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):

J. Lohr, 2009 Paso Robles Merlot, 13.5 percent alcohol, $15. An approachable wine with good acidity. Bright with layered notes of cherry, caramel and spice. Nice length.

Amici, 2011 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, 14.2 percent, $20. A tropical sauvignon blanc with aromas and flavors of honeysuckle, citrus and spice. Bright and lively.

Novy, 2011 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 13.5 percent, $20. A toasty chardonnay with aromas and flavors of pear, lemon and melon. Lingering finish.

Benovia, 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 14.5 percent, $45. A pinot with depth. Complex with layered notes of cherry, black raspberry, herbs and spice. Striking.

Amapola Creek, 2008 Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 14.9 percent, $60. A complex cab with a great undercurrent of spice. Notes of blackberry, cherry, herbs and spice. Lingering finish. A knockout.

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