Locally Sourced Ingredients Pair Well with Locally Produced Wines
By: Carol A. Wilcox
Photos by: Paul Wilcox
On a recent Saturday evening, Paul and I stopped by Southern Rail in Phoenix, Arizona for a light dinner with some wine. We chose a bottle of Sand-Reckoner 2012 “3” Zinfandel (15.5% alc. purchased $33.00).
I’m always impressed by a restaurant that promotes and serves locally produced wines. Not just a token one or two on the wine list, but several. I’ve come to expect a great casually upscale dining experience with a pretty extensive list of Arizona wines from two Phoenix area restaurants owned by Chef Justin Beckett, Southern Rail and Beckett’s Table. Beckett is committed to serving primarily American wines, craft beers and spirits and encourages his patrons to support local business. If you’re looking for those all-too-familiar commercially promoted wines, you won’t find them here.
I remember when I first heard the name Sand Reckoner a few years back, circulating around the emerging Arizona wine scene, and I remember wondering why someone would choose this name for their vineyard. I later found out that the name refers to “The Sand Reckoner,” a work by the ancient Greek philosopher, engineer, inventor and mathematician, Archimedes, who made an attempt to determine the number of grains of sand in the universe. The name struck a chord with winemaker and owner Rob Hammelman, who believes there is a connection between the vineyard soils, the universe and the many calculations needed to produce great wine.
This was an interesting Zinfandel to taste. It had a beautiful medium red color that shimmered in the glass. The primary aromas I initially detected were earth and fig. Tasting the wine there were hints of berry and spice and the soft tannins gave way to a slight acidic finish. The tasting notes describe the wine as having wild berry compote, fig paste, nutmeg, sarsaparilla and sassafras, with the structure as big and plush. I agree it was big and plush, but the smoothness of the wine belied the 15.5% alcohol content.
The food at Southern Rail is stylish American southern comfort using locally sourced ingredients in an atmosphere that is inviting, low key and comfortable. The Zinfandel paired very well with Paul’s dinner choice of blackened prime flatiron steak and my slow braised pork osso buco confit. Both were phenomenal! On Sunday and Monday nights you can enjoy ½ off bottles of Arizona wine. It’s a great way to enjoy a delicious meal and sample some terrific wines.
Located just outside of Willcox, Arizona, Sand-Reckoner produces wine from their 12-acre vineyard along with other local vineyards that they work closely with. The soil in this area is well drained and rocky, with limestone rock subsoil 4 feet below the surface. Hammelman, who has a graduate diploma in Oenology, has worked with top wineries in Australia, Colorado and France and is passionate about traditional winemaking. Sand-Reckoner currently produces Malvasia Bianca, Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Tannat, Tempranillo, Graciano, Malbec, Vermentino, Rousanne, Picpoul Blanc, Rose and Zinfandel. Hammelman and his wife, Sarah founded Sand-Reckoner in 2010. The vineyard was originally planted in 1997. Notable wine critic, James Suckling has rated several Sand-Reckoner wines at 90 points or higher and mentioned the vineyard in a 2016 article about Arizona winemaking.
Sand-Reckoner wines can be purchased online (limited number of states) or at their tasting room located in Tucson’s Arts District, or in select Arizona dining establishments.
Warehouse Arts District
510 N 7th Ave. # 170
Tucson, AZ 85707
300 W Camelback Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85013
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