Review: Current Releases of Turning Leaf

Triumphs And Failures At The Entry Level

Bottom Line: Stop laughing.  This was a mixed bag with a few notable surprises.  Some serious bargains and some serious goon.

The Rest Of The Story:  'Turning Leaf?', you ask?  Yes, Turning Leaf.  We review all wines received as samples.  All of them.  So, before you start groaning about a trip into the low rent district, shut up, hang on, and read.  Our review-all-samples policy might just be to your advantage.

The truth is that we've had decent experience down here. Take the pair from Woodbridge we reviewed a couple of months ago - shockingly good stuff for the money.  But let's be honest; what you're really looking for from cheap inexpensive wines (which retail at $7) isn't nuance, aromatics, or balance.  All you're really looking for is inoffensiveness.

Yes, this is a bit of a departure from the regular fare here at Winethropology, but, frankly, a welcome one.  There are only so many $40 whites you want to read about, right? 

To procrastinate on the wines we really didn't want to taste, we spread it over a couple of days.  On day one the tasting started out at a blistering pace moving through the first two whites quickly.  But things slowed down considerably as we tasted the three reds.  Well, well, well. Surprised looks and impressed palates enjoyed these wines more than expectedThe last three wines (day two) were less inspiring, with the White Zin living up to our low expectations.

Overall, though, these wines were a surprise - and another example of why you shouldn't judge a wine by its price tag.  All Turning Leaf wines have an MSRP of $7.99, but you'll likely find them at the grocery store for $6 or $7.  (Full disclosure: These wines were received as press samples.)

2008 Sauvignon Blanc California
Nice, fruity nose and a sprightly texture.  Crisp, green-apple-tartness on the palate and an almost imperceptible twitch of bitter acid.  Respectable finish.  Overall, simple but enjoyable.

2008 Chardonnay California
Light color, but heavy butter and cream aromatics.  Fat, round, exaggerated flavors so thick there's caramel in there.  It's light color and medium body are at odds with the flavors which are just too much to be natural.  But WTF, at $7, it's gulpable.

2009 Pinot Noir California
What kinds of a Pinot can you get for $7?  Well, shiver me timbers!  This isn't bad at all!  OK, so it's not sophisticated, deep, or multi-dimensional, but you could serve it blind at a neighborhood party and no one would be the wiser.  Smooth, medium-bodied, and Gamay-ish fruit...better than a lot of the French plonk out there being peddled at two-to-three times the cost.  This is a surprise.

2008 Merlot California
A delicate aroma that could fool many a discriminating shnoz.  Balanced, easy, smooth as heck, and with a little grip to it.  Some well proportioned oak and a lightly tannic finish.  Very well done.  Favorite of the line up worth a double-take.

2008 Cabernet California
A lot like the Merlot with a subtle and pleasant nose.  Good grip with some decent body to it.  The finish is long and lovely.  Lovely finish at $7? What's going on here?  Again, simple in the grand scheme of things, but a crowd pleaser that's easy to put away.  Wow.

2009 Pinot Grigio California
Light, fresh, crisp nose.  Sauvignon Blanc-ish.  Uninspired texture.  Sweet fruit.  Not unpleasant, but certainly not clean.  Probably be a great base for white Sangria - or for when those neighbors come over.

2008 Riesling Pfalz California
Little bit of a richer color to it.  Fruit forward, but not sweet nose - a little soapy, actually.  Dead mouthfeel.  This is an off-off dry Riesling.  Only 11.5% ABV, but the sugars really hang around on this one.  Not sure if it's the acids or the sugar that causes the salivary reaction.  Long, cloying aftertaste with a bit of funk.

2008 White Zinfandel California
Bright, rich pink color of southern France rose.  But that's where the pleasantries cease.  No legs - only 9.5% ABV!  Doesn't smell like wine - more like a grape derivative mixed with something else - like walking down the roof repair aisle at Home Depot.  Taste consistent with the nose.  Unbearable .  Difficult to choke down even in minute quantities.  One star for getting the cork in right.