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Welcome to Connoisseur Corner - Luxe Consulting and Executive Services

Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer. Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…

Marty can be contacted at: 916.952.9529


BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe Debuts

Question: What happens when the engineers at BMW have a tug-of-war with a 6 Series coupe in the middle?

Answer: The car is stretched 4.4 inches, adds two doors and becomes the 6 Series Gran Coupe!

Filling a niche created by Mercedes with their CLS four-door coupe and recently joined by Audi with their gorgeous A7, BMW has unveiled their entry with the Gran Coupe. Adding a bit over 4 inches and two extra doors to the 6 Series works surprisingly well from an aesthetic standpoint. The 6er Gran Coupe is one nice looking sedan…er…coupe. BMW refers to the look as “athletic elegance”.

The 2013 640i Gran Coupe will be the first iteration to market in the early summer of 2012 with BMW’s familiar turbocharged inline 6 cylinder engine. Late summer will see the arrival of the 650i Gran Coupe and a turbocharged V8 motor. An all-wheel drive 650i xDrive will be available at this time as well. An 8-speed Sport Automatic Transmission will be standard in all models providing excellent sporting characteristics as well as aiding fuel efficiency.

The cosseting interior will be familiar to anyone with time in the current 6 Series, as the layout is essentially unchanged. Excellent fit-and-finish and a wide variety of color combinations are available, including BMW’s Individual program. The techno-geek will be in heaven as well, as the latest gadgetry is in attendance, including BMW’s new ConnectedDrive driver assistance systems and mobility services. This is an excellent environment in which to pass the miles in appropriate luxury and technology.

Production will take place at BMW’s largest plant in Dingolfing, Germany along with the other 6 Series models and also the 7 Series and 5 Series. Pricing has yet to be announced, but figure it to come in a notch above the current 6 Series Coupe models.


Porsche’s New 911 – the 991 Breaks Cover

Out with the old and in with the new…

One of the most iconic and recognizable cars of all time, the Porsche 911, has been pinched, pulled, poked, prodded and completely redone by those tireless engineers in Zuffenhausen. Fear not, ye Porschephiles, the new 911 looks to be a winner!

With the initial public debut at next month’s Frankfurt Motor Show, Porsche has now released official pictures and information for the new sports car, following months of speculation and spy photos on the internet.

What we have is a longer and wider yet lower and lighter vehicle. The most drastic change is a wheelbase 3.9 inches longer than the outgoing model. This will increase interior room, improve stability at high speeds, and also move the mass of the rear-mounted engine slightly forward in relation to the rear wheels, improving at-the-limit handling characteristics.

Propulsion in the base 911 Carrera model is provided by a 3.4 liter boxer engine, smaller than the previous gen’s 3.6, yet with slightly more power at 350 hp and also better fuel efficiency. The uprated Carrera S gets the larger 3.8 liter engine with 400 hp on tap. The cars should accelerate from 0 – 60 mph in 4.4 and 4.1 seconds respectively, according to the folks at Porsche. Available transmissions will be the 7-speed PDK dual-clutch gearbox as well as a new 7-speed manual.

Great care has been taken with interior revisions as well. Gone is the dated and somewhat sparse environment – purists called it “businesslike” – replaced by design cues taken from the Panamera and Carrera GT models. These changes produce a more enveloping environment while maintaining the sporting and driver oriented Porsche “feel”.

Due in showrooms beginning February 2012, the Carrera will MSRP at $82,100 and the Carrera S at $96,400. Porsche’s usual extensive list of options and customizations will be available as well…at a cost!

I like what I see here. Porsche’s development team has done well with the latest 911 and it should be a great performer both on the road and in the showroom. Place that order now to get at the head of the list..!


GSM – There’s No Place Like Rhone

If you do a reasonable amount of wine tasting or maybe just hang out in tasting rooms, you may have recently heard the term “Rhone blend” or more specifically…”it’s a GSM”.

While that may strike you as an acronym for a fancy car or a significant muscle injury, I am in fact referring to the varietals of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre from the Rhone wine region of France.

The GSM blend will normally consist largely of Grenache, followed by Syrah and then Mourvèdre. However, a visit to the northern Rhone region will see Syrah taking over the majority role. (Can you say SGM..?) These three varietals are the main players from the Rhone, but there are in fact over 20 grapes that are allowed in blends from the Rhone AOC. Many blends will use small quantities of Carignan, Cinsaut, Viognier or other secondary varieties. Just use the term “Rhone blend” and you will be sure to cover all your bases.

Rhone blends are for the most part ready to drink right off the bat but can be aged for a few years if desired. The flavor profile leans toward ripe dark berries with some peppery, earthy, rustic qualities. For a great food pairing try some rosemary herbed meats on the grill.

Fire up the barbeque, open that Rhone blend and enjoy..!


The New BMW M5 – Fifth Generation Monster

In a follow-up to my article on the M5 “Concept”, BMW has now released the official specs for the production vehicle.

But first, a brief history lesson…

It all started in 1984, when BMW’s M (Motorsport) division decided to take their midsize 5-Series sedan and…how shall I put this? …”increase the performance envelope” with various suspension and powertrain modifications. A succession of high-performance yet stealthy sedans followed.

This brings us to today’s 5th generation fire-breathing beast of a car, known in BMW-speak as the F10 M5.

Here now are the official details:

• A twin scroll turbocharged V8 with 560 freaking insane horsepower and 501 lb-ft of torque!

• 7-speed DCT transmission, although spy photos seem to indicate that a 6-speed manual will be available in the near future as well.

• Top speed of 189 mph with the optional M-Drivers Package.

• 0-100km (62 mph) in 4.4 seconds

• Two configurable set-ups accessible from the M Drive button on the steering wheel. Customizable parameters include suspension, steering, throttle, shifting, head-up display and kryptonite… (Uh… never mind the kryptonite!)

Top this off with a generous helping of M-specific exterior and interior design cues, as well as improved fuel economy, and you have one impressive vehicle.

The 2012 M5 should be available early Q4 of this year. Place that order now!


BMW’s 2012 1-Series Hatchback Debuts (F20)

The most diminutive of BMW 4-door models, the 1-Series hatchback, has been reengineered from the ground up.

The Bavarian hot hatch gets all new sheetmetal, although the redesign is what I would categorize as mildly progressive in regards to the previous generation. Showing cues from BMWs current design direction, the new 1-er sports a similar grille treatment as the recently updated 7 and 5-Series. The car’s side and rear hatch treatments both show subtly tailored improvements as well. The main item of discussion however is sure to be the headlight design... best judged in person to get the full effect. Overall the car projects the sporty persona that BMW is known for.

Speaking of sporty, the F20 (factory production code) maintains rear-wheel drive, quite possibly the single most important aspect to many BMW aficionados for the handling characteristics this imparts. Two engines in five different flavors will initially be offered. The 116i and 118i use an in-line 4 cylinder turbocharged gasoline engine outputting 136 and 170 horsepower respectively. Three diesel variants, also a 4 cylinder turbocharged engine, will power the 116d, 118d and 120d models.

The interior of the little Bimmer looks to be nicely put together with the expected levels of quality materials and fit and finish. The latest iteration of BMW’s ubiquitous iDrive navigation system will be optional. The car will be available in two pre-packaged configurations, labeled Sport Line and Urban Line.

And now for the bad news… the American contingent will again be bypassed with availability as the decision makers in Munich continue to feel that small premium hatchbacks are not in demand. Maybe we can change their minds..!


Jaeger-LeCoultre and the Custom Reverso

Today we are going to discuss high-end luxury watches. More specifically the Swiss brand Jaeger-LeCoultre. Or for you ultra-cool hipsters, “JLC”.

In 1833 a Swiss gent by the name of Antoine LeCoultre opened a small workshop manufacturing high-quality timepieces. Years later his grandson teamed up with a Frenchman by the name of Edmond Jaeger and the rest is history. Today these elegant watches with their consummate movements sell for $5,000 and up… a true luxury item.

Oftentimes when making a purchase of this sort, the buyer would like some sort of customization to make it a one-off item. Adding that certain singular quality to the watch…

JLC agrees and is now offering the chance to do so from your living room couch via the Internet with their Reverso model and this website. The aptly named Reverso is known for its flip-around case, and now the backside can be enhanced with engravings, enamel work or jewel settings. The only limit is your imagination…and of course your checkbook.

Mitsubishi TV Goes Big – Dumps LCD

Electronics giant Mitsubishi is following a curious path in the world of HD televisions.

While virtually all other manufacturers are investing heavily in the world of LCD and to some degree Plasma displays, those making the decisions at Mitsubishi are abandoning that ship…but climbing aboard another featuring rear projection.

Yes, I said “rear projection”…

Surely you recall those large boxes that were all the television status symbol rage back in the pre-flat screen days. Well, fortunately technology has progressed and those boxes are now slender, lightweight and project a mighty impressive image! As virtually all other manufacturers have left this technology, Mitsubishi would appear to have the market cornered.

Maybe not such a crazy idea after all..!

And now for the particulars… The entry-level will be the 640 Series, which consists of a 3D capable 73-inch screen in full 1080p that will retail for $1,599. A step up is the 740 Series in both 73 and 82-inch sizes and adds built in 3D, networking capability and a remote app for iPhones and iPads. Pricing here is set at $2,099 and $3,499 respectively.

The top of the heap will be the Diamond 840 Series which has the 73 and 82-inch sizes, as well as a ginormous 92-inch model priced at $5,999. The Diamond series adds advanced picture controls as well as the Clear Contrast Screen, Bluetooth audio support and a 16-speaker sound projector.

Did I say 92-inches..? Wow!

If you want to go big with your home theater, this may be your ticket..!


Oscar Mayer Joins the Food Truck Craze

Ah, it’s one of the most iconic and easily recognizable vehicles on the road today.

The Wienermobile

The folks at Oscar Mayer have a fleet of seven of these most clever of rolling billboards, but now there is a new addition. Only this one is a bit different…

With a twist on the Food Truck craze that is sure to give Kogi and other gourmet Food Truckers a chuckle, Oscar Mayer has rolled out a 30-foot food truck with hot dogs to go! Celebrity Chef Tyler Florence took part in the rollout and the truck is currently on a 12 city tour in the Midwest. The company also is donating $50,000 to the Feeding America charity to mark the occasion.

If you are in the area, be sure to track that truck down and sample a dog…



Boeing 747-8: Big Bird Gets an Update

The original “Jumbo Jet”, Boeing’s familiar and iconic 747, is getting a makeover.

First announced in 2005, the 747-8 is the result of substantial advancements in aviation technology. This new Jumbo will be cleaner, quieter and more economical to operate than previous editions. It also gives Boeing a strategic response to competition from the newly operational Airbus A380.

Updates include a new wing design with reduced drag, increased lift and greater fuel capacity. New engines from General Electric, known as the GEnx 2B, will be substantially quieter and consume less fuel. Boeing even managed to put the new version on a diet, bringing it in about a ton lighter than the previous 747 version.

Pilots will enjoy a flight deck stocked with state-of-the-art avionics and navigation systems. The folks at Boeing say the new plane is somewhat of a flying computer, all in the name of efficiency and performance. Much of the technology is shared with the upcoming 787 Dreamliner.

Passengers will notice substantial changes as well, with Boeing’s new passenger compartment design theme and technologies in full effect. Curved and flowing surfaces, LED lighting, improved storage and a quieter environment are all evident, leading to an improved travel experience.

Currently in flight and systems testing, initial deliveries of the latest and greatest Jumbo Jet are expected late this year or early 2012, with initial orders going to Lufthansa and Korean Air.

Sure to be a first-rate way to cross the miles, we look forward to the new and improved “dash eight”…


Samuel Adams Utopia…World’s Best Beer?

If you are dying of thirst and in the mood to quickly quaff an ice-cold brew, I suggest you look away. This beer is different.

One of a growing example of “extreme beers”, Samuel Adams Utopia is meant to be savored…


Boston Beer Company founder and master brewer Jim Koch first released Utopia to the world in 2002. Using specially prepared malt and noble hops, a laborious brewing process utilizing techniques from the whiskey and cognac world results in a rather un-beer type of beverage. The 2011 batch was aged in various bourbon, sherry, brandy and cognac casks, some of which rested for 16 years. The final result is a rich, complex and scrumptious beverage.

And at 27 percent alcohol by volume, this is serious stuff..!

The Utopia is of course a limited release product, as approximately 50 barrels are made per release. The 24 ounce handcrafted ceramic bottles are individually numbered for collection purposes. Famed glassmaker Riedel has even created a special glass for Utopia, to promote the ultimate tasting experience with a recommended 2 ounce pour.

Listing at $150 per bottle and with market prices often substantially higher due to limited availability, Utopia is well worth the effort and is one special beverage.



WP24 – Wolfgang Puck’s Latest Hot-Spot

Wolfgang Puck, longtime veteran of the celebrity chef world, apparently cannot sit still. Now in his 60s, the hugely successful chef and restaurateur has opened his latest venture…

Located on the 24th floor (thus the name) of the new Ritz-Carlton at L.A. Live in Los Angeles, WP24 is Puck’s latest take on Asian cuisine, something he touched on in the mid-80s with his highly acclaimed Chinois on Main.

Chef de Cuisine Sara Johannes mans the helm for Chef Puck, and the kitchen exhibits a high degree of flair and refinement in their work. From the dumplings and spring rolls to the Singapore chili prawns and Szechuan beef, the execution is first-rate with flavors and presentation holding the bar at a high level.

Top it all off with a sleek and sexy atmosphere and a breathtaking panoramic view of Los Angeles and you have what is sure to be a memorable and taste-bud tantalizing meal.

Highly recommended..!


Adele’s 21 is the One

It’s a fairly common occurrence in the music industry… the Sophomore Slump. A hot new performer debuts with a quality album that succeeds in the marketplace, only to follow up a year or two later with music of disturbingly lesser quality.

Not so for British singer-songwriter Adele.

Winner of a pair of Grammy Awards in 2009 for her debut 19 (an age reference), Adele has not only equaled the quality of her first record, but surpassed it..!

Titled 21, the music on this latest effort exhibits growth and maturity both vocally and in the songwriting department, all the while maintaining her eclectic soulful R&B style. It is a solid listen top to bottom with no glaring “filler” material that can plague so many other releases on the market.

I highly recommend picking this CD up. You won’t be disappointed… unless of course you listen strictly to Sevendust and Black Label Society. Then maybe not so much…

I’ll place a bet that the folks at the Grammy Awards won’t be disappointed either, as I am guessing more trophies will be on the way..!

Your ears will be happy… Enjoy!


Roll with Scosche’s Bluetooth iPad Keyboard

In the category of Cool Tech Toys…

Today’s winner is this little gem from Scosche.

The freeKEY is a portable wireless (via Bluetooth) keyboard designed to be paired with your iPad, smartphone or anything else that requires a keyboard and has Bluetooth connectivity. Supremely handy if your quantity of typing is off the charts – let’s face it, that covers almost everybody in this tech-crazy world.

The connectivity is top shelf, with a range up to 30 feet. Portability is perfect as this thing can literally roll up and go along for the ride. Reliability is even accounted for as the freeKEY is indeed water resistant. Come on now folks… I know how many of you spill your coffee on your keyboard..!

This is an excellent product and at $59.99 is a no brainer. Highly recommended..!

Let’s roll…


Diver’s Paradise: Wreck Week 2011

Let’s journey to the Caribbean and head east of Puerto Rico to the British Virgin Islands, otherwise known as the BVI. With over 50 islands and cays, 15 of which are inhabited, the BVI are known for their beautiful white sand beaches, world renowned sailing, and the subject of today’s tome, diving.

Renowned diving firm Dive BVI is hosting their third annual Wreck Week.

Don’t worry folks, you’re not going to be involved in a wreck… just viewing the remnants of wrecks from days gone by… underwater, of course.

Your itinerary for the week is chock full of underwater exploration including 10 morning dives, 2 afternoon dives and 2 more at night with depths ranging from 35 to 95 feet. Wrecks you’ll visit include the 246-ft Chikuzen and its population of rays, spadefish, barracuda and a 600-lb Grouper! And then there is the 310-ft RMS Rhone, a British ship lost in a hurricane in 1867 and now home to various octopi, eel and an amazing variety of fish.

Your week of wreck investigation includes a daily pre-departure breakfast along with all lunches and a Welcome Dinner Party and Farewell Beach BBQ. Accommodation choices at Virgin Gorda include the condo setting of Virgin Gorda Village, cottages at Guavaberry Spring Bay or the luxurious Little Dix Bay Resort.

Diver’s Paradise indeed! Wreck Week is guaranteed to be a week you won’t soon forget…


Sharp Goes Jumbo with 70-inch LCD TV

Ginormous! Or as the Sharp website proclaims: “Spectacularge”..!

Sharp Electronics is debuting their top of the heap LCD wall-covering monster, the Aquos Quattron LC-70LE732U. With a 69.5” diagonal screen, The TV provides over 60% more screen real estate than a 55” television. If you value that home theater experience, this may be just the ticket.

The picture should be a dandy, with several Sharp technologies coming to play. Quattron Quad Pixel Technology applies a four-color filter, adding yellow to the standard red, blue and green for what is claimed to be better color reproduction and improved light level control. A full LED backlight and 120Hz Fine Motion Enhancement are also present.

What about internet connectivity..?

The jumbo Sharp has it in spades, with built-in Wi-Fi connectivity. You can access all the necessary apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr as well as on-demand movies from VUDU and Netflix. Standard connections are covered as well with four HDMI inputs and even IP Control, which provides an interface to outboard control panels or computers.

…and 3D?

Ah, there is the missing link. The 732 series LCD sets do not have that third dimension. This will be remedied shortly however with the upcoming 835 Series, so if it is a must-have feature, this will be the way to go.

These monsters are available now and priced at $3,799.99 msrp. Expect a street price a few hundred dollars less.

Get the popcorn ready and enjoy..!


A Day of Food and wine at Sense Yountville

Foodies and Wine Fiends alike, have I got an event for you..!

That quaint little burg just north of Napa on highway 29 known as Yountville wants to show off, and you’re invited. With a proliferation of world class restaurants and wine producers, your taste buds are sure to lapse into heavenly bliss.

Here’s how it works: The date is Saturday May 7th and the event runs from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm at The Pavillion at Vintage Estate. Attendance is limited to 350 people to keep lines short and crowds thin, assuring you can sample everything on your to-do list. Principals from each vendor – I’m talking owners, winemakers and chefs – will be on hand to meet and greet and provide samples of their craft.

For a who’s who of the event, let me start on the food side of the ledger. Cyndi Pawlcyn from Mustard’s, Dave Cruz from Ad Hoc, Phillipe Jeanty from Bistro Jeanty and Michael Chiarello of Bottega Ristorante are but a few of the participants.

Taste buds awake yet?

And now for the grape… Participating wineries include Gemstone, Kapcsandy, TOR, Keever, Dominus, Ghost Block and many more. Several futures sales will be available along with rare and large format bottlings.

To top this all off, there will be a Kentucky Derby party from 3:00 – 4:00 pm held at the Grozeinger Estate House. Nice..!

Tickets are $150 per person, an excellent value considering the premiere wine and food tastings at the event. They may be purchased at V Wine Cellar in Yountville or online here.

Hmmm… I tell you what. Let me ratchet it up a bit… If you enter the discount code CCorner when ordering, you will get a 10% discount on your tickets, courtesy of The Connoisseur and the good folks at Sense Yountville.



VO Vapen for One-of-a-Kind Rifles

Based out of Sweden, VO Vapen is known for their heirloom quality hunting rifles.

Founder and master gunsmith Viggo Olsson and son Ulf have been handcrafting these beauties under the VO Vapen moniker since 1977. We are talking low production/high quality rifles, thought by many to be the most exclusive in the world.

Along with the gorgeous 4-year air dried walnut root that is used for the stock, you will find exquisite engraving adorning each gun. Top this off with an ingenious patented takedown system which allows several different calibers to be used with the same rifle and you have something truly amazing!

Let’s kick it up a step further with VO’s new “One of One” category.

A few times each year, Viggo will select a client looking to build something really special. The gun will be thoroughly customized per the customer’s wishes with engraving inspired by a family member, or maybe an event or location. A duplicate piece will never be made…truly one of a kind!


BMW’s Concept M5 Goes Live!

First things first…this is NOT a “concept” car!

Ah yes, the speed-freak engineers at BMW’s M-division are showing us a preview of their next asphalt-eater…

Meet the new M5..!

Disguised prototypes of the F10 5-series in M trim have been spied for quite some time now, accompanied by the usual facts, figures and conjecture. Here now is what we know from the official press release…

I’ll start with the single most important item when it comes to all things M – the engine. As per the recent trend departing from the naturally aspirated high-revving engines of the past (discussed here), the new M5 utilizes a turbocharged V8 for propulsion. The as of yet unreleased horsepower and torque figures should be in the stratosphere, expected in the high 500 range! All this while producing an estimated 25% gain in fuel efficiency over the previous generation car.

The transmission will be BMWs slick 7-speed M DCT and a newly developed Active M Differential will aid high-speed stability. The wheels are 20-inchers all around in an M-specific split 5-spoke design.

External styling cues are a bit more restrained than M-cars of the past. The aggressive front and rear apron treatments are maintained as well as the signature side vents. Gone however, is the hood power bulge seen on previous M rockets. Overall the design should provide the road presence a car of this performance envelope deserves.

Engineered by M…tuned on the Nürburgring…the new M5 may prove to be the most capable 4-door on the planet..!


E.T. Buys a Boat

Uh… luxury yacht would be a more accurate term.

Über-successful Hollywood mogul Steven Spielberg took delivery this past November of a new toy. The 282 foot floating palace known as Seven Seas was completed by Dutch builder Oceanco, in collaboration with design firm Nuvolari & Lenard.

With a crew of 23, this superyacht has deluxe accommodations for 14 with a private owner’s deck and stateroom, 2 VIP suites and 4 guest suites. Amenities include an infinity pool with an outdoor movie screen, a spa and massage room, fully equipped gym facilities and of course an indoor cinema. Living and entertaining areas make copious use of teak, rosewood and walnut for a warm and tasteful atmosphere.

With a pair of 4,680 horsepower engines, the Seven Seas is capable of 20 knots on the open seas. Word has it time will be split between locations in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. And to answer the obvious question... the reported cost: $200 million..!

E.T. may never go home…


Mercedes’ New SLK for 2012

The third generation of Mercedes-Benz’s compact roadster is on the way, and so far I like what I see.

Gone are the first generations’ under-detailed soft looks and the second gen’s SLR inspired front hood which just didn’t work on the smaller car. Now we have what I feel is an appropriately Mercedes design aesthetic...A solid, non-whimpy presence with some sportiness thrown in to fit the character of the car.

While arguably not class-leading, the SLK can now hold its own in performance conversations with Porsche’s Boxster and BMW’s Z4, and an improved interior makes for a nice place to enjoy those new found driving dynamics. Power will initially come from a 3.5 liter V-6 with 302 horsepower in the SLK 350. The Benz folks claim a 0-60 sprint of 5.4 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph. Early next year the SLK 250 will be available with a more sedate 201 horsepower four cylinder engine. We also expect a hi-po V-8 powered AMG version which would surely add to your speeding ticket tally.

And now for the SLK’s bit of techno-wizardry coolness…

Magic Sky Control

An option on the SLK, Magic Sky Control replaces the top metal panel on the folding hard-top with glass. But this is not just any old glass roof. Using electricity and a technology similar to LCD, the glass panel will change from clear to opaque with the touch of a button..! Very slick…

All-in-all Mercedes Benz did an excellent job with the SLK redux. If you are in the market for a two-seat roadster, this is definitely one to put on the test-drive list..!


Perrier-Jouet Celebrates 200 Years

Residing in the Épernay region of Champagne, the house of Perrier-Jouët is celebrating 200 years of production!

That’s a lot of champagne..!

While not the oldest – Roederer and Moët-Chandon preceded – Perrier-Jouët is certainly regarded in the same category of top flight champagne producers.

The story began in 1811 when newlyweds Pierre Nicolas Perrier and Rose Adélaïde Jouët put forth their first bottle unto the bubbly-swilling public. Two centuries hence, production is in the range of 3,000,000 bottles per anum.

How should you celebrate 200 years of champagne production?

The folks at Perrier-Jouet are producing 200 special magnums of course. But that’s too simple, isn’t it? 100 champagne lovers will be able to purchase two-bottle lots, which will be contained in a white Daniel Arsham sculpture with a design reflecting the flowers from the label of the Perrier-Jouet flagship cuvee Belle Epoque. A green plaque commemorating the occasion resides on each sculpture.

The idea behind two bottles is that the purchaser will enjoy one and the second will be passed down for generations.

An appropriately grand idea, providing somebody doesn’t get too thirsty and drink bottle number two prematurely..!



BMW Goes Green with “i”

They’re coming..!

German manufacturer BMW will be bringing their electric and hybrid vehicles to market under the i-cars brand. I realize that “electric” and “BMW” just don’t seem to go together but… as the world turns…

The first model to arrive looks to be the i3, also referred to as the Megacity vehicle. To keep weight to an absolute minimum in the name of efficiency, construction will consist of an aluminum chassis and a passenger cell made of carbon fiber. This diminutive all-electric car should come to market sometime in 2013 as a 2014 model. Production estimates are currently set at 30,000 units per year.

Arriving shortly after the i3 will be a vehicle at the other end of the price and performance spectrum, the i8. Based on the Vision Efficient Dynamics concept vehicle, this buggy will be a high performance hybrid coupe. Power will come from electricity as well as what now appears to be a gasoline engine, originally thought to be a diesel unit. Final power and performance specifications have as yet to be released.

Camouflaged prototypes for both vehicles have been seen in testing recently. I will keep you posted as things progress for the “i”…


Lamborghini Aventador

The new bull has arrived..!

Lamborghini’s long-awaited replacement for the ageing Murciélago is now coming to market! Meet the latest raging bull, the Aventador.

Named after a “particularly courageous” bull from the Spanish Corrida, the new Aventador LP700-4 boasts multiple improvements over its predecessor…

I’ll start with the engine. Coming in 40 lbs lighter than the V-12 from the Murciélago, the new powerplant produces 700 horsepower and 509 lb-ft of torque with a 20 percent gain in fuel economy. Power goes to the pavement via a 7-speed automated manual gearbox and all-wheel drive courtesy of Haldex. Standard carbon-ceramic binders keep all that power under control.

Overall the Aventador weighs almost 200 lbs lighter than the previous car. The power to weight ratio promotes truly extreme performance, with a company stated 0-62 mph time of 3.9 seconds and a top speed of 217 mph. And that’s no bull..!

The jet plane-esque interior centers around a large LCD screen instrument panel. Another LCD on the center console handles the compulsory navigation and audio functions. The look of the cockpit is highly customizable with mono or dual-tone leather combinations along with available contrasting stitching…pretty much anything your heart desires. All I ask is that you keep your tackiness under control…

With an expected on sale date of late summer, pricing for the latest halo car from Lamborghini figures to start at $380,000. Cutting-edge technology and in your face design – this is truly a statement car if there ever was one!


Apple’s iPad 2 Arrives..!

Well folks…it’s official. Your first generation iPad is now obsolete…

Shipping on March 11th, the second generation iPad 2 is here!

With the emerging competition of tablets in all shapes and sizes including the Motorola XOOM with the Android OS, Apple was sure to update the iPad quickly and aggressively in an attempt to maintain market share.

What will an upgrade to gen 2 net..? Let’s start with more power, of course. A new dual-core A5 processor provides up to 9 times the graphics processing speed while holding the line on power consumption. Dual front and rear cameras are onboard to allow for video conferencing or “Skyping” or however you want to refer to it. Even ergonomics are somewhat improved with weight dropping from 1.5 lbs down to 1.3 and a case that is 1/3 thinner than the 1st generation. In fact, the folks at Apple will proudly note the new iPad is even thinner than the iPhone 4..!

Are there any new accessories? A slick feature is the available HDMI cable to connect to an HDTV and display a mirror image of the iPad display. There is also the new “smart cover” (shown above) which magnetically covers the screen and then can fold back and be used as a display stand. Several colors are available… Speaking of colors, you can now have your iPad in either black or white, to suit your aesthetic.

Models include the Wi-Fi or the Wi-Fi + 3G. Available memory options are 16GB, 32GB or 64GB and pricing should hold the line for the entry level model.


Luxury Hotel for your Pooch

This one is for the dog lovers out there…For those of you that like to pamper your pet to over the top levels.

After all, they are family members, are they not?

Off we go to Munich, Germany, where the Canis Resort is here to spoil your pet as you see fit.

Billed as “the worldwide first exclusive luxury hotel chain for dogs”, Canis is staffed with professional dog sitters tending to your family member 24 hours a day. Individual training and activities are available as well as customized dietary plans. Full grooming and coat-care services are also at hand.

The canine guests are housed in temperature controlled “lodges”, with a total of 5 dogs per lodge. Check-in and check-out can be done 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to fit your schedule.


Bonhams Space History Auction

Wouldn’t you like to have a little space..?

No, I’m not talking about a bigger flat in New York City. I’m referring to outer space…away from the big blue marble.

Bonhams’ New York location will be auctioning several items from both the American and Russian space programs in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the historic missions of Alan Shepard and Yuri Gagarin. Items to be auctioned include emblems and medallions, lunar surface equipment, charts, photographs and various hardware items.

This is actually the third installment of the Bonhams Space History auction. The first taking place in July of 2009 included the sale of Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for man” inscription on a flight plan (shown above), netting $152,000.

The bulk of the items featured are from the Forbes collection, as well as the estate of James E. Webb, an administrator with NASA during the 1960s.

Take a look… Now is your chance to own a piece of the final frontier..!


Records Set at 15th Annual Napa Valley Vintners Auction!

Judging from results at the annual futures auction held this weekend in Napa Valley, the wine industry slump may be nearing an end..!

The Napa Valley Vintners yearly auction of individually crafted one-of-a-kind lots from 200 wineries known as Premiere Napa Valley finished at nearly 2.4 million in sales, besting 2008’s 2.2 million. Industry experts proclaim this a sign of growing optimism and confidence in Napa wines and the economy in general.

The first lot of the day from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars went for $26,000 with other top performers coming from wineries such as Schrader Cellars, Ovid, Levy and McClellan and Shafer Vineyards.

The star of the day, and record setting lot was the 5-case offering from Scarecrow Wine, crafted by winemaker Celia Welch from vines planted in 1945. A Japanese wine company paid $125,000 for the offering… a cool $2083 per bottle…

That is some quality grape juice..!


Aston Martin’s New Virage

Famed English marque Aston Martin is resurrecting the Virage moniker first used in the mid-80’s.

Slotted between the hard-edged DBS and the luxury-minded DB9, the Virage will split the difference in price and performance.

Propelled by a 490 bhp V-12 powerplant, the Virage will hit 60 mph in about 4.5 seconds and have a top speed of 186 mph. A six-speed Touchtronic II paddle-shifted automatic transmission sends the power to the wheels. Standard carbon ceramic brakes will stop any forward momentum in a hurry. Aston’s newly designed Adaptive Damping System is in place for computerized control of the suspension system, promising an excellent mix of ride and handling.

Yards of Bridge of Weir hand-stitched leather adorn the interior along with the usual accoutrements of a high-end audio system, Garmin-based sat-nav , cruise control and heated sport seats. It promises to be a great place to do one’s driving business…

Set for public debut at the Geneva Motor Show on March 1st, the Vantage can be ordered currently with full production beginning shortly. A convertible Volante version will also be available for those that prefer open air motoring.

Grey Goose and Oscar

Well, Oscar weekend is fast approaching and the film industry is all abuzz with predictions and critiques. As tends to happen, when Hollywood gathers together this time of year, celebrations abound.

The folks at Grey Goose are gaining a certain amount of notoriety for soirees they host for the event. To top it all off, they have provided a collection of cocktail recipes themed to several of the Best Film nominees so that we can all party along at home. Pick your favorite movie and give it a taste..!

And the winner is…

Grey Goose Royal Passion – The King’s Speech

2 parts Grey Goose Vodka
1/3 part vanilla flavored (Monin) syrup
1 fresh passion fruit
3 small fresh pineapple chunks
Fresh lemon squeeze

In a cocktail shaker, muddle fruit.Add all other ingredients, shake vigorously and double strain into a chilled martini glass.Garnish with a half a passion fruit floating on top.

Grey Goose L’Orange Prize Fighter – The Fighter (pictured)

1 ½ parts Grey Goose L’Orange Flavored Vodka
1 part fresh blood orange juice
½ part fresh lemon juice
½ part simple syrup
1 thin slide of japaleno

Place jalapeno and simple syrup in the bottom of a cocktail shaker and muddle well.Add ice and remaining ingredients, and shake vigorously.Strain into a chilled martini glass with a sugared rim and present with a slice of jalapeno.

Grey Goose L’Orange Pirouette – Black Swan

1 ¼ parts Grey Goose L’Orange Flavored Vodka
1 part fresh lemon juice
¾ part crème de violette
¾ part simple syrup
1 dash peach bitters

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and shake vigorously.Strain into a chilled martini class and present with an edible orchid

Grey Goose Le Citron Status Update – The Social Network

½ part Grey Goose Le Citron Flavored Vodka
½ part St. Germain
1 part grape juice
½ part pear puree

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and shake vigorously.Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with an edible flower.

Grey Goose La Poire Elderflower Dream – Inception

1 ½ parts Grey Goose La Poire Flavored Vodka
1 ½ parts fresh ruby red grapefruit juice
½ part premium elderflower liqueur
½ part lemon juice
½ part simple syrup

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and shake vigorously.Strain into a chilled martini glass, and present with a grapefruit twist.


Dan D’Agostino’s New Amplifier

Who the heck is this D’Agostino fellow?

Even those of you who are not a card-carrying member of the audiophile legions have probably heard that name. Founded in 1980, Krell is a manufacturer of high-end audio gear. Dan D’Agostino was the CEO and primary product designer until a rather acrimonious split in the fall of 2009 with the company financial folks. The D’Agostino family is no longer a part of Krell.

What to do, what to do..?

For Dan the answer was simple… start a new company and go back to doing what he does best – design and build audio gear…

Thus, Dan D’Agostino Inc. was born. The first product, a monoblock amplifier (one per stereo channel) named The Momentum, was unveiled at this year’s CES show in Las Vegas. Specifications show a power rating of 300 watts into an 8 ohm load and 600 watts into 4 ohms with a distortion level less than .01 dB at 1 kHz. With top shelf parts and engineering and a case machined from solid aluminum billet and copper heat sinks, The Momentum is a one great looking piece of audio gear…

…and man do these amps sound good..! Priced at $42,000 for the pair, these are for the upper end of the audio market – highly recommended!


Mercedes C-Class Coupe Arrives!

Those German automakers love to go at each other..!

Mercedes-Benz has unwrapped its new C-Class Coupe, a direct shot at longtime rival BMW and their 3 series coupe. While I’m at it, don’t forget Audi’s A5, Cadillac’s new CTS coupe or Infinity’s two-door G37.

Initial specifications released by Mercedes show a pair of engine choices available to the North American market. The entry level C250 Coupe will be powered by MB’s new 1.8 liter turbocharged four cylinder engine. Horsepower should come in at 201 along with 229 lb-ft of torque, good to get the car to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds according to Mercedes. A step up in the model line will secure the C350 Coupe and their current 3.5 liter V6 with 302 bhp and 273 lb-ft. I don’t believe a manual transmission option will be available as both cars are slated for a 7-speed automatic as standard equipment. A hot-rod AMG version should make an appearance as well, but Mercedes is being tight-lipped as to any details on this ultra-performance version.

A quick review of officially released photos indicates a nearly identical front portion to the just updated C-Class sedan. From the A-pillar back, one notes the changes with the longer door and differing roofline.

I do have one major gripe… Take a look at a Honda Accord coupe and notice the upward kink in the window between the B and C pillars. The Mercedes Coupe looks almost identical and frankly it doesn’t sit well to my eye, although an in-person viewing may sway my negative opinion. My guess is the designers were trying to differentiate from the larger E-Class coupe.


The C-Class Coupe is due in showrooms in September. Model pricing and further specifications should arrive shortly as Mercedes finalizes their entry into the coupe wars..!