Press Democrat wine writer Peg Melnik scopes out wine lists around the North Bay, looking for good values and the occasional splurge. This week's picks (prices are retail; restaurant markup varies):

<strong>Dry Creek Vineyard 2010 Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon,</strong> 13.5 percent alcohol, $25. This cab is a budget-savvy pick with great bones (structure). It has juicy flavors of cherry and black cherry, with notes of herb and white pepper. Excellent.

<strong>Dutton Goldfield, 2012 Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley Chardonnay,</strong> 13.5 percent alcohol, $38. A smart chardonnay with complex fruit flavors — ripe apple, Meyer lemon and tangerine. It also has a creamy texture, with a kiss of vanilla. Absolutely lovely.

<strong>Thomas George Estates, 2010 Baker Ridge Vineyard Estate Wine, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir,</strong> 14.2 percent, $60. A rich, seamless pinot with striking flavors. Notes of Bing cherry, herbs and white pepper. A standout.

<strong>Duckhorn Vineyards, 2010 Rector Creek Vineyard, Napa Valley Merlot,</strong> 14.5 percent, $90. A striking merlot with depth. It's sophisticated, with a seamless texture, and It has intriguing notes of blueberry, plum and allspice. A spendy, albeit worthy, pick for the holidays.

<strong>Matanzas Creek, 2010 Journey Red Wine,</strong> 15 percent, $100. A plush red wine with well-integrated tannins. It has a seamless texture and deep, rich notes of cherry, black cherry, herbs and pepper. Worth the splurge.

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