Interesting pepper, mocha, and wild berries on the nose
Full bodied and firm on the palate
Long finish of plum, herbs, and pepper
Here's the deal: California Syrah is one of the most overlooked wine categories on the planet. Why? Because all the best producers manage to deliver big, intense wines that are not sweet and cloying but rather structured and firm with at least some reference to signature Northern Rhone Syrah from France. I can't speak to the $10 wines, but once you decide to spend $30 or more on a California Syrah you enter a world of well made, small production wines that are every bit "artisanal". I mention these prices only to help provide some framework- it's no exact science. Generally, you should look for notes of pepper and good acidity in addition to the ripe fruit that makes up a good Syrah.
Ramey is known for Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, but David Ramey's line up of Syrah is incredible. He's one of the great producers for sure. I enjoy wines from all over the world, record notes on hundreds of wines a year, and spend little time "following" winemakers or even wineries. There's too much to explore. With that said, Ramey is one of the great wineries of California that's hard not to appreciate.
This bottle runs about $35 and is worth hunting down. Drink it now or lay it down for ten years. In fact, this type of Syrah will taste great at fifteen years based on my experience. Most people wouldn't know that off hand because it's rarely discussed in the wine press alongside Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir.
Every year, among my 500 wines or so that I taste, I choose two specific types of wine to focus on in order to gain more insight. For 2011, one of those is California Syrah. I've recorded notes on roughly 30 different wines in this category. It's a category that has fallen flat with consumers in recent years and that's just a shame. In the Pinot Noir world we live in, take a step away from the herd. And raise a glass of Syrah!