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):

Bella, 2010 Lily Hill Estate, Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel, 14.6 percent alcohol, $40. A ripe zin but not over the top. Great concentration of black cherry and currant fruit, with a hint of plum. Briary notes, with a tasty undercurrent of sassy spice. Striking.

<strong>Duckhorn, Vineyards, 2010 Napa Valley Merlot,</strong> 14.5 percent, $54. A seamless merlot with layered notes of blackberry, plum and spice. Nice structure. Lingering spice. Merlot at its best.

<strong>Patz &amp;amp; Hall, 2011 Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay,</strong> 14.2 percent, $58. A gorgeous chardonnay that wins you over with its complexity and its lush texture. Layered notes of jasmine, brioche and mineral. It's rich and fleshy, yet it manages to be balanced with bright acid. Bravo.

<strong>MacPhail, 2011 "The Flyer," Green Valley, Russian River Pinot Noir,</strong> 14.1percent, $59. An earthy pinot with bright red cherries and a touch of oak. A melding of tangy fruit with a hint of smoke. Crisp finish. Absolutely lovely.

<strong>Brancaia, 2010 Ilatraia Rosso Maremma Toscana Red blend,</strong> 14 percent, $60. A striking blend of blackberry, currant and cracked black pepper. A gamy red with nice length. Well 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>