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Review: Firstleaf Wine Club

Firstleaf isn’t all that unusual of a wine club, but it does promise one thing that few others can claim: Its goal is to tweak the wines it sends you, learning from your preferences and using them to send you wines you like better and better. Firstleaf asked me to try out its club, first with an initial run of three starter wines, then using my opinion about those wines to select six more wines that, in theory, I should like even better.

Firstleaf starts you off with a fairly limited up-front selection, asking only a handful of questions about your preferences. The recommended wines didn’t sound up my alley, so I went in a different direction, choosing a collection of mixed whites and reds. The wines arrived quickly — and I especially liked that the service included a card with key data about each wine, including the suggested retail price. All the wines on the site hover around $20 to $25, at least theoretically, because none of them are actually available for purchase anywhere else; in other words, these are all or nearly all custom or bulk wines that were made just for a few retailers.

Here’s what I got, and what I thought.

2017 Outbound 2:47 Pinot Grigio Monterey County – While aromatically restrained, this pinot grigio is boldly fruity on the palate, melding notes of lemon and melon with a marshmallow sweetness that, if consumed solo, can be unctuous at times. It’s a touch weedy on the back end, though a burnt caramel note on the finish leaves things on a somewhat rocky dessert-like note. B / $21

2015 Cassiday Blare Red California – This is a mystery blend from all parts California, and that would normally be a cause for skepticism. No need: This is a surprisingly well-crafted wine considering its provenance, loaded with fruit up front, then segueing into notes of black pepper, cloves, and silky tannin that gives the wine more depth than you typically see at this price level. The finish is quite tart, almost sour with plum and some blood orange notes, a fun foil for the relatively sweet attack. A- / $25

2017 Ranasesina Cabernet Sauvignon Spain – A Spanish cab, extremely heavy on the palate with tannin, forest floor, and dried blackberry notes. A little wet animal fur, dark chocolate, and mushroom add even more savory elements to a quite pungent wine. Not a delight on its own, but paired with the right meal it can work. B / $24

At this point, I was invited to rate each of the wines on Firstleaf’s site. I was expecting more from this, but was surprised that you merely give each wine a thumbs up or thumbs down. Could that really be enough? On the site, I gave the Cassiday Blare a thumbs up and the others a thumbs down, mainly to see how it would interpret those votes. The site used that one thumb to select six more wines. When they arrived, they were all red, with an emphasis on mammoth wines, which is perhaps to be expected. No matter. Let’s dig into this round, too (presented in the (random) order consumed).

2014 Whipstitch Merlot California – Quite sweet, with a bright strawberry and maraschino cherry notes, this wine quickly veered into a territory dominated by vanilla and chocolate syrup. Carries none of the floral notes that can make merlot so enjoyably fresh. I couldn’t drink much of it. C- / $22

2017 Oscar Darby Shiraz Australia – A difficult mix of over-extracted cranberry and cassis, with a hefty chocolate sauce component on top of that. An almost ungodly sugar bomb — though that it is not entirely unexpected with a simple Aussie shiraz — any hint of complexity is blown away by the sweetness. That said, if you give the wine time to open up a bit, it does showcase some notes of balsamic and black pepper on the otherwise syrupy finish. C / $22

2017 Scissor Kick Cabernet Sauvignon Australia – An approachable cab, this Aussie wine dials down some of the sugary notes in favor of more straightforward cassis, blackberry, and a twist or two of black pepper. Dark chocolate notes offer a bit of nuance, with some tannin and pepper hanging on for the finish. Well rounded, with hints of mint and orange peel on the back end. B / $22

2014 Marbleize Red Wine California – A mutt blend of tempranillo, syrah, petite sirah, barbera, and mourvedre. Not at all bad, this is at least a nod in the direction of the Rhone Valley, a relatively restrained wine with notes of fresh flowers, blueberry, strawberry, vanilla, and rhubarb all whipped into a pleasant and cohesive whole. More approachable thanks to an alcohol level of just 12.9%, with a gentle mint chocolate note lingering on the finish. B+ / $24

2014 Ephemera Merlot California – A very juicy, fruit-forward wine, loaded with strawberry, vanilla, and milk chocolate notes. There’s enough acidity here to keep the fruit from overwhelming things, which gives the finish a slightly balsamic kick. If you’re looking for a wine that showcases fruit without spiraling into “jammy,” this is a solid selection. B+ / $24

2014 Rosanne’s Tribute Noble Red California – Medium in body but a bit scattered, this wine finds a fairly dense fruit component melding with mixed floral notes to create a reasonably compelling finished product. A little time allows some eucalyptus to emerge in the glass, leading to a chewy, vanilla-scented finish. One of the most crowd-pleasing, approachable — yet innocuous — wines in this lineup. The blend isn’t defined, nor is Rosanne. B / $22

As I feared, my simple thumbs-based votes wasn’t really enough to send wines more to my liking, though I’d argue that my tastes are quite varied, and that Firstleaf’s wines are, in reality, rather hit and miss — which is to be expected considering the bulk stock it has to work with. That comes with the territory with many a wine club, of course, but I’m not convinced that another 20 thumbs up or down would change much about my average rating of the wines I ultimately received.

On the plus side, Firstleaf’s site is very simple to use (maybe too simple), and it auto-ships six wines at a time on a 1-, 2-, or 3-month schedule. Firstleaf also boasts a “100% satisfaction guarantee: I guarantee that you’ll love our wines or your money back.” The first shipment of three wines is $15 plus shipping. Future shipments of six wines are $79 each. As with any club where the selections are variable, your mileage may vary.

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Firstleaf Wine Club

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5

Rating

5.0/10
Christopher Null

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content company.

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42 Comments

  1. Mallory Gold October 15, 2018

    I had the absolute worst experience with them. i got the 3 bottle introductory offer and a month later was charged $100. no email, heads up or nothing even though i had cancelled my ‘subscription.’ when i reached out they said there was nothing they could do– there goes $100 for mediocre wine.

    Reply
  2. Tyler October 22, 2018

    Had the same thing as Mallory. Hadn’t even gotten around to drinking any of the bottles in my intro order before they auto processed the second order. I was even on the lookout for any kind of recurring charge when I signed up (I remember the old free credit report scam that worked the same way), and thought it was safe.

    Reply
  3. Robert Fay November 18, 2018

    Buyer BEWARE!
    The company does not like it when you return items – they charge you $20 restocking fee when you are not home to receive the wine.
    The wine quality is mediocre at best.
    There must be a better way to try wines!

    Reply
  4. Pablo January 14, 2019

    Thank you guys for sharing your experiences,,, If I did not read your comments on this paid review by drinkhacker.com I would have paid for this scam!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Null January 14, 2019

      Just to clarify, we were not paid to perform our review. We do not accept payment for any of our reviews.

      Reply
  5. Susan January 30, 2019

    It says specifically that you need to be home to receive the order (I have mine shipped to my office) and does disclose the restocking fee if you fail to cancel shipment prior to processing. I haven’t had any issues with them, knock on wood. You just have to be on top of your shipments. Delaying and/or canceling shipments was super easy.

    Reply
  6. Roger Telegan April 2, 2019

    Your mileage may very is right. I did not find the wines First Leaf offered and subsequently sent to be very good. Most of them were well… Sub Par. I would rate most of them a C- or a D. Only two were excellent and I did order more of those. The Wines they send are not available anywhere else and the suggested retail price of each wine is not at all accurate when compared to good wines.

    Reply
  7. Larry Shanbrom April 10, 2019

    I don’t know whether Firstleaf is a scam or they are just wildly incompetent.I had what can only be termed a nightmare experience with them. They don’t permit enough space here for my complete “review,” but if you’re interested, here is the link to it:
    https://www.consumersadvocate.org/wine-clubs/c/firstleaf-wine-club-review. Trust me when I tell you that I couldn’t possibly make this up!

    Reply
  8. Brittany May 2, 2019

    They gave me an offer in the mail for $3 for 3 wines so I used it 15x. HA.Eventually they caught on but not after MANY orders. Now they are used as decoration because they were all terrible.

    Reply
  9. Dubya May 24, 2019

    I had the exact same negative experience as others here a few years ago. I am starting to think it is the same scam being done year after year under different names. If you think about the “business model” it would be near impossible to deliver the advertised quality to so many people. The office motto must be “there’s one born every minute”.

    Reply
  10. Anonymous May 28, 2019

    Thank you for sharing your experience because I just got a offer for 6 bottles for 19.99. But it never talked about further shipments. So I’m glad that I went on your website. I always look at outside reviews. Again thanks for the reviews and the honest comments.

    Reply
  11. CJ May 31, 2019

    Thanks for the reviews. I was checking out Firstleaf, and your reviews were very helpful in my decision not to join. I received an offer for 6 bottles for $19.99 but there was no mention of subsequent shipment process.

    Reply
  12. NG September 3, 2019

    I have to say, I expected a better customer service experience. I spoke with a representative by the name of Maria, a unenthused customer service agent to say the least. She was condensing, snide, and couldn’t care less whether I choose to stay a member or not. I found myself practically begging for assistance, which she did care to properly give. Left me feeling confused and unappreciated.

    Reply
  13. Anonymous September 17, 2019

    Very bad experience. They recently shipped a box to me but I never received an advance notice that the shipment was coming or I would have postponed. I called and they never shipped the box but charged me a $20 restocking fee. Ridiculous tactics. Have canceled my account.

    Reply
  14. Anonymous September 17, 2019

    I just spoke with Maria as well. Your comments are spot on. She should NOT be in customer service! Thankfully, Chase was able to dispute my transaction to my benefit because Maria refused to help!

    Reply
  15. JAY BLOCK October 31, 2019

    I get these offers all of the time and, like this one, I checked it out. Your comments confirmed my experiences with all of the non winery- specific “clubs”. I have found that, even if I may be pay more for wine by visiting a local retailer, I get the opportunity of tasting wines and talking to the sales people, and I’ve never had a problem with returning full cases if I did not like the wine.

    Reply
  16. Marvin Day November 1, 2019

    I was told by them that they are the winery and bottle the wines but ‘work’ with national and international growers?? How does this happen—a grape grower in Italy ships its grapes to them? The labels are strange and generic. I thought this was a type of super brokerage but it appears just a winery that copies other wineries?

    Reply
    1. Christopher Null November 1, 2019

      Bulk wine is wine that someone else has already made and is sold, in bulk of course, to other people to either blend or bottle with. This is common in the industry, but the resulting wines are rarely of particular interest.

      Reply
  17. Karen Rosenheimer February 10, 2020

    Finally cancelled First Leaf membership. Once again, no “heads up” email that your shipment is coming so that you can move the date if you are not ready for it. This occurred fairly often. I see several other complaints on this very issue so I wonder if it’s not intentional because once it’s shipped, you are stuck. Very mediocre wines at best. Bulk wines not worth it.

    Reply
  18. Anonymous March 14, 2020

    I consider myself an expert on red wine. I would not drink any of this stuff if was free. Sorry, but the selection is for people who do not either care that much about wine, or who are just cheap and do not want to spend the money.

    Reply
  19. Anonymous March 31, 2020

    Firstleaf is the worst company. I change my order date in my account and somehow changed automatically. I wanted to stop my order since I also moved but they NEVER answered the phone and NEVER respond to e-mails. I was pissed so I cancelled my subscription and I shall see if they really cancelled my subscription or not. I can’t even delete my credit card information. Be careful!!!!!

    Reply
  20. Dara April 7, 2020

    STAY AWAY terrible and dishonest company. I signed up for a discounted first order ar $25 but they ALSO charged me full price ($100) for the next order the exact same day. I noticed when I got an email a week later saying that both orders shipped. I reached out to the company and they refused to give me a full refund. Said they would stop the shipment but charge me a $20 “restocking fee” and cl

    Reply
  21. Bill Gianulis April 10, 2020

    I just received my initial order, thank you. However, I would like to change the frequency of delivery as my budget will not tolerate a once a month delivery. I would like to change to a once a quarter delivery.
    Thank you,
    Bill Gianulis
    [email protected]
    (817)845-9800
    4 Delgado Place
    Hot Springs Village, AR. 71909

    Reply
    1. Christopher Null April 10, 2020

      Bill, you should contact Firstleaf directly. We’re a review site, not the merchant.

      Reply
  22. Sally April 30, 2020

    I never even received my order. FedEx tracking said it was returned to them because there were too many labels on the box – no idea what that means. Terrible customer service, too. No emails and you can’t leave a message when you call and no return calls. Feel scammed. Going to refuse payment to my credit card.

    Reply
  23. lee May 4, 2020

    Problem 1: Singing up for one shipment forces you on a monthly membership 2. The site makes it difficult to get out of it. 3. My first shipment was cancelled without my consent and no money refunded. 4. When I asked for a refund, they refused. Any business based on trickery is guarantee to fail.

    Reply
  24. M May 18, 2020

    First leaf is the WORST company. They set up a customer service line but NO ONE is ever there to pick up, probably FAKE line. I tried calling them many times at diff hours and almost every day within 2 weeks. I set my wine subscription for every 3 months, but they still shipped new order next month and charged me continuously. Can’t even delete my credit card! Beware.

    Reply
  25. Vahagn May 19, 2020

    Firstleaf seems to be a scam. two weeks ago i used the promotional $39.99 order. My CC was charged immediately. No wine, no email, nothing about my order. Every time I send a email and ask about it, i receive an automated reply saying how busy they are and they will answer soon. I will waite few more days, if still no reply, will dispute the CC charge.

    Reply
  26. MK July 1, 2020

    This is a fraudulent company – I had deleted my account, only to have a shipment be sent several weeks later. Customer service, which has long wait times, stated I received an email 9 days prior to shipment to cancel the order, which did not occur, and no explanation as to why they have retained my information after the account closure. I have cancelled the credit card for this site.

    Reply
  27. Bookworm Maven July 9, 2020

    BEWARE! Firstleaf is a TERRIBLE company! They sent a special offer listing, “these six wines are already reserved in your name.” But when I went online to order them, they SUBSTITUTED LOWER-PRICED, LOWER-QUALITY WINES!! When I called to question this (the same day I received my offer in the mail), they told me those wines were NO LONGER AVAILABLE!! But they were “already reserved” for me?!?!

    Reply
  28. Jessica July 17, 2020

    I thought this would be fun to try during isolation and read that it was angled towards seasoned enthusiasts like myself. I tried the discounted first box and found every bottle undrinkable. I actually poured them down the drain because I could’t imagine gifting this stuff to anyone. Thankfully was able to cancel right away.

    Reply
  29. Klaus Belohoubek July 21, 2020

    Customer service messed up too many times.
    Sent me Rose and other wines that I said not to, sent orders to wrong addresses and refused to admit their mistakes.
    Wines marginally OK, but clearly not worth the hassle of poor service.
    Cancelled today!

    Reply
  30. J UBOIS July 22, 2020

    The wine is ok, but it’s Hotel California: you can never leave, they will bill you forever. Avoid.

    Reply
  31. K October 10, 2020

    I tasted one trial bottle before the “next scheduled shipment” of a dozen bottles showed up (less than a month after the first). Worse still I thought I had postponed future orders for three months on their website. The site is configured so that your “next shipment” is not a “future shipment”. Calculated and cleverly deceptive. Clearly used to unhappy customers. AVOID this company.

    Reply
  32. Jeffrey December 3, 2020

    WORST WINE CLUB! Worst customer service. I ordered on 11/29 and told wine would be delivered on 12/1. It never came and tracking shows FedEx hasn’t received my box. On 12/3, I was actually told my wine would be delivered on 12/1! So, I guess they’ve developed a time machine. The rep couldn’t tell me where my order was or if/when I would receive it. His only solution was to cancel my order and membership. Fine with me. But, seriously, that’s not good or appropriate customer service and satisfaction at all. Good riddance.

    Reply
  33. Teresa December 7, 2020

    Despite all the bad reviews above, I actually had good experience with First Leaf. My order was shipped quickly (that was during COVID), and I canceled without any issue after my first shipment. And the quality of the wine is great for the price, not gonna call them out but I am comparing it to a few other similar companies out there.

    Reply
  34. John December 15, 2020

    This company is a fraud full of LIARS and SCAMMERS! I returned my box (by refusing delivery) and waited patiently for them to offer me a refund. They never did, so I disputed the charge with my credit card company. These scammers LIED to my credit card company saying they didn’t receive my return, even though the tracking information clearly shows that the item was returned to them and signed for! Do not trust these criminals with your credit card information!

    Reply
  35. William G Lawrence January 15, 2021

    live and learn. They send awful wines at a bargain and then do everything they can to make you buy more. Make it all but impossible to cancel and you will have to notify your bank to block charges. This is a bad company. Let’s be smart and teach them how they might have been if they had been straight with people who loved the idea.

    Reply
  36. JB February 25, 2021

    FIRSTLEAF WINE CLUB – BUYER BEWARE – FRAUDULENT COMPANY – they will ship you wines without your permission, send you broken bottles they wont replace and they will keep your money and not send your wines! I ordered for the first time from Firstleaf back in 2020 – they shipped the wines and 3 were broken, no replacements, no refund no credit. After that, I declined all future shipments as I could see they were disreputable. I never got a notice prior to Jan 13 (the day they planned to ship). I responded immediately only to get the run around from customer service who declined to cancel my order. Their so called proof that i received notice is actually the proof that I attempted to cancel the order as is evident from the email history I am including below. Once I told them I had disputed with my credit card company, they recalled the shipment and kept the wines, in addition they kept ALL OF my money. They lied to the credit card company who informed me Firstleaf said we received the wine and never returned it. I have lodged complaints with my credit card company, the Better Business Bureau and Facebook. I’m going to write reviews everywhere I can find so other buyers don’t get scammed like I did.

    Reply
  37. Rachel Black April 14, 2021

    I have had no issues with first leaf (except their store checkout once). I do not use the service as it was intended. I pick 12 wines myself (their algorithm is useless) and stay on top of pushing out my order date indefinitely. I am considering canceling mainly because I find many of their red wines too sweet. Also I many supposedly different brands have the same description making one wonder if the same wine was just put into different bottles.

    Reply
  38. Sam May 9, 2021

    company. Isa good response. They don’t care about you. Just want to sell overpriced bad wine.

    Reply
  39. djuro September 29, 2021

    I had the same experience as many, not knowing that I was signing up for a subscription service. I have a twist though. I can no longer login to my account. I am certain my password was correct. I reset it and the reset did not work. So, no way to cancel…

    Reply

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