I love trying out subscription services and membership-based monthly boxes, but I never seem to stick to them because my financially sensible side hates surprises and fears the idea of paying for something I’m not sure I will enjoy. I had heard about Bright Cellar and discovered that their company is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (their wines are sourced from California and noted global wine regions). With it being a Wisconsin-based company, I was eager to see if I liked it and subscribed for a month to give it a try.
I also discovered in researching Bright Cellars that it was initially funded through Microsoft’s entrepreneurial development arm, gener8tor. This is probably news to my friends on the coasts, but venture capital is often harder to access for Midwest-based entrepreneurs. Companies like Microsoft have helped to form entrepreneurship hubs and to train and help entrepreneurs scale up in the Midwest. Bright Cellars was formed in 2015 and has proven to be fairly successful in its first few years since working with gener8tor.
How a Bright Cellars Subscription Works
Bright Cellars evaluates your wine preferences and helps build your taste profile by having you take a short quiz that asks questions about your preferred candies, how you take your tea, your go-to drink (other than wine), your favorite fruit juice and your personality when it comes to activities with friends. From there, you can rate how adventurous you’d like your wine choices to be (play it safe or experiment with new varietals). For my first box, I was assigned all reds, and I’ve requested all whites for my next box. You can also request a mix of reds and whites.
A monthly Bright Cellars shipment includes four bottles at a price point of $20 per bottle. This is (to be honest) a bit more than I usually spend on a bottle of wine (I’m a $10-15/bottle girl usually), but we are viewing this as a chance to treat ourselves, learn a bit more about wine and pair our meals with wines more aptly. Some of these wines do retail for more than the average of $20/bottle. I’ll highlight below what each bottle in our first box cost, as well as what we paired them with and if we enjoyed them.
Our first box included a bonus bottle (5 in total) and we got a discounted price for our first box of just $40 (including the shipping). This was too good a deal to pass up, so we figured we’d try it and see what we thought at the discounted price. We ended up really enjoying the experience, the education it provides and we loved a few of the wines, but liked all of them. You do get to pass on suggestions if you know “oh, that’s not a varietal I like”. This to me, reduced the risk of hating what we paid for.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but just know that if your goal is to find specific wines you like and then purchase those wines through a liquor store, I don’t know that you can. If your goal is to learn more about your wine preferences and receive a curated wine selection, this is a great option.
I’ve detailed our first shipment below and linked to each website (even though they’re all Bright Cellars), you can find out more information about each varietal.
Our First Shipment – Ratings and Pairings (Reds Only)
- The Happy Medium, Petite Syrah (California, 2018) — We rated 4/5 stars
- Wandering Giants, Red Blend (California, 2018) — We rated 5/5 stars
- Whistling Arrow, Cabernet Sauvignon (California, 2018) — We rated 2/5 stars
- Rising Tale, Cabertnet Sauvignon (Chile, 2019) — We rated 2/5 stars
- Crypsis, Red Blend (California, 2018) — We rated 5/5 stars
Petite Syrah pairing: We paired The Happy Medium with a Haitian style marinated pork and a spicy cabbage slaw.
Red Blend pairings: As my ratings suggest, I love a red blend with food or by itself. We paired Wandering Giants with a kale and lemon butter pasta. We paired Crypsis with homemade heirloom tomato bruschetta on a crusty French baguette.
Cabernet Sauvignon pairings: We paired Whistling Arrow with a pineapple-shishito pepper Al Pastor chicken taco, and we had Rising Tale with takeout pizza and a white bean-tomato-zucchini salad.
Ratings and Future Orders
Each bottle comes with an ID card of sorts that notes the wine region, suggested airings and a flavor profile. This is super helpful if you don’t have a great deal of wine knowledge, to better articulate what you enjoy in wine. You can rate your purchases on the Bright Cellars website to better inform their algorithm to better select future choices. As I noted at the top, you can also select if you’d like more experimental options or to play it safe, and indicate if you prefer reds, whites or a mix.
We enjoyed our first month of Brights Cellars (especially at such a discounted introductory price) and plan to subscribe once every other month to a case. The cases retail for about $80 and include four bottles of wine. It’s a bit of a splurge, but we really enjoyed pairing wine to our meals (something we definitely do not always do with craft beer) and finding which wines we both enjoyed.
One feature I really enjoy is the daily e-newsletter that Bright Cellars sends. It’s short, to the point and teaches you new wine verbiage, information about wine growing regions and pairing suggestions for everything from seasonal vegetables to carnival foods and candy.
I discovered that you can also add a cheese assortment to your monthly shipment featuring four cheeses (for an extra $48). I’m not really one for a lot of cheese, but I do wonder if they partner with any Wisconsin-based cheesemakers, being that they are based in Milwaukee.
If you’re interested in giving Bright Cellars a try, please consider using my referral code to enjoy $50 off your first month.