Pierce Ranch Vineyards is a boutique winery located in a highland valley at the southern border of Monterey County, but its wines have the robust characteristics of those from the Iberian Peninsula. That's because the family that operates the vineyard specializes in Spanish and Portuguese varietals. They use careful growing methods and fermentation techniques to craft a wide range of limited-run wines. Each and every one of their yearly production of 2,000 cases is grown on the estate. While lesser-known varieties such as touriga, tempranillo, and albariño are emphasized, more familiar grapes such as cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel are represented as well. Previous vintages have included their 2010 albariño that was awarded Best in Show at the Central Coast Wine Competition and a 2007 petite sirah that was declared Best in California at the California State Fair Wine Competition.
Flowers and ornamental vines surround the winery's tasting room, which occupies a cozy bungalow near the coast of Monterey Bay. Servers jot the day's wine offerings on a chalkboard and fill glasses behind a wooden bar. In addition to wine tastings, visitors can stop by for live music or open-house events.
Since 1994, Chef Dilip of Loose Noodle Pasta House has treated diners as he would treat guests at his own home, always making sure they feel welcome and leave with a full belly. With the help of his kitchen staff, Dilip sends out familiar Italian favorites, such as lasagna with layers of beef, tomatoes, and béchamel sauce or wild mushroom–stuffed ravioli in a garlic-herb sauce.
1933 was a banner year for Phillip and John Bargetto. Prohibition finally ended, and the brothers were able to reopen their winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Originally from Piedmont, Italy, Phillip and John embraced their passion for growing northern-Italian varietals, twining their hillsides with vines of dolcetto, nebbiolo, and refosco grapes.
Now run by the Bargetto family's third generation, the winery continues to cultivate these same grapes as well as two of Santa Cruz's more well-known varietals, chardonnay and pinot noir. Its most heralded wines hail from the 40 acres of trellised vines at Regan Estate Vineyards, which produces balanced yet concentrated fruit thanks to its sunny hilltop location, loamy soil, and cool breezes from thousands of naturally occurring ceiling fans.
Controlled aging in new-French- or American-oak barrels imbues some of the winery's reds with lingering finishes and toasty sweetness, and stainless-steel barrels ensure that the whites retain their vibrant acidity. Although most of the wines display a more approachable style, the La Vita line embraces the family's Old-World routes, featuring complexly tannic and age-worthy blends of Phillip and John's favored dolcetto, nebbiolo, and refosco grapes.
As the vineyard manager for Carmel Ridge Winery, Paul Stokes prefers to let nature take its course. He and his team intervene in the grapes' growth as little as possible, instead allowing the weather and the grapes themselves to let them know when to prune and pick. They also let the flavors of the soil seep into the vines, enhancing the grapes' character and flavor nuances. The winery's resident winemaker, Lynn Sakasegawa Stokes, is decidedly more hands-on when the fruit reaches her; she transfers the pressings to small lots of barrels for fermentation. Even then, the barrels are filled by a gravity-based flow system rather than by mechanical pumps—a system invented by Isaac Newton when he brewed his own small-batch cider—so the grapes maintain their earthy taste.
Since 1961, Bamboo Reef has been unlocking the depths of the ocean by training scuba adventurers, outfitting them with gear and repairing equipment on the fritz. Skilled instructors guide swimmers during diving classes that range from paddling in an 82-degree pool to advanced night navigation in the Pacific's dunk tank. Refresher and specialty courses continue students’ aquatic education after they’ve mastered the basics of gliding through the deep blue. Bamboo Reef also coordinates dives off the shores of Monterey, Carmel, and international coasts that count toward specialty, advanced, and master diver ratings as well as black belts in underwater kickboxing.
The water wizards also rent and sell gear from brands such as Aqua Lung and Mares. Professional technicians—who maintain more than $10,000 in parts inventory—stand at the ready to repair all major brands of scuba equipment.
Sultry red hanging lights decorate Ms. Tryss Boutique's ceiling, spotlighting the racks of sensual cocktail dresses and lingerie that stand alongside cubed shelves of glittering high heels. Past the rows of flirty merchandise, a curtained threshold leads to a private, 1,000-square-foot dance studio equipped with 12 spinning and stationary poles. Here, instructors helm advanced and intermediate pole-dancing fitness classes designed to tone muscles, burn fat, and boost confidence. The shop also rents out this studio space for private parties, where up to 50 guests can don heels and their most sensual porkpie hats for evenings of pole-dancing instruction and open practice.