I haven't riden in around five years. When I was, I had (actually still have) an 88 500 Honda Intercepter. I'm far from an expert on bikes, but I would imagine (just as with cars) you can buy guides that rate different modles from one year to the next. Even better than that would be if you could find a forum like this one where the subject is bikes rather than football. There have got to be a few sites out there where knowledgeable people log on and spend all their free time talking bikes.
The one peice of advice I can give you is that the while "sports bikes" are a lot of fun and fast. (for a 500 my bike could keep up with bigger bikes pretty well.
And of course there is a girl factor (I bet you asked for rides a lot more often than with your Gold Wing). But if you like to take a lot of road trips I'd consider getting something eles. Speaking for myself on my Interceptor, After about 4 hours I was usually ready to call it a day if I could. It was fine, just not a touring bike (duh). Good luck, let us know what you get!