Unwind Wine Bar & Light Fare

3435 Michigan Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45208

Darrick Beekman of Unwind Wine Bar & Light Fare

Darrick Beekman is co-founder of Unwind Wine Bar & Light Fare, a Hyde Park hot spot that launched last December. 

How did you start your business?
It came about with a vision and a passion for wine. My partner, Victor Abler, and I always talked about how much fun it would be to own a wine bar. We love wine and we love to see people have good times over wine.

What have you learned along the way?
A lot of patience. I learned that you have to listen and do a lot of observing; there’s a lot of detail involved in building a business. Our building was one big empty concrete room when we started, just a shell. We had to build everything; we had a vision for exactly what we wanted it to look like and there was a lot of detail involved that we had to be patient with.

I hadn’t been involved with a project like that before, but I was determined. I knew what I wanted and I wasn’t going to stop until I got it.

Where did you find help along the way?
Joe Lanni, who owns Bakersfield in Over-the-Rhine and Currito [a burrito chain], has been my inspiration and my bar mentor. He met with me and chitchatted about wine before we opened; I picked his brain. I still shoot him emails to ask what I should do here or there. I don’t always do what he tells me, but I learn a lot from it.

I like that Bakersfield is very focused on their theme—when you go to Bakersfield, you know it’s primarily a tequila bar. That’s what I brought to Unwind. When you come in, you know it’s a wine bar.

What’s the most popular menu item these days?
The Hyde Park tacos, a vegetarian appetizer our chef created. Each one is layered with black bean mousse, vegetables and crème fraîche with cilantro on top.

And what do you order?
That’s easy. The margarita flatbread, which is crispy and flavorful, with tomato sauce, mozzarella, fresh basil, a balsamic vinaigrette reduction and cracked red pepper.

My favorite wine is the Bonanno cabernet sauvignon, a Napa Valley red that’s deeply fruity, very smooth and very well-rounded.

What are your professional backgrounds?
Mine is in retail management. I was also a quality assurance technician, so I bring management experience to the business. Victor happens to be a neurologist, so I can’t say anything he’s done in the past directly relates, but he did manage his own private practice.

So, what makes Unwind work?
We’re very focused on what we do. When you walk in, you know you’re in a wine bar, and it’s California-themed, so people feel like they’ve stepped out of Cincinnati. When people notice that, I know our vision is coming around.

What’s next for you and your company?
We’re creating some wine education classes that are going to be held once or twice a month and taught by our staff sommelier. That will probably start in July. The menu will undergo a few, seasonally appropriate changes in the fall and winter, too.

Interview by Robin Donovan