TUCSON, Arizona — This summer a 10-room boutique hotel and wine cellar and tasting room is coming to the historic Citizen Building, built in 1913 as the home of The Tucson Citizen Newspaper and located at 82 S. Stone Avenue in downtown Tucson. The project was born over a glass of wine shared between developer Moniqua Lane, owner of The Downtown Clifton Hotel also in Tucson, and Sarah Fox, co-owner and co-founder of Arizona winery Sand-Reckoner Wines. Fox and Lane have long sought to work together, both sharing a deep love for southeastern Arizona, and Arizona viticulture in particular.
Much like the fateful glass of wine Fox and Lane shared, everything about the space and the operations is designed to elicit conversation and connection to people and place. Sand-Reckoner Wines will cellar, blend and bottle over 140 barrels of their wines in a spacious 5,000 square foot cellar featuring volcanic rock walls built with rock quarried from Sentinel Peak, natural lighting from glass block windows at street grade, and a ceiling that is exposed to reveal the original fir floor joists for the building above. Hotel guests and members of the public alike are welcome inside to enjoy tastings of Sand-Reckoner’s wines as well as experience special events like barrel and library tastings and catered wine dinners. The cellar will also serve as an intimate event venue.
“The Citizen building with its volcanic rock subterranean space presented us a unique opportunity to safely age wine in barrel, as well as provide folks with an immersive experience. Stepping down from the street into the Cellar to taste wine among the barrels, we want to transport people away from their busy lives to embrace the sensory delights of southeastern Arizona’s terroir,” said Fox.
“The first winery I ever worked in was an urban winery in Austrailia, and I’m excited to again bring the experience of wine production closer to people and to do that in a setting that is so reflective of where the wine is grown,” added Rob Hammelman, who is Sand-Reckoner’s wine maker and founded and owns the ten year old winery with Fox. He was a wine maker in Colorado, Australia and Gigondas, France before he and Fox chose to purchase land in Cochise County for their own wine label.
Apart from the volcanic cellar, a highlight of the hotel is the second story mezzanine which will host complimentary for guests daily wine tastings and peer into the lobby bar below, which in turn, peers into the cellar below through glass windows in its floor. The hotel is designed by Clif Taylor, who designed the Downtown Clifton Hotel, who guided the design build team in defining organic regional elements such as mesquite, quartzite and Arizona clay in an elegant and craftsmanlike manner that speaks to the history of building in the region and the manner in which Sand Reckoner crafts their wines.
“I really wanted to take advantage of the high Sonoran desert’s earth, vegetation and endless sky, but also give those elements a modern, cosmopolitan treatment,” Taylor said.
“I try to build hotels that speak to the experience of the place in which they are located, and I feel like the high Sonoran Desert, with its long agricultural history, is an extraordinary place. SandReckoner crafts unparalleled wines that speak eloquently to the uniqueness of this region, and I’m honored to create a space that can allow people to participate in that dialogue and experience,” said Lane.
To facilitate the conversation, all hotel staff will have the training and knowledge to guide guests through their hotel and wine experience, including hosting the daily complimentary wine tasting, curating regional wine tours and experiences, or just suggesting the perfect bottle of wine to enjoy while relaxing in the free standing, soaking tubs featured in each room’s bathroom suite. The lobby bar serves small batch, minimal intervention wine, spirits, and beer intended to reflect the spirit in which Sand-Reckoner wines are made as well as small plates and boards.
Both the hotel and the cellar expect to begin a soft open series of events in July of 2021, allowing small groups to partake in special wine experiences in the cellar and tasting room and stay in the hotel, and will culminate on Saturday October 16 in what is expected to become a signature annual event: The First Press Wine Celebration. The celebration of wine hosted, centered at the hotel, will showcase Arizona wines through educational wine programming , events and a grand tasting.
The project, with an overall cost of $3.9 million, is backed by Tucson based real estate investment company Equilibrium Real Estate Investments. Local architects a23 Studios did the architectural design and the renovation is being carried out by Tucson contractor Tanzillo Construction.