Press Democrat wine writer Peg Melnik scopes out restaurant wine lists around the North Bay, looking for good value and the occasional splurge. This week's picks (prices are retail; restaurant markup varies):
Dry Creek Vineyard, 2008 Meritage, Sonoma County Red Wine, 14.5 percent alcohol, $28. A complex meritage with depth. It has notes of cherry, herbs and sassy spice. Bright fruit. Nice length. A steal for the price. The blend is 33 percent cabernet sauvignon, 30 percent merlot, 17 percent cab franc, 14 percent malbec and 6 percent petit verdot.
Enkidu, 2010 Diener Ranch, Red Hills, Lake County Zinfandel, 15.6 percent, $25. A bright zin with tangy fruit and a great undercurrent of spice. Notes of cherry, blackberry and herbs. A big, full-bodied zin with a good send-off of cracked black pepper.
Rodney Strong, 2009 Symmetry, Alexander Valley Meritage Red Wine, 15 percent, $60. This is a hit. A seamless meritage with layered flavors. Notes of blueberry, blackberry, cassis, dark chocolate, smoke and spice. Impressive. The blend is 79 percent cabernet sauvignon, 14 percent malbec, 6 percent merlot and 1 percent cab franc.
Joseph Phelps, 2010 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.5 percent, $65. A cab with a deep concentration of fruit. Notes of cassis, plum, herbs and spice. Firm tannins. Lovely.
Stags' Leap, 2009 The Leap Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.1 percent, $187. This is truly for big spenders. Is it worth it? If you have plenty of disposable cash, absolutely. It's a cab with depth, great structure and firm tannins. Notes of cherry, toast and spice. Long finish. The blend is 75 percent cabernet sauvignon, 13 percent malbec, 7 percent petit verdot, 4 percent cab franc and 1 percent merlot.