Dining | Wine: Turning Leaf Vineyards at Sundance 

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It’s no surprise to me that Turning Leaf Vineyards should be one of the key sponsors of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. After all, they’ve got just about the coolest wine Website going (TurningLeaf.com), complete with an online music player featuring groovy stuff by artists like Kaskade, Pocci, Tetris, Soulstice and Hidea Kobayashi. Thanks to Turning Leaf, I now can’t get Pocci’s “I Feel Free (Funkdust Remix)” out of my skull. It might just be the perfect wine for Sundance-attuned Gens X and Y.

A great place to discover Turning Leaf wines is at the Sundance Film Festival’s Turning Leaf Lounge, located at 751 Main St., through Jan. 27. It’s always crowded during the festival but still a swinging spot to sample the wines of Turning Leaf, listen to live music, nibble on free finger foods and get your photo taken. Each year at Sundance, the creative Turning Leaf crew transforms a restaurant, art space or storefront into a hip, urban speakeasy with overhauled walls, truckloads of snazzy furniture and flooring, artwork, lighting and more. It’s quite a sight to see, and a fine way to chill out in the middle of the film fest while sampling complimentary Turning Leaf wines.

On the other hand, you could just cruise over to your favorite wine or liquor emporium and score some Turning Leaf there. It’s abundant in Utah. Turning Leaf Vineyards produces Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and, yes, White Zinfandel. They’re not all fantastic, but they’re plentiful and cheap. Some are a good bang for the buck.

Take Turning Leaf Merlot Reserve, for example. The $6.95 price tag suggests that “Reserve” doesn’t really mean much. Still, it’s a pretty likeable Merlot given enough air—reasonably well balanced with dark berry fruit flavors and hints of anise and black pepper. Like Kaskade, it’s smooooooth.

I remember one reviewer saying that Turning Leaf Pinot Noir Reserve ($6.95) has “flavors of cherry and spice and all things nice.” I wouldn’t disagree; certainly not for $7. At that price, Turning Leaf’s Pinot is hard to beat, especially the 2006 vintage, brimming with traditional Pinot Noir berries and cherries. I like to drink it alongside papparedelle with duck confit and rosemary.

Turning Leaf Chardonnay Reserve ($6.95): Pleasant honey undertones, pear and peaches make this middle-of-the-road simple Chardonnay a decent everyday sipper, even if not particularly memorable. It’s slightly sweet, and I recommend serving Turning Leaf Chardonnay a tad colder than normal to help hide flaws. Not a bad bang for $7, though.

Each year, Turning Leaf Pinot Grigio Reserve ($5.95) gets a little more intriguing and a little more alluring. Turning Leaf has been harvesting Pinot Grigio since 2003, and it seems to be improving by the year. The current vintage is crisp and refreshing, with a pale straw color and faint pear and grapefruit notes. It’s a nice summer picnic wine or tasty any time you’re looking for something light, perhaps in place of your favorite wine cooler.

One of my favorite Turning Leaf products is its Sauvignon Blanc Reserve ($5.95). This is a zesty, floral, full-bodied Sauvignon Blanc in the California style with a profusion of tropical fruit and lemon notes. This is a good choice for many Asian-fusion type dishes.

As for Turning Leaf’s White Zinfandel Reserve ($5.95), well, you’re on your own there. Although I have to admit it does beg the question, “Just what in the hell is a White Zin Reserve?”

I hope to see you at the Turning Leaf Lounge.

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