Blue Water Ventures owner and naturalist Kim Powell and her trained staff of naturalists lead adventurous groups on tours of trails and waterways from the East Bay of California to San Jose's Elkhorn Slough, exploring caves, forests, and wildlife-rich areas on the way. On protected Elkhorn Slough, groups of up to 20 make their way on stable kayaks as their attentive tour guides give rich history of the area and point out wildlife including seals and sea otters. In Florida's Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, groups snorkel and canoe to observe wild west indian manatees and their notorious poker habits.
The company also does specialty tours for school groups that include tide-pooling adventures and trekking through a redwood forest to see some of the country's oldest trees. Tours for women-only groups include private cruises where ladies can spy whales and a variety of seaborne wildlife, including fish, dolphins, and long-lost swim fins.
Dave Bruno School of Golf's trio of talented teachers enhances stances and spruces swings with in-depth one-on-one how-tos. Each golf guru targets the lesson to the player's skill level, whether they need a comprehensive overview of golfing basics or focused refinement of their long game, short game, putting, or fending off of were-caddies during full moons. Each lesson comes with an equipment evaluation to ensure golfers have the appropriate gear to suit their physique and playing style, sparing newbies the frustration of trying to escape a sand trap with a plastic wiffle bat.
Born and raised in the Santa Cruz Mountains region, winemaker Mica Raas spent his childhood soaking up knowledge of the hills around his home—many of which were speckled with vineyards and small wineries. After working for years in wineries up and down the spine of California’s wine country, Mica returned to those familiar hills to make his own wine.
Today, all grapes used in Mica Cellars’ wines come from small, family-run vineyards around Monterey Bay. In order to instill each wine with character and a “sense of place,” the winemakers only blend grapes that grew together in a single vineyard. Mica describes his approach to creating wine as “careful management of microbial chaos,” treating it as an art that requires him to be attuned to the strengths of the grapes as well as their common weaknesses, such as chocolate and men in cowboy boots.
Mica Cellars keeps production small—no fermentor is larger than one ton—and blends techniques from Old and New World winemaking to craft each vintage. The winery use oak barrels for aging, which allows for a light touch of the wood’s personality to enter the grapes, and they steer clear of the 1980s experiments that led to raisins coming to life and starting their own musical groups. Among their current wines is a 2009 cabernet franc from Babcock Winery in the Suisun Valley, with a nose of stone fruits that leads into a full-bodied dance of chocolate and coconut and a finish with hints of allspice and licorice.
Practice is only beneficial if a player is disciplined. In other words, sloppy practice produces sloppy performance on the course, while true gains are only realized by concerted effort and repetition. The same goes for practice facilities: lots of experience hitting off of dirt or putting on shag carpeting isn't going to do much good when it comes to playing on a well-tended course.
Recognizing this, Pacific Golf Centers tends to its 9.5 acres with the same precision and care as would an exclusive country club. It keeps its 15 grass tees laser leveled at 5/16" and equips 17 of its 43 synthetic tees with TrackTee monitors, which provide immediate feedback on shot parameters such as ball speed and overall distance. Three putting greens, meanwhile, let players get their fill of practice rolls and no-look chips, and teaching pro Bruce Vieira is always ready to step in when players are in need of some extra help. Once hooks have been straightened and iron accuracy calibrated, players should head into the Tap House for a well-deserved beer while enjoying sports programming on HD televisions.
Elkhorn Yacht Club Youth Sailing Foundation has educated fleets of aquatic explorers in the nuances of sailing along the picturesque Monterey Bay for more than half a century. During three-hour introductory lessons, certified instructors lead students through the fundamentals of wind-powered boating, covering everything from safety procedures to tying knots around the ankles of pirates. After a series of land drills, students and their sailing sensei embark upon the calm waters of the harbor to test learned skills, including trimming the jib, reading the weather's Twitter feed, and confidently handling their simply rigged Lido 14 skiffs.
Mikael Wargin has been on the path to a career in winemaking since he was a kid. After spending his teenage years fermenting apple cider, he majored in biochemistry at UC Santa Cruz and, after graduating, decided to put his skills to use in the cellar rather than a laboratory or a Twinkie factory. Today, he and his wife Denise own their own boutique winery, represented by the Fairy Wine Mother, a carefree, middle-aged absinthe fairy that, in their own words, "was very happy to have a drink." The fairy's convivial attitude is reflected in all their wines, but most of all, in their signature Big & Beautiful wine, a montepulciano-based Italian blend. And while they're most passionate about Italian varietals, these winemakers also craft petite sirah, late-harvest zinfandel, and chardonnay with the same care and precision.