Boasting a bacchanal of wallet-friendly selections from local and international wineries (most bottles are under $25), Vintage Berkeley promotes an atmosphere of grape-loving camaraderie. Pick up a limited-edition bottle of 2007 Tayerle pinot noir ($15), culled from old-vine fruit in the Rio San Lucas vineyard in California, or a vivacious and slightly fizzy 2009 Muralhas vinho verde ($15) from Monco, Portugal. To lubricate a languid backyard barbecue or a daunting brick of cafeteria meatloaf, pick up a bottle of 2007 Chateau l’Estagnol ($10) from the Rhone Valley—with solid tannins and rich notes of blackberry and cherry, it has a meaty finish to tame even the heartiest of rib eyes. Celebrate an end-of-summer LAN party with a bottle of 2009 Preston sauvignon blanc from Dry Creek Valley in California, made from organic grapes and featuring flavors of lime, chive, and fig ($16).
Though Joe Alexander has worked in the mattress industry for years, he opened Nest Bedding to be unlike all the others. He achieves that by making sure the shop's sock of memory-foam and latex mattresses are entirely organic and made with nontoxic materials that are only dangerous to monsters trying to hide beneath them. The store's staffers, for their part, never pressure customers to make a purchase, and instead help them decide on the perfect bed only when they're ready. Visitors to each Nest show room will find a wide assortment of mattresses, naturally derived sheets, pillows, and crib bedding. For a bed that fits their sleeping style perfectly, Build-A-Nest kits allow guests to assemble their own organic mattresses to specification, from the base layer underneath to the comfort layers and cottony covering on top.
More than 80 stainless steel Italian fusti containers line the walls at Amphora Nueva, ready to dispense samples and full bottles of aged balsamic vinegar and single-varietal, extra-virgin olive oil harvested from farms in both hemispheres. The shop’s globe-spanning selection process isn’t just for variety—it also ensures freshness year-round, in accordance with the old saying “It’s always olive-oil season somewhere.” The curators of this bounty select Italian white and dark balsamic vinegar as well as unique specialty oils, including roasted butternut squash, pumpkin and Italian truffle.
Once they’ve added them to the casks, they post harvest dates, acidity levels, and polyphenol counts for each product to give an idea of its antioxidant content and flavor strength. Each staff member touts a comprehensive understanding of the chemistry and uses of olive oil and vinegar, always happy to share recipe ideas to jazz up everyday dinners or science fair volcanoes. They’ll also help put together gift sets and wrap any bottle for free.
The business, whose retail shop stands on a sloping street lined with trees and cottage-like storefronts across from the Claremont Hotel, has been in business for nearly a century. Beneath its high ceilings, however, the atmosphere harkens back to far more ancient times, with a marble tasting counter and oil containers balanced atop the rough clay of the giant, authentic amphorae that give the company its name. Guests stop in not just to do some shopping but to take in a laidback learning experience—the San Francisco Chronicle found a visit to the shop “as much fun as it is educational,” and manager Nate Bradley reported to Diablo Magazine that they’ve occasionally “had people spend two hours in here just exploring.”
Erica Varize of Evarize Fashion Café & Sewing Center greets each client to her tailor-made clothing boutique with a menu of her latest designs, described by Diablo magazine as "urban chic yet retro." The fashion entrepreneur—apprenticed by her grandmother and honored with Bank of America's 2008 local hero award—presents new designs seasonally on mannequins that play freeze tag throughout the studio. After clients select styles, Varize unrolls spools of fabric sourced from independent stores in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Africa, and invites clients to pick their favorite colors. Clipping patterns to fit each client's measurements, Varize proceeds to sew the garments and finesse them for pickup within about 10 days. Aside from designing, Varize leads a five-day summer camp for aspiring fashionistas called Sew What, which edifies pupils in patternmaking, design fundamentals and thimble-wearing technique. Summarizing the fashion-café experience, Diablo says women "from all walks of life frequent this warm, artistic space where one can get an outfit designed especially for them, or bring their children to learn an art form as well as tools to become self-sufficient." In addition to giving back to the community with classes, Varize donates a portion of MeasuRED line profits to support Uganda.
Just like the organism from which it takes its name, Amoeba Music’s stock of tunes has no definite form. At each location, expert music gurus amass thousands of new and used CDs and LPs from the most mainstream artists to the most obscure underground bands around. LPs, posters, and memorabilia surround the musical inventory, which, like Ringo Starr’s pants, changes every day. Amoeba buys goods from customers, meaning that on any given day the store might usher in a rare vinyl LP, DVD, VHS, or even LaserDisc. Visitors can sign up for any number of contests while admiring Amoeba’s enduring dedication to its green practices and community outreach. Amoeba couples its huge selection of entertainment with visits from the artists themselves, welcoming past guests such as Paul McCartney, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords, and Elvis Costello to play in-store.