Press Democrat wine writer Peg Melnik scopes out wine lists around the North Bay, looking for good value and the occasional splurge.

This week's picks (prices are retail; restaurant markup varies):

<strong>Wente, 2012 Morning Fog Chardonnay, Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay,</strong> 13.5 percent alcohol, $15. A balanced chardonnay with aromas and flavors of green apple, toast and cinnamon. Bright acidity. Nice length.

<strong>Morgan, 2011 Monterey, Syrah-Grenache Rhone Blend, Cotes du Crows,</strong> 13.8 percent, $18. The Rhone-style blend is balanced and has ripe tannins. It's layered, with notes of blackberry, cherry and dried apricot. The blend is 60percent syrah and 40 percent grenache. Impeccably balanced.

<strong>McFadden, 2012 Potter Valley Mendocino County Pinot Noir,</strong> 13.5 percent, $24. A full-bodied pinot noir that's rich with notes of cherry, herbs and spice. Bright, with high-toned fruit. Lingering finish.

<strong>Arrowood, 2011 Saralee's Vineyard, Russian River Valley Syrah,</strong> 13.5 percent, $30. An impressive syrah with complexity. Arange of flavors — black cherry, plum and a kick of cracked black pepper. Edgy.

<strong>Justin, 2011 Isosceles Paso Robles Bordeaux Red Blend,</strong> 14.5percent, $70. A bordeaux blend with great depth of flavor. Complex, with aromas and flavors of black cherry, currants and toasty oak. Lush. Worth the splurge.

<em>Want to share a current wine on your favorite restaurant's list? E-mail peg.melnik@ or check out her Tasting Room blog at</em>