Go to the bottom if you want the quick bottom line.
If you're like me, you likely found out about Bright Cellars from an invitation to take an "online quiz" that can figure out what wine is best for you. I already knew what wine was right for me, but I took it and it got pretty close to my actual preferences. They deserve a little credit for this but not too much, it's really not that hard to find out what kind of wine people would like from just asking a few questions.
I'm all for trying new things so with a half-off new customer discount I figured I'd try it out. The box came within the week, not bad. Unboxing, all the wines had really interesting labels, all different but interesting. It's the last positive thing I can say about Bright Cellars.
They sent me two Cabernets. "Folk & Fable 2017" was a "California" Cabernet aged in bourbon barrels - such things are all the rage nowadays and can be done in interesting ways. No statement of where it was from in CA led me to look at the back - bottled in Santa Rosa. They do grow wine there so whatever. While the wine had some of the same tasting notes listed on the website, they were quite muted and uninteresting. There was absolutely no tannin whatsoever, and Cabs are all about how well structured the tannins are with the flavors. Had no finish. It started to dawn on me that this was not going to go well. The second Cab, "Supergenre" was from Washington. Again, not Columbia Valley or any specific place, just "Washington." I looked on the back and it was "cellared and bottled in"... Santa Rosa, CA? The pieces started to come together, but we'll get to that. This wine was even worse than the previous, at least the F&F had some fruity character in the beginning, this was along with having no structure or tannin was even more watery, with that classic "bad grape juice" taste that every wine enthusiast should experience to see exactly what bad wine tastes like.
The next one, "Lost City," was a Malbec from Mendoza! An actual specific place! Albeit a rather large one. Argentina is known for making good stuff at a good value. I flip the bottle over and...there's "bottled in Santa Rosa, CA" again! So I pour it out and it hardly even looks like a Malbec - too light in color. It had a slight tangy taste to it before it became all water with no finish. At this point my expectations for the last one, appropriately called the "Last Room" and had the coolest label, were nonexistent. It's a "Red Blend" from "Columbia Valley, WA" though there's no information on the website or the bottle about what it is a blend of. That's when I tasted it...tannin! Just a little bit of tannin, but tannin nonetheless! Overall this was the best one but it's telling that two Cabs had no tannin where the Red Blend did.
Now, on to what it seems like is really going on here. I noticed all the bottles had the same foil design at the top, the bottles all clearly came from the same bottle makers (two of them were the exact same shape, the other two were different shapes but had the same pattern at the bottom). But you don't have to think too hard about this, all of the wines were bottled in Santa Rosa - which is bad as it means these wines were likely created and then shipped quite a ways before being bottled and cellared. This is not how proper wines are made, not even $20 budget wines.
After this awful tasting flight, I pulled out a $20 bottle of my own, a blend from Argentina, and it was like finally being at home after sitting in traffic for a couple of hours. It really put in perspective how bad what I just tasted was.
Bright Cellars likely owns several vineyards around the world, but these are crappy plots in places not ideal for wine. They then take this crappy wine and ship it to a big facility in Santa Rosa where they put it in one of 10 different bottle designs. They put more work into designing the labels and website than on the wine, that much is certain. All of the wines have websites, but they are copied and pasted from one another with very little information- the prices of the wine on there being double what is on the Bright Cellars' website.
Bottom Line: This is not a wine club that picks out small indie producers that make good value wines. This is a macro-winery that makes a bunch of garbage-tier wine from nondescript places around the world, then slaps cool labels on them to make you think you're getting four different bottles from four different wineries. You're much better off just going down to the store and picking out four random bottles of red if you like red. Unfortunately less experienced wine drinkers may think this is the real deal. So, not a scam in technicality, but there is enough misleading and obfuscation here to say that it is a scam in spirit.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend