Submitted by Melissa Howsam — Correspondent
Move over local brews, there's a new boss in town. And vino virtuosos and jazz-savs delight.
Housed in the heart of downtown Cary, founding owners Scott Higginbotham and Victor Baldivinos pair a laundry list of global wine goodness with tasty treats and chill beats at UnWined in Old Cary Commons.
Rolling up some serious street cred in its downtown digs, UnWined twisted its first top in December 2011. The mod rust-colored Euro-style bistro is an immediate sojourn, with low-lattice ceilings at entry, complemented by pendant lighting and walls awash in crimson and cocoa, ornamented in local star-tist colorings. "I think the name reveals itself the minute you walk through the door," says Higginbotham, "from the couches and sitting area to the two bars and the eclectic decor."
Its design and its name a nod to its MO, this cozy-sleek-welcoming two-section space literally offers Cary denizens a unique respite in which to "unwind," with the front bar and resto featuring live weekend jazz, and the back bar, a quieter retreat, perfect for tête-à-têtes or heart to hearts, for those who are moved to schmooze by the ambiance.
No doubt focused on easy living, the Type-B enoteca is the perfect sip spot for all those Type A's to take a load off, one conceived via opening partners' Higginbotham and Baldivinos disparate backgrounds and crossover interests, making them the perfect pair to, well, pair sips, strains and, of course, sustenance. Higginbotham preceded his toast to the town with a 15-year stint as a military pilot before making like a nomad and going global in the semiconductor industry for six years. If wanderlust struck, his world travel certainly whetted it. Baldivinos, alternatively, was getting savvy in the service industry for a surplus of 15 years prior to "unwinding," and developing a profound amore for those aperitifs. The point of convergence? Well, the jazz, baby.
"There are an abundance of great restaurants and bars in Cary proper, and all add to the fabric of the city," says Russell Dula, the manager and new addition to the leadership/partner team (along with a fourth partner, Armando Lara). "We wanted to add something that was quite unique, however. Cary sets itself apart from most municipalities. A lot of the city and area is comprised of progressive upwardly mobile empty-nesters, folks who, from time to time, want to enjoy an entertainment venue without needing the trek to downtown Raleigh or Durham."
The answer? UnWined. On trend like fro-yo and cupcakeries, sommeliers suddenly got super sexy in recent years, with wine bars popping up like Starbucks across the country especially in titan trend-setter cities like L.A., Manhattan and DC. But, UnWined's concept is arguably unique, sans the stuffiness and with a syncopated sidecar of jazz. A fresh concept to Cary, and even the Triangle at large, it's the swing and the simpatico that makes it special and not just a template for the Triangle trying to keep up with the times.
Why this blend? Well, "to me," Higginbotham says, "jazz is a universal style of music that relaxes, entertains, makes you pat your feet and conjures up pleasant memories what better way to relax and spend an afternoon. And, he adds, "because wine and jazz go together like peas and carrots. It just fits."
That it does. But peas and carrots make us hungry. And these bodega buffs get that, offering up a small-plate style menu that's the perfect sampling for a pairing that complements the more than 40 wines they offer from all over the world, ranging from $4 to $17 a glass.
And of course you can't just dub yourself a bodega and fake it. Their grasp on the grape is rooted in expertise. "We have staff from Hungary that worked in Italy in wine bars for many years," Higginbotham explains. And although having already garnered fans of many of the Euro wines, and "especially the wines that are barreled in the Hungarian oak," he adds, there is no specific wine region of emphasis. "We actually continually build our wine list based on our Thursday wine tastings (5:30 to 7:30 p.m.), which are free to the public."
The free wine tastings accompanied by expert-taught wine classes, also free are just one of many community connections UnWined is making. With an emphasis on local musicians and artists, and a recent stage christening by the Ed Moon Trio, ("Take the A Train" a particular crowd pleaser), the free strains really can't be beat. But that won't stop them from trying.
Next stop? The introduction of a martini bar and more functions throughout the week, such as Ladies Night Out themes, group parties, meetups, book signings, poetry readings and live art shows that will blend well with the growing Cary art scene. "Local artists will be featured weekly," says Dula, "showcasing their work and actually working on pieces for patrons to see as they enjoy their light meals and wine."
In essence, it's not just a vino station. It's a destination. "We want to be the place for business people to relax after a long days work, to be a meeting place for social clubs to congregate, to be the outlet for busy moms to have a girls night out, relax and UnWined," Higginbotham says. "We want to cater to the community and local artists and be the preferred venue for social clubs and business meetings. We want to make UnWined the community favorite."
Dula adds, "We want to complement our neighbor establishments, as opposed to competing with them. We hope downtown Cary evolves into a walking culture that can attract many that live and dwell on the 'outskirts.'"
And, so far, the locals, well, they're lapping it up.