At 2,600 feet up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, one might expect to find sprawling views of the ocean and surrounding forest and not flourishing vineyards. Yet there are more than 70 wineries dappling the hills at various altitudes, privy to the dewy, cooling breezes of the sea and the richness of the rocky soil. The San Francisco Chronicle speaks to their scattered presence, deeming them "less a cohesive wine region than a patchwork of vineyards." Still, this characteristic isolation has resulted in "a perfect laboratory for winemaking not held hostage to fashion"—no one style dominates in this rustic setting.
Pinot noirs and chardonnays populate the western front, and the east yields cabernets, merlots, and zinfandels. The majority of the vineyards are small and family owned—a fact reflected in their meticulously bottled libations and the matching sweaters of their holiday photos—but though they exist in chosen hermitage, many of them welcome visitors to their scenic sites. They host weddings, festivals, and open events such as Pathway to Pinot Paradise, a self-guided tour of the pinot noir hotspots.
Toque Blanche supplies home chefs with a selection of fine cookware for fashioning domestic delectations, earning it the best kitchenware title on the 2010 San Francisco Baylist. Cuisine artists can kit out kitchens with clay La Chamba pans, made of mica-infused black clay that absorbs and diffuses heat (starting at $19.95). Mandolin slicers from Kuhn-Rikon ($19.99) cut veggies into perfectly sliced 1/8-inch pieces and keeps fingers intact. Gadget collectors can evade metric-system mind games with a stainless-steel, seven-piece measuring-cup set from RSVP ($32.99), and opt for an ovenproof meat thermometer from CDN ($10.99) to monitor the fevers of fire spirits.
With spring spreading like a bag of spilled gravy, now is the ideal time to throw open the windows and get home-care projects underway. Pick up a Stanley six-piece screwdriver set for $6.99, a VPT rip hammer for $8.49, and a whole bunch of screws, anchors, and bolts (prices vary), and you'll be ready to finally mount every buffalo nickel and steel penny in your coin collection. Illuminate the newfound décor with a 12-pack of Ace light bulbs ($21.48), the better to see by as you make use of a Purdy four-piece premium paint-tray kit ($19.99). If you need to match paint to a favorite coverlet or choose a hue that complements a pleather recliner, each store offers a paint-matching service free of charge. Get keys made for $1.99 a pop, or clean a barnacle-encrusted carpet with the help of a carpet-cleaning machine ($30 a day to rent).
Since 1976, the environmentally conscious staff at The Futon Shop has stocked futons, furniture, and frames built from chemical-free cotton, natural latex, and hybrid soy foam, among other virtuous ingredients. Cushy mattresses, vibrantly shaded futon covers, and platform beds preserve the earth’s bounty as effectively as they accommodate human bodies and under-the-bed monsters. Homeowners can also illuminate domiciles with eco-friendly Eangee lamps, which have a carbon footprint of nearly zero and are manufactured by workers who earn a living wage. Even little ones can enjoy the environmentalist furnishings by napping on an organic crib mattress nestled in a bunny white baby crib.