Episode 92: The Brains and the Beauty of a Bright Wine Idea

 Bright Cellars Co-Founder and CEO Richard Yao and Director of Operations Christie Lowe join the ladies of Wine Two Five this week to tell us how two MIT grads created a wine club that’s personalized for each wine drinker. Steph and Val gave it a try, and we were both sent selections customized for us. Want to hear the results? Click play, pour a glass, and let’s talk wine – and cheese – with Bright Cellars!

This episode is centered around our discussion with the Co-Founder and CEO of Bright Cellars Richard Yao, and Christie Lowe their Director of Operations. Some of you may have heard of the concept of customized wine clubs, but we were excited to dive deeper into the philosophy behind the company, its origins and the way the algorithm works. Bright Cellars truly has something unique – including a newly launched cheese club (!) and pairing option with your wine club subscription.

Christie Low, Director of Operations. Photo: https://www.brightcellars.com/about-us/

Richard Yao, CEO & Co-Founder. Photo: https://www.brightcellars.com/about-us/

In the interview, Richard and Christie shared more information to give us an idea how extensive the club and the selections really are. For example, they now have over 15,000 members. This has enabled them to grow the sources and selections from which to choose. Additionally, the data gathered from the questionnaires and feedback from enthusiastic club members has enable them to take the additional step to source more wines with the most requested or popular organoleptic characteristics.

The wines at Bright Cellars come from all over the world, and most certainly allows the subscriber to obtain readily drinkable, quality wines at a very affordable and good value price point of $15/bottle. Furthermore, the business model enables the everyday wine drinker to not only have regular access to great wines that they know they’ll most likely enjoy, but to try wines from around the globe.

We at Wine Two Five got to experience this first-hand. Steph and Val both took the online quiz and were sent four wines. Two of our wines were the same, which makes sense, as we have similar tastes. However, Val was sent three reds and one (freaking delicious!) white wine, while Steph was sent three white wines and one (we both agree, delicious) red wine.

Disclaimer: during the quiz Val did admit to using what she learned in the Vinotyping methodology from Tim Hanni. (You can also listen to his interview in Episode 44: Master of Wine Tim Hanni Explains Why You Like the Wines You Like). Her test was to see if the algorithm could be used to express desires like “less white wines” and/or “more off-the-wall selections” and she was pleasantly surprised!

Read more about the fun team at Bright Cellars.

So, what did the ladies think of their selections?


Wine 1 – 2013 Harena Maris Chenin Blanc – California, USA. Cellared and Bottled by AWD Cellars Santa Rosa, CA. Steph’s tasting notes: aromatic, pretty, floral, fresh, candied, zippy, succulent, lip smacking. Still drinking nicely after 2-3 days.

Wine 2 – 2015 Ngumu Chenin Blanc – Western Cape, South Africa. Produced by Leewenkuil Family Vineyards. Steph’s tasting notes: green, full mouthfeel and creaminess, makes me hungry for Mahi burgers, shrimp primavera pasta, Chinese chicken Salad, and onion rings! This would be a terrific by-the-glass offering at restaurants. Also would be fun in a wine spritzer with club soda/sparkling mineral water. Still drinking nicely after 2-3 days of being open. I preferred this Chenin Blanc over the CA.

Wine 3 – 2016 Pana Chardonnay – SouthEast Australia. Cellared and Bottled by AWD Cellars Santa Rosa, CA. Steph’s tasting notes: a wine for all seasons, light in color, limey, apple, melon, fresh acidity, nice first impression. Exceeds my expectations. Balanced and can enjoy without food. Still drinking nicely after 3-4 days open. (This is what Steph’s drinking on the show)

Wine 4 – 2015 Acopio Syrah – Spain. Cellared and Bottled by AWD Cellars Santa Rosa, CA. (This is what Steph’s drinking on the show). Steph’s tasting notes: alluring, vibrant, deep, dark color, aromatics jump out of the glass. Uber fruity, raspberry, blackberry. Medium tanning and easy drinking. No food required to enjoy, but best to aerate/decant for optimal smoothness. I imagine a blue cheese topped fillet when I sip a little further. Still drinking nicely after 3-4 days open.


Wine 1 – Ngumu Chenin Blanc, 2015, Western Cape, South Africa by Leeuwenkuil Family Vineyards. Val’s tasting notes: This wine was very aromatic with aromas of lemon meringue or lemon creme, key lime pie, citrus peel and white flowers (thinking gardenia or jasmine). On the palate the acidity was fresh but not teeth-stripping, and it was certainly balanced with the citrus fruit intensity and the medium length finish. This stood up to tangy goat cheese and even a nice salty blue cheese (which is what Val was snacking on the show, actually, with this wine).

Wine 2 – Burrasca Aglianico, 2015, Puglia, Italy. (Imported/bottled by AWD cellars, Santa Rosa, CA). Val’s tasting notes: Moderately pronounced aromas of ripe black and dark red fruits like currants, plums, blackberries and accessorized by herbs (fennel), tar on the palate. Surprisingly silky tannins and perhaps a little candied note lingers in the medium-length finish. Definitely not the old world Aglianico in style, but still enjoyable and a great introduction to grapes that may have otherwise not gotten your attention or made their way into your shopping basket. This was very approachable and went perfectly with the bolognese sauce I made using 96% lean beef and mushrooms.

Wine 3 – Acopio Syrah, 2015, Spain. (Imported/bottled by AWD cellars, Santa Rosa, CA). Val’s tasting notes: The aromas were moderately pronounced, especially after a little time in the glass. Ripe, dark fruit and cooked black berries and plums, black cherry and even a little red flowers on the second day made this the red I kept reaching for of the three. Neither the fine-grained tannins nor medium-minus acids stole the fruit show here in terms of balance. Certainly enjoyable and, honestly, did not have me looking for a snack to have with it as many wines do.

Wine 4 – Zinsane Zinfandel, 2014, Lodi, California. (Cellared by Wine Trees (now AWD cellars, Santa Rosa, CA). Val’s tasting notes: Fully aromatic with aromas that were more on the cherry, maraschino cherry and cola side – definitely new world and fruit-forward. The alcohol we decently integrated, but it was still warm – not unpleasantly so. Tannins and acids were were present but not dominating leading me to think “chocolate” as a pairing right off the bat. Get yourself some 55% or higher cacao dark chocolate with sea salt and almonds, pour a glass of this, and enjoy a no-snobbery wine hour with a good magazine.

Now, listeners/readers, if you want to give the Bright Cellars club a try, you can do so for half off!

Bright Cellars Wine Club promotion (see Episode 87 show notes as well)

They are offering our listeners 50% off their first shipment of wines, which are chosen for you based on how you answer a few quick questions.

Claim your deal by going to BrightCellars.com/winetwofive

You can also connect with Bright Cellars on Facebook, Twitter, and they highly recommend Instagram!


Patreon Love:  

Thank you so much to our Patreon supporters! Sending out some Patreon Love to:

“TENacious Tasters”: 

Jeff E from the hilarious drinking show, We Like Drinking!

This week we are also raising our glasses to our latest Tenacious taster to join the Patreon pack, Lynn G from Savor the Harvest!



You also may remember her from Episode 70!

A little bit about Lynn:

Lynn’s background is varied, focusing on managed health care, food, and wine. She was a Director of National Accounts and Product Manager for a managed health care company based out of Chicago. She left after 16 years relocating to British Columbia to learn more about food, cooking, and wine. During that time she explored and fell in love with wine in the Okanagan Valley, BC’s primary wine growing region.

Returning to California, Lynn most recently worked for Covered California implementing the Affordable Care Act. One of her most rewarding jobs, she choose to leave because the pull of wine was stronger.

Wine was in the background for as long as she remembers. She took classes for fun in Chicago then when relocating to California for work, took classes through the University of California Davis extension. Last fall she relocated to Bordeaux, France with her husband to “pull all of the plugs out” and study wine. She is WSET Level 3 certified, currently pursuing the French Wine Scholar through the Wine Guild.

She received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Colorado, where she emphasized cultural differences in business and spent a year studying in Switzerland and drinking wine. 

When she’s not drinking wine, you can find her on a bicycle, hiking, exploring, or spending time with her husband and friends.  

You can also find Lynn here: Blog: http://www.savortheharvest.com

“It’s not five o’clock and we don’t care” listeners: Thank you:

  • Meg from South Dakota!
  • Clay from Arizona!
  • Jon in California!
  • Andrew in Illinois!
  • Michelle in Nevada!
  • Aswani in California!

We thank you for being a vital part of the W25 listening and sipping community.

Reminder – we have a new monthly Patreon drawing! Starting January 2017, each month we are drawing a winner of Albarello Luxury Hand Soap for all Patreon supporters at the $2/month Tastemaker Listener level and higher. Go to our Patreon page for details. www.patreon.com/winetwofivepodcast


Share the Love:

If you love Wine Two Five then we know you’ll share our show with your friends and online community, and we certainly appreciate all your involvement and feedback. Leave us a burning wine question or comment on speakpipe. iTunes love is always appreciated in the form of a glowing iTunes review as well. For your listening pleasure, whether IOS or Android, we are also on iHeartRadio!

Come play with us on FB, Twitter, Pinterest & YouTube, Google+ if you’d like. Also, you can build your collection of wine books & accessories at our online store also located on our website!

Connect with Val on Twitter @WineGalUnboxed and on the Vino With Val FB page, and on instagram as Vino with Val. Oh, and she occasionally pins things on her Vino With Val, LLC Pinterest page.

Steph is on Twitter @Albarellosoap and on the AlbarelloSoap FB page, and check out the videos on the Albarello YouTube channel. She is also on instagram as the Wine Heroine as well as Pinterest.

One more thing – don’t forget to use our new hashtag #WineOops to share your funny wine moments and embarrassing wine stories on social media!

Listen to the Bright Cellars interview in its entirety: