There are a few standby vineyards that you just can't go wrong with: Stag's Leap, Ridge, Cakebread, & Heitz Cellars. All Napa/Sonoma and you'd be hard pressed to be at a nice restaurant where one of these aren't in the cellar - so when you don't recognize anything else, or can't pull AWineAWeek.com up on your mobile device, go with something that won't disappoint.
The Stag's Petite Syrah has been on my shelf for a few years. I originally picked it up at Trader Joe's (love that place) a few years back for $23. It's now $40 on Wine.com and I couldn't even try to match their review:
As I mentioned, this one's been on my rack for a few years and was happy to bring it out for a dinner at a friend's house. Since she is pregnant, I figure her one glass of wine should be a good one. Plus, we're moving from Chicago shortly and movers won't take alcohol (or firearms for that matter). I'll give it a 7/10 rank based on the $40 price tag.
From the look of the wine, you'd expect it to be massive on the palate, but one of the pleasures of Stags' Leap Petite Syrah is its finesse and elegance. This is an unusually complex and layered vintage. The nose teems with blackberries, red currants, cut hay, and burnt oranges. On the palate this sensuous wine is a mouthful of rich bitter chocolate, French vanilla, and raspberries wrapped in round, sappy tannins. It's at once fascinating and intriguing, leaving you with a reverberating finish.