Forget the corny back label. Overlook the heavy bottle with a punt. The Bliss Schoolhouse Red is $10 California wine the way almost no one makes it any more.
One of the most difficult things to do is to find California red wine to review. Quality $10 California red is vanishing, replaced by sweet fruit grocery store plonk and $8 wine premiumized to $15. So you can imagine the Wine Curmudugeon’s joy to find the Bliss Schoolhouse Red, stuffed on a bottom shelf among hundreds of other bottles of California red that I didn’t want to look at, let alone taste.
The Bliss Schoolhouse Red ($10, purchased, 13.5%) is a field blend-style wine, a once common practice that has lost favor as producers have focused on varietal wines. Field blends are made with the grapes that are in the field at harvest time. If the mix is odd, so be it. No focus groups, no marketing, just harvest, crush, ferment, and bottle.
This version of the Bliss Schoolhouse Red combines sangiovese, barbera, syrah, primitivo, and cabernet sauvignon to produce a rich, layered, not quite big wine with a dash of sweet cherry fruit and soft tannins. I expected almost nothing when I tasted it, but wished I had bought another bottle after I did.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2017 Hall of Fame. Drink this on its own, with almost any summer barbecue, or with pizza on the porch.