Audio/Video

Audiophile Sound Systems, Home Theater, Computer Audio - Purchasing and Upgrades.

Automotive

Purchasing, Storage, Detailing, Aftermarket.

Wine and Spirits

Wine Tastings and Tours, Cellaring, Collecting, Purchases.

Travel and Leisure

Resorts, Hotels, Restaurants, Destinations.

Kitchen, Cooking and Food

Design, Appliances, Knives, Entertaining.

Welcome to Connoisseur Corner - Luxe Consulting and Executive Services

I am Marty Feldmann - The Connoisseur - Consultant, Concierge, Blogger. Your resource and guide to the art of fine living.

I provide personalized service regarding Audio/Video, Automotive, Wine and Spirits, Travel and Leisure, Kitchen/Cooking and Food, Trends and Technology. My purpose at Connoisseur Corner is to provide you the knowledge and roadmap in enriching your life. Let me spend the time and do the work to get you there.

9/25/16

Wine Time - Killer Cabs from Beau Vigne..!


Family…    An important word to Ed Snider, founder of Beau Vigne Winery.  With Napa Valley roots dating back to 1913, this family-owned winery sprung to life in 2002 and has been rocketing skyward ever since!

A true boutique-sized producer with production of roughly 4,000 cases per annum, the estate currently consists of 9 planted acres, 8 dedicated to Cabernet Sauvignon and 1 acre split between Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.  The vines are located in the Atlas Peak appellation to the east of the valley at the Stags Ridge Vineyard & Ranch.  Grapes are also sourced from other top shelf vineyards such as Dutton Ranch and Lewelling. 


Killer Cabs = yum…!

With Kirk Venge directing the winemaking, Beau Vigne has been cranking out some pretty terrific Cabernet Sauvignons and blends.  Word has it that one Mr. Parker even granted a perfect score to the 2013 Beau Vigne Reserve..!  Indeed, the entirety of the Beau Vigne Cab-based lineup from the Estate through the Juliet and Romeo bottlings are all worthy of mention, as the quality is at a consistently top-tier level.  Other finely crafted varietals are represented in the portfolio, including Merlot, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. 


A recent visit to the tasting room in Yountville yielded a relaxed and educational tasting.  Beau Snider, son of Ed (remember “family”), is a knowledgeable and thoughtful host, a trait that seems to apply to all at Beau Vigne. Walk-ins are welcomed here, as well as more tailored visits via appointment.  Should you be the adventurous type, vineyard tours can also be booked in advance.

Well worth seeking out, Beau Vigne will be a highlight of any trip to the Napa Valley…

Cheers!



9/24/16

CRN’s Atlante - Super Yacht or Battleship?




In sharp contrast to other yachts from Italian builder CRN, the exterior design of the 180-foot Atlante sports a decidedly militarized look.  Venice-based yacht design studio Nuvolari Lenard penned the dark, angular and brooding craft, lending a distinct presence that stands out in the luxury yacht crowd.

It’s not a Battleship…

Once aboard, you lose the military vibe courtesy of a subtler design touch from Gilles & Bossier interior design.  You will find the expected luxury trimmings and style in a crisp and clean aesthetic.  A killer master suite, stylized living areas, a customized “beach club” and various automatic sun roofs are among the features present and accounted for.  And don’t forget the 20 tons of marble…
Did I say “20 tons”?

Indeed, there are 20 tons of marble walling throughout the yacht’s interior.  Apparently marble does float.  Truly rock and roll…!
For a closer look, check out CRN’s video tour.  This is one killer battleship… er… yacht…!





9/14/16

YG Acoustics Sonja XV – World’s Best Speaker?



The folks at YG Acoustics have gone totally bonkers…!

Not really, but they sure do know how to mark a milestone!  The Colorado-based speaker manufacturer, founded by one Yoav Geva, is celebrating their 15th anniversary.  What better way to do so than creating your ultimate statement, the best speaker you can engineer, no holds barred!

Say hello to the Sonja XV   
(A wee bit more sizeable than their entry-level Carmel 2 in my article here…)

Four towers (two per side), twenty drivers, and 18 months of development time have yielded an impressive beast.  This was truly a cost-no-object program, with virtually all elements engineered and machined in-house.  Interestingly enough, the star of all this grandiosity may very well be the smallest element:  the tweeter!
Come on people!  It’s the small speaker producing the highest notes…

During the development process, the YG team came up with what they refer to as their BilletDome tweeter.  They describe it as their “most complex mechanical invention to date”.  While I have yet to hear the Sonja XV, some industry insiders are reporting jaw-dropping sound, largely due to this little gem!
Along with the tweeter, improvements were made in the bass, mid-bass and midrange drivers, as well as all crossovers.  As per YG Acoustics tradition, the cabinets themselves are over-engineered, leading to vanishing levels of vibration and mechanical loss.

Even the sight is impressive, in an industrial sort of way.  Each of the four towers stands 70” tall and scales at 463 pounds, give or take an ounce.
The best there is?  Quite possibly, but you will need to let your ears decide.  Impressive for sure, and well worth an audition if you are in the top-of-the-line market.

MSRP:  $265,900.00



9/5/16

W&P Design Carry-On Cocktail Kit – Flying Right..!



For the cocktail connoisseur among you, what do you do when you are at 38,000 feet? 

Let’s face it, an adult beverage made by a flight attendant qualifies as generic at best.  That Bloody Mary will surely leave something to be desired…

No worries folks, the team at W&P Design has come to the rescue with their Carry-On Cocktail Kit!
Now you can be your own mixologist while blasting through the clouds at warp speed.  5 kits are available, covering various tastes…

·         Old Fashioned

·         Gin & Tonic

·         Moscow Mule

·         Champagne Cocktail

·         Bloody Mary

Each kit contains ingredients for two beverages. 
If you are on a long flight and have a spirited thirst, you may want to bring along multiples.  The Travel Pack will do that for you.  A canvas and leather bag, it holds three kits and comes with one each of the Mule, Gin & Tonic and Old Fashioned.  The kits are individually priced at $24.00, and the Travel Pack w/3 kits goes for $90.00. 

Now your taste buds are sure to enjoy the flight…
Cheers…!



9/3/16

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC Coupe – No Coupe Here!



The folks at Mercedes-Benz HQ in Stuttgart truly have no regard whatsoever for automotive naming convention.  Not only are there four doors plus a hatchback on the GLC Coupe, but it is not even a car…!

SUV...?   Crossover…?  Eh…
So what do we really have here?  Let’s start with Mercedes’ recently introduced GLC mid-sized SUV.  A well designed and engineered vehicle getting a substantial amount of kudos from the automotive press.  Now let’s chop the rear roofline down and lower the thing a bit in the name of sport and style. 

Actually, I place much blame on MB’s rival, BMW.  A while back, BMW created this sport SUV niche with the creation of the X6, based on their “normal” X5 SUV.  Mercedes followed with their GLE Coupe, based on the GLE SUV.  BMW fires back with the X4, based on the mid-sized X3.  MB now returns fire with the GLC Coupe. 
Sheesh…!

There will be two flavors of the GLC Coupe, the first being the 4-cylinder powered base model with 241-hp and 273 lb-ft of torque.  This is the same engine proliferating the C-Class and GLC lineup.  A 9-speed transmission shifts the gears, driving the 4Matic all-wheel drive.  All of the usual Mercedes tech bits are either standard or can be had with a check of the right boxes on the order form.  The next step up in performance will be the AMG GLC 43 (pictured), from the Benz performance wing.  This will bump you up to a V6 biturbo engine spitting out 362-hp, 384 lb-ft of torque, and several speeding tickets…!
GLC Coupe interior bits are lifted from the C-Class and GLC, meaning you get one of the best driving environments in the class. 

To my eyes the GLC Coupe is the best realization of this aesthetically challenged class of SUV, certainly better proportioned than their larger GLE Coupe.  I suspect you will see a sampling of this new buggy at your favorite high-profile valet stand in the near future. 
Due in showrooms early next year, if a sporty hauler is your thing, the GLC Coupe is definitely worth a look…

8/17/16

Pryma 0|1 Headphones – Are These Sexy…?


Yes…

Headphones can indeed be sexy, and these are it…!
Portable music is all the rage these days, regardless of your audiophile status.  Everywhere you go, somebody is cruisin’ with “cans” on their ears.

Beats…  Bose… blah-blah…  The brands are almost endless, but today we are going to talk about the Pryma 0|1 headphones. 
Firmly entrenched in the audiophile world, the Prymas sound excellent!  Made by Italian speaker manufacturer Sonus Faber, known for products that are beautiful as well as sounding exceptional, the headphones follow suit.  The sound may not be completely neutral, or “exact” to the source music, but they tend to add a hint of warmth to a recording.  Not enough to be off-putting, but just a slice to add… beauty.  The effect will likely make you enjoy listening all that more, without even realizing why. 

As for the looks, a solid and uniquely shaped earcup surrounded by a nickel band gets things started.  The headband locks in place with stainless steel buckles.  There is all manner of leather, microfiber, and carbon steel (a strong, yet elastic material), all sewn together in an Italian suit kind-of-way.  Truly a vision to behold.  To top it off, the parts are all detachable, allowing the buyer to customize parts, creating any of a number of individual looks.
Starting at $499.00, these headphones will make your ears and eyes happy.  If you buy a pair, just keep in mind that you are copying Beyoncé.

What the...?
Yep….  In the video of the song Sandcastles from Lemonade, you will catch her at the piano wearing a pair of Prymas.  I guess they really do sound good…?   (wink)

Sexy indeed…!



8/14/16

Audio Reference Technology – Italian Audio Artistry


Luigi Basagni is not an Italian chef, but rather an audio engineer.  Growing up with a love of music and the requisite engineer’s desire to make everything better, Luigi set out to make good sounding stereo systems great.

Audio Reference Technology was born…

Luigi’s vision?  Investigate and improve how the signal was transported between existing equipment; the cabling between the CD players, amplifiers, speakers…  Power delivery and isolation were also part of the development focus, as was vibration control.  After over 30 years in business, today you’ll find a full array of signal and power cabling and connectors, not to mention several tuning accessories, all created with the goal of making the sonic result “real”.
With strictly in-house parts and manufacturing (no pre-made parts are outsourced), Basagni and his team leave no stone unturned in the engineering process, whether it be conductivity, insulation or termination.  Everything has been addressed and fine tuned to the A.R.T. methodology.

But just what is that A.R.T. sound?   ……..
James Liu, A.R.T.’s Director of Business Development sent over several review samples including the Power Distributor and associated cable clamps, Super SE Mains 1.5M power cable, and a couple boxes of the Base Stands.  I spent several months with these products and ran everything through the usual battery of tests and comparisons.  Configurations and setups were changed, some components were swapped out, the audio room was painted (kidding)… 

Through it all, there were certain sonic characteristics at play.  The first thing that struck me, and stayed with me for the duration, regardless of the music genre, was the presentation of the bass.  The weight and decisive manner of the lower octaves was striking, with no detectable smear or loss of detail.  It didn’t come off as spotlighting, just an addition of correct foundation and pace.  I also noted improvements in what I will refer to as tone, texture and presence throughout the frequency range.  A.R.T. refers to it as a “natural and relaxed” sound, and I am inclined to concur. As can happen when attempting to evaluate quality audio gear, many of my testing sessions evolved into hours enjoying music.  I am guessing this is what Luigi and Co. intended…
A bit of food for thought:  If you own a tube-based system that already leans toward a honeyed sound, this might not be the cable direction for you.  I’ll let your ears decide.  However, anyone with solid state equipment should give the Audio Reference Technology gear a try.  I think it can be an excellent addition and you will likely be pleased with the results.  Keep in mind, this is rarified, high-quality (read: not inexpensive) equipment, so your budget will need to be considered.  The 1.5 meter Super SE Mains power cable MSRPs at $2950.00.

Oh… just one more thing…  Did I mention Italian?
As with seemingly all things emanating from Italy, you get the visuals to go with…  The car not only has to perform among the best, it needs to look amazing while doing so.  Some might say this is what luxury and artistry is all about.  A.R.T. products certainly adhere to that mindset…

Artistry and performance, the Italian way...! 
Well done Luigi..!



8/6/16

World’s Most Expensive Suite – The Mark Hotel in NY


Thank goodness…!  Now you don’t have to fly all the way to Switzerland to stay in the world’s most expensive hotel suite. 

Until recently, the Royal Penthouse Suite at the President Wilson Geneva overlooking Lake Leman and the Mont-Blanc Alps had bragging rights with a $60,000/night price tag.  Now the city of New York takes the crown, courtesy of The Mark Hotel in Manhattan.

12,000 square feet on two stories will get you started.  A private elevator whisks you up in peace and quiet, unless you are having guests.  You can easily handle the overflow crowd with five bedrooms, a library lounge, two full bars, a conservatory and the obligatory 2,500 sq-ft rooftop terrace.  The dining room can seat up to 24, and you can book Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten to prepare the grub. 
Impressed yet?

Let’s pile on with electronic control panels in each room, HDTVs everywhere, Italian bedding in all bedrooms.  The master boudoir kicks it up further with a sitting room, his-and-her master bathrooms and dressing areas with custom walk-in closets, heated floors for those chilly NY nights, and an infinity soaking tub for infinite relaxation...!
If you are not awestruck yet, I can’t help you, but keep in mind that the attentive staff at The Mark promises any expectations will be taken care of.

And just one more thing…  Price…?
$75,000 / night

Sweet dreams…



7/31/16

Blueberry Margarita – Cure for the Summertime Blues



A good heatwave can crank up the thirst level like nobody’s business!  After a week of summertime heat with triple digits in full effect, it was time for a little quenching. 

Coinciding with said heat-generated thirst crisis, there happened to be a large container of blueberries in the fridge.

Hmmm…     Blueberries…     Thirsty…
And just like that, visions of blueberry margaritas danced in my parched frontal lobe.  I decided to conjure up a simple recipe for this blue-tinted elixir.  As with all things cocktail, there are 387,000 different variations of each recipe in the ether.  Mine is purposefully streamlined with minimal ingredients and easy to adjust if need be.  Construction is as follows:

For 2 cocktails…
·         ½ cup blueberries
·         Juice of 2 limes
·         4 oz. blanco tequila (good quality is a must)
·         1.5 oz. Cointreau
·         Splash of agave nectar to taste

Muddle blueberries with lime juice.  Strain into cocktail shaker.  Add remaining ingredients with ice and shake to combine.  Pour over ice in two rocks glasses.  Garnish with skewered blueberries or a lime wedge.
Done…      Thirst vanquished…!

A quick and simple recipe for a hot summer’s eve.  Feel free to edit things to your liking.  My half-cup of blueberries was overflowing.  You can also dial up or down the nectar and try taking the Cointreau down to 1 oz. and see how it works for you. 
Cheers…!



Yvette - Wilson Audio’s Newest Speaker Gem


The folks at one of my favorite speaker companies, Wilson Audio in Provo, Utah, are at it again!  They have been on a roll lately, debuting several new models in their sonic lineup.  (see the Sabrina and Alexandria blogs)  The latest is a replacement for the Sophia model, but there has been a name change…

Introducing Yvette!

The complete and utter reengineering of the Sophia called for the name change.  Daryl Wilson states on the company Facebook page that the speaker “...no longer was of Sophia DNA”.
Fine then…

It’s all good news for the audiophile and music loving crowd.  Using trickle-down technology from their Alexia and Alexx projects, Yvette is sure to perform in spectacular fashion.  Wilson Audio claims Yvette to be “the most advanced and musically refined single-enclosure loudspeaker in Wilson’s history.”  Of course your ears will be the judge...!
As for specification, Yvette is a 3-way speaker with a 1” tweeter, 7” midrange and 10” woofer filling out the low end.  Frequency Response is said to be +/- 3 dB from a low 20 Hz (hello pipe organ) all the way up to 25 kHz.  The cabinet itself is comprised of Wilson’s proprietary X-Material and S-Material composites and each tower weighs in at 175 lbs and stands 41” tall.

Warning!  Don’t try to move these by yourself…!
With all of the improvements in enclosure technology, speaker construction and time coherency, the Yvette is sure to sound a cut above.  If you are in the market for a pair of transducers in the mid-20K range, these need to be on your audition list.  I don’t think your ears will be disappointed!