The North Rhone
 
While the Southern Rhone relies on blended wines, usually with a preponderance of Grenache, the north is all about Syrah and as such tends to have greater vintage variation. 2009 and 2010 are both great wines with the soon to be released 2011s lighter in character and style. The 2009s being a bit firmer at this stage of the game but the 2010s have greater purity and balance. Either way these are wines for the cellar and a case where hunting for back vintages often pays big dividends. 2001, 2005, and 2006 are all mighty fine vintages that didn’t receive a ton of media love so they remain relative values and well stored bottles are drinking well today.
 
2011 Eric Texier Brezeme Cotes du Rhone $20-$28 Here’s a wine that surprises on several levels. First off while it’s a Cotes du Rhone it’s a rare version from the Northern Rhone so it’s Syrah based. These tend to be high acid wines, which is off-putting to some, but they are wonderful renditions of traditional Northern Rhone Syrah at affordable prices. The VV Pergaud is more expensive but really ups the ante. Search for it if you have to.  
 
2010 Gilles Robin Crozes-Hermitage Cuvee Alberic Bouvet $25-$35 The “lesser” appellations of the Northern Rhone are starting to attract a lot of attention from value shoppers and Crozes-Hermitage is a great source for Syrah.This is a bit on the modern style, sleek, focused and nuanced, though with age it will reveal more of the savory character it holds in reserve. 
 
2010 Vincent Paris Granit 60 Cornas $45-$65 Cornas is one of the more exciting appellations in the Northern Rhone with many new producers taking advantage of excellent old vineyards and more modern techniques to tame the formidable tannins that have long distinguished Cornas. 2011 is a perfect, softer vintage to introduce one to the cellarworthy, complex wines of the region and this Vincent Paris is a gorgeous floral, peppery example. 
 
2010 Louis Barruol Côte-Rôtie La Viaillère $55-$70 Cote Rotie has a reputation for producing the most elegant wines of the Northern Rhone, though more recent vintages have seen a spate of powerful, modern styled wines coming from here. While this Louis Barruol might not be the most refined example, with unusually firm tannins, it is a classic Syrah filled with bacon fat, olives, black pepper, violets and black fruit that will explode with 8-12 years in the cellar. 
 
2010 Thierry Allemand Cornas Chaillot $105-$130 This is, by a notable margin, the most expensive wine on this list. It breaks my $100 rule, though not by much, yet I include it here because it is one of the greatest wines on earth and arguably the finest expression of Syrah being bottled today. Aromatically at another level, with brilliant balance and finesse that allows this to compete with the finest Burgundies at the table. It’s a wine you have to at least try once in your lifetime. Buy yourself a bottle, you deserve it.