”
The bar will focus on serving natural, handcrafted wines from all the major regions of the world, and will not serve anything mass-produced, Lietzau said. According to Varnum, it currently offers 15 varieties of wine by the glass, 30 to 40 by the bottle and several varieties of beer.
The wines come from small wineries in Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington, as well as from Spain, France, Italy, Austria and Germany. With the wide variety of handcrafted wines available, Unplugged is hoping to provide Tucson with a chance to taste real wine, Lietzau said.
“In the United States, wine is considered a luxury item. In Europe, wine is simply a necessity; it’s like water,” Lietzau said. “In Europe, you don’t drink water with your food, or iced tea or Diet Coke, because if somebody cooks for three hours, it would be an offense to wash down that food with Diet Coke. You drink wine, which enhances not only the food, but the whole situation.”
In addition to serving wine, Unplugged also features a menu by head chef Pierce Van Ardoy, carefully planned to highlight the unique flavors of the wine.
“The food we make here is a little bit different,” Van Ardoy said. “It’s made to accentuate the wine and I think that’s something that’s lacking on Congress.”
The menu will include salads, appetizers and panini, all of which have strong and unique flavors, Van Ardoy said.
“There’s maybe 130 venues to go eat [downtown] but … nobody has a focus on hand-selecting natural, handcrafted wines,” Lietzau said. “We saw a need and we filled it.”