The Boulder Wine Merchant has long been owned by master sommeliers (founders Sally Mohr and Wayne Belding passed the torch to Brett Zimmerman in 2010), making it a training ground for people interested in uncorking a career in wine. This benefits the discerning buyer in a few notable ways. First, staff expertise here is second to none in the region, which means you're going to get a well-thought-out recommendation, whether you're looking for a sub-$10 table wine or a special-occasion stunner. Second, the collection is both expansive and carefully considered, with several labels that you won't find anywhere else locally. And third, educational opportunities aren't just for staffers: The Merchant hosts a variety of tastings and events, and is quick to provide one-on-one tutelage when you stop by the shop.

Readers' Choice: Argonaut Liquor

Metro Caring's mission is simple: to connect the community with healthy food by removing economic barriers and other stigma attached to the traditional food-bank model. In fact, the nonprofit has taken that model and turned it upside down, creating a market where residents can "shop" for their food, and offering cooking classes that incorporate seasonal fare into easy-to-execute recipes. Sessions are taught on site in English and Spanish, with a focus on nutrition, diabetes prevention, culturally relevant recipe-sharing and family-cooking experiences...and the results are nourishing for teachers and students alike.

Readers' Choice: Create Cooking School

Refugees are enduring unfair criticism these days; in truth, most of them are hardworking people just trying to make a better life for their families. The Lincoln Park job incubator Food Bridge Marketplace encourages that goal by giving Middle Eastern and African refugees a practical lesson in American entrepreneurship. Here they can sell specialty kitchen staples to neighbors, as well as offer a taste of their exotic homeland cuisines at food-vendor booths. As a result, Food Bridge Marketplace is not just a critical step for those trying to find success in a new land; it's also a delicious place to visit for those who were born here.

Boulder County Farmers' Market
Juliet Wittman

Long before farmers' markets popped up in just about every neighborhood in the metro area, there was the Boulder County Farmers' Market, a twice-weekly gathering of local growers, ranchers, dairy farmers and purveyors that consistently lured a large community of shoppers, chefs, browsers and socialites. That market — held on Saturdays from April through November and also on Wednesdays from May to October — has only gotten better with age, adding food trucks, makers, cooking demonstrations and live music over the years. The model's been so successful that market managers have spun off satellite markets in Longmont and Lafayette and at Denver's Union Station. Still, it's worth a trip to the original: Go early if you're after tip-top ingredients, later if you're into the social scene.

Readers' Choice: Old South Pearl Street Farmers' Market

We loved the tiny Golden Triangle gardening shop Urban Roots from the very beginning, when Diane Stahl opened it up more than fifteen years ago — and it was a sad day when Susanne Wood, who eventually took over the store, retired and closed its doors last fall. But then ten-year Urban Roots manager David Gesink, landscape manager Meagan Murray and Jim Henry teamed up to revive the space under a new name, Plant Garage. Indoor plants now abound inside as the new owners rev up for their first spring gardening season. Here's to upward growth!

Bold color meets greenery in the loveliest way at Green Lady Gardens, which captures the spirit of a Mexican patio garden, only indoors. Mexi-colored walls and Latin American folk art adorn the shop, but the real stars of the show are the plants, with regular shipments bringing new life to the premises every week. An emphasis on indoor plant-care tips and personalized customer service make Green Lady Gardens a beginner's paradise, as well as a standby where old hands with green thumbs can refurbish their collections.

The charming Little Lula Rose is blooming in the grit of East Colfax, and the shop invites you to dig into the nuances of creating your own gorgeous arrangements. Little Lula Rose offers workshops that will help you transform store-bought flowers into lovely bouquets; the pros here will also advise you on how to plant your garden with a goal of creating a bountiful harvest of flowers perfect for making full-blown arrangements at home.

No, edn doesn't specialize in that kind of herb, so check your dorm-room fantasies at the door. A local company founded in 2016, edn combines a love of technology, design and nature in a smartgarden that allows you to grow herbs, flowers and other plants in any room of your home. There's no need for natural sunlight; there's no need for rain. These smartgardens give you control of the weather, notify you when your plants are thirsty or ready to cultivate, and guide you through the whole process from seed to harvest. The company even offers a subscription service for seed pods based on cultivation cycles, or you can purchase single units based on your needs. In a world of limitless connectivity, edn has found the way to connect you to your indoor garden.

Do you love art? Do you really love weed? Artist Don Varga and life partner Tootie bring the two together with folk-art pieces made with real weed (pressed marijuana leaves and flower) and "real love" on beetle-kill pine, augmented by paint and varnish. They have several in-stock pieces that would make perfect gifts for all your friends who wish they lived in Colorado (and are easier to ship across state lines), but they'll also make art to order. Look for them in Civic Center Park on 4/20.

Nicotine vapes are smokin' hot right now. While many people are familiar with the compact Juul device, serious vapers are all about the colossus of cloud. For those ready to master vape tricks and become a walking fog machine, Denver Vapor hits the spot. Staffers are experts on matching the right vape and nicotine level, and can describe the delights of a huge selection of e-liquid flavors, everything from guava cheesecake to a combo of apple, doughnut and milk. The hours are expansive, the products not that expensive. Puff, puff, pass.

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