Typically this column is one and done when it comes to reviews. Even when I keep subscribing to a service, a single review tends to be sufficient. But Bright Cellars has given me a reason to revisit, offering review boxes along with fresh discounts for Pajiba readers. So, I threw a wine and cheese reception for friends to see how the delectable deliveries fared in a group setting.
Last fall, I taste tested the wine subscription service Bright Cellars. Then a few months later, their cheese-centered sister service. Both times, I’d had high hopes of running a group taste test, inviting friends over to share in the goodies. But yeah. Instead, I ended up kicking into the wines and cheeses on my own over late night wind-downs, and fancy self-made treats.
To be honest, I regret nothing. Still, THIS time, my friends and I would eat, drink, and be merry on wines and cheeses specifically picked for this purpose.
How It Works
You can get a full rundown of how each works on the links above to past reviews. Succinctly, both Bright Cellars and Tasting Board have palate quizzes that get a sense for what your tastes are, and what kind of experience you want from this box. They’re fun to take, and take just a few minutes.
It’s two separate quizzes. I took both, and got results of wines and cheeses that were meant to be just for my preferences. Note: there was no apparent option to connect results so that cheeses would pair with wines, specifically.
How It’s Changed
Their cheese subscription service has been revamped, offering a larger selection of cheeses, and boasting the new name: Tasting Board. Meanwhile Bright Cellars has expanded its shipping access, so now to 46 states across the country—including New York and Massachusetts—can get in on the wine and fun.
How It Went
The boxes arrived in two separate shipments. The wines were carefully insulated to prevent any damage to the glass bottles. The cheese came in a refrigerated box with a still cold ice pack that kept them fresh.
I planned a party for a sunny Sunday afternoon, and invited nine people over. Now, no. I did not expect four bottles of wine and four blocks of cheese to satisfy all these people, but they were a key part of our summer spread, which also boasted the cookies I made from the Box2Bake delivery.
I used the descriptor cards that came with the cheeses as guide posts for my friends. And everyone was mightily impressed with my hostess flourishes. The wine had no such cards, so the whites were chilled in a cooler, and the red rested on the table, awaiting guests.
Mojave Rain: Red Blend 2015
My Take: I have a preference for whites, but once more said I’d be open to try a red. The lone red I received is a blend and beaut! It’s got a bold smell that made my taste buds water before it hit my lips. You taste the warm fruitiness of the berries, and then it finishes dry and sophisticated. Ahead of the party, I paired it with Havarti. They played delightfully together.
Party Take: The red was gone so fast I lost track of it! A friend who prefers her wines drier marveled that I’d found a red both she and I could enjoy.
Emmi Roth: Havarti
My Take: Creamy and a bit sour, this is a cheese to savor. I took a bite and like a fancy chocolate, I let it melt slowly, softly in my mouth. It’s got a bite of earthiness that paired really beautifully with a glass of the Red Blend.
Party Take: I served it with rosemary crackers, which was a big hit. We ripped through this cheese so fast there were no leftovers to try out its other serving suggestions. C’est la vie!
White Willow: Chardonnay 2016
My Take: This is light, bright white! Semi-sweet and grassy, I can see it paired with a rich cheese sauce. It’s also pretty stellar paired with a sunny day and a cheese plate. But this here is why I always like to read about the wine. On my own, I wouldn’t have picked out the fruits mentioned above. I’d be like, «Yeah. It tastes like fruit!» With the help of expectations, I can absolutely make out the pineapple and mango scents. And then the sip is a dance with the peach, lemon, and a splash of coconut on the finish.
Party Take: This was a big hit, and the first white to run out. Because it wasn’t super sweet, it was very refreshing on what turned out to be a HOT day.
LaClare Farms: Goat’s Milk Cheddar
My Take: It’s tasty, but really not that distinctive from the white cheddar I can buy for $ 3 a block at the grocery store. It may very well be that I don’t have a developed enough palate to distinguishe the delicate differences between the two. For me, this one was underwhelming.
Party Take: I wasn’t alone. This cheese went largely untouched. At the end of the party, I had a pile of it that had sweated and grown a bit stale. It got pitched.
Forty Winks: Sauvignon Blanc 2015
My Take: This was my personal favorite. Bright and sweet, I poured myself several glasses over the course of the party, and paired it with every cheese on the board as well as a charcuterie tray I’d made up, and some scallion pancakes. I’m sure a purist would sniff at my brazen clashes here. But Forty Winks with its bite of green apple and chipper sweetness was a delight with every sip, and every collision of flavors.
Party Take: Those who could get it out of my hands to pour a glass for themselves echoed my praise, if not my greedy enthusiasm.
Sartori Reserve: Citrus Ginger Bellavitano
My Take: Asian influences in a cheese? You know I’m game! I know this combination may be a bit eyebrow raising, but it’s downright delicious, exploding with flavor.
Party Take: This was the favorite of the cheese board by far, as I had to most often refresh it. My friends read the card, marveled at the description, and then couldn’t get enough. This paired especially well with the sesame pancakes I’d made (hot off the skillet) for the occasion.
Porta D’Oro: Sauvignon Blanc 2015
My Take: Frankly, I was a bit disappointed I got two of the same kind of wine in one box. There’s a world of whites out there! And with Sauvignon Blancs in the mix, one was going to be the lesser. This was fine, but not as fun or flavorful as the Forty Winks. I wish I’d gotten something more adventurous instead.
Party Take: It was popular enough to be guzzled down by the end of the day!
Marieke: Honey Clover Gouda
My Take: It also pairs great with a garbage day, or any day. Curious about what a honey clover gouda would taste like, I sliced of a small sliver before the party. Like days before. And I can’t speak to how well this one might melt, but it melted my resolve. At the end of each day, I’d wind down by slicing myself off a more and more generous sliver. It’s pungent, earthy, herbacious, and a bit sweet. The flavor fills your mouth and lingers on your fingers, which I couldn’t help but sniff and savor. I love a smoky gouda, but this raw and bold cheese is even better. This was my absolute favorite, and that my friends got to try any of it at all means I deserve a damn medal for loyalty.
Party Take: A lot of «ooos» and «ahhs» burst forth as people tried this unique cheese. Still, I feel like I’m the only one who truly appreciated it.
Conclusion: Bright Cellars and Tasting Board are terrific services. If you don’t think the monthly subscription suits your needs (it’s a lot of wine and cheese to get that frequently), you can email the concierge team to arrange delivery for every two or three months. Or you can do what I do, and place an order whenever a party season is coming on, like summer for picnics, or the holidays for elegant nights in with friends.
Of all the subscription services I’ve tried, Bright Cellars and Tasting Board remain among my favorites. It makes trying new flavors easy and accessing affordable wine you’ll actually like way less intimidating. Plus, once you’re on the mailing list you’ll get frequent offers for discounted bottles.
Speaking of discounts: To get 50% at Bright Cellars USE THIS LINK. To get 50% at Tasting Board USE THIS LINK.
Do both. You deserve it.
Check out Subscription Addiction reviews for Level Up, Stitch Fix, Try The World, Darby Smart, Treatsie, Chococurb, Loot Crate, Candy Club, Blue Apron, Bright Cellars, Julep, Bright Cellars Cheese, CauseBox, and Box2Bake. In the comments, tell us which subscription service you’d like to see reviewed next.