Strange DNS problem

I am running a local dns server (bind9). It works ok for the
most part but a number of domains do not resolve and I have
not been able to detect any pattern. For instance

$ host
Host not found: 3(NXDOMAIN)

Here is the tcpdump output (on the internal side):

21:45:14.662220 IP > 16136+ A? (29)
21:45:14.662696 IP > 16136 ServFail 0/0/0 (29)
21:45:14.663090 IP > 4383+ A? (43)
21:45:14.663193 IP > 4383 NXDomain* 0/1/0 (94)

What is strange is *nothing* goes out of my network when such
a failure occurs! [My gateway machine does NAT on the
internal side but the symptom is the same on the gateway

I ignored the problem for a while but recently I noticed a few
more domains do not resolve! May be nothing has changed since
I didn't try these domains before.

This is on 8.2-release (but the symptom was the same with 8.1
and may be earlier).

I checked named.conf and AFAIK it seems ok -- it has not
changed substantially since 2006 (I moved to a different IP
block and had to change my ISP's dns server address -- it is
my secondary).

I'd appreciate any hints on how to diagnose this. Thansks!

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