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):
Ramey, 2010 Chardonnay Sonoma Coast. 13.5 percent alcohol, $38. A lush chardonnay with complex aromas and flavors — true decadence. It has a range of flavors — melon, pear, toast and a hint of mineral. Lingering finish. Pretty.
MacPhail, 2010 Gap's Crown Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 14 percent, $49. A tangy pinot, a life-of-the-party pinot, with a good kick of spice. Notes of cherry, herbs and pepper in the mix. Nice length.
Peay, 2011 La Bruma Estate Sonoma Coast Syrah, 13.4 percent,$50, Wow. This syrah is impressive even before you take a sip. The aromas of cracked black pepper and cherry are striking. On the palate there's Bing cherry, plum and sassy spice.
Peay, 2011 Scallop Shelf Estate Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 13.7 percent, $56. A lovely pinot with depth. It has plenty of personality with its broad range of flavors — bright cherry, herbs and mineral. This pinot has crisp acidity, and a lingering finish.
Gros Ventre, 2011 "First Born" Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 14.3 percent, $58. A new kid on the block, of sorts, but this winery has what it takes to get noticed — an edgy pinot with a range of flavors. Notes of cranberry, cherry and herbs, with a great undercurrent of spice.
Red Car, 2011 Doc's Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir, 12.1 percent, $65. A pinot with an impressive concentration of fruit. Notes of deep cherry, herbs and mineral. A classic, sun-kissed California pinot.