The 20th Annual Ultimate Gift Guide


Desert Oases: Four Warmer takes on the winter wonderland. The all-new 205 mph Porsche Carrera GT.  A $1.7 million underwater aviator.  CRN's 150-foot megayacht.  The $3.8 million Duke of Alba Stradivarius and more.

From This Issue

Furnishings: Let There Be Organic Light

There is something about the sinuous curvature of a seashell, the shapeliness of a piece of driftwood, and the delicacy of a chrysanthemum’s petals that William Leslie has always found soothing. “When I look at them I get an overwhelming feeling of peacefulness,” says Leslie, whose light sculptures take on similarly organic shapes. “If I […]

Appliances: The Aga Saga

Old traditions die hard or—as a growing number of savvy European firms are demonstrating—reinvent themselves. Many bastions of conservative style, such as Burberry, Land Rover, and Louis Vuitton, have spawned youthful alter egos for a new generation. Now Aga, manufacturer of the quintessential British cooker (aka stove), is poised to follow suit as it settles […]

Home Electronics: Step Up to the Mic

A speaker may come close to reproducing sound perfectly in a laboratory, but alas, no one lives in a lab. When the real world includes wood floors and upholstery-free furnishings, the formerly flawless speaker will echo and sound too focused on the upper frequencies. At the other extreme, soft furniture and heavy drapes will absorb the […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: A Room Fit for a Pharaoh

It took three years to finish the Theo Kalomirakis–designed home theater shown on these pages—probably not as long as the ancient Egyptians needed to complete a pharaoh’s funeral pyramid, but a considerable span of time nonetheless. The owners wanted a home theater for their Las Vegas property that was as spectacular as the one Kalomirakis […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Out of this World

“Cima del mundo,” a Spanish phrase meaning “top of the world,” describes exactly how this estate’s new owners will feel upon moving in. Built in 1924 by noted architect Myron Hunt—who also designed Henry Huntington’s San Marino, Calif., home (now a museum)—this 11-acre property in Montecito, Calif., sits atop a knoll with a 360-degree view […]

Home Entertainment: Canada Dry

Among his peers in the audio industry, Joe Atkins is an anomaly: He is not interested in how loudspeakers work. Indeed, Atkins has never read a hi-fi magazine. Yet this 47-year-old native of Toronto, whose firm jaw and trenchant gaze suggest that you should not waste his time with further questions about his aptitude for […]

FrontRunners: Ritz Revelry

The Ritz London (+44. 20.7493.8181, can take care of all your holiday planning this year with its Christmas Programme, which runs from December 23 through 26. It includes theater tickets and a post-theater supper at the Palm Court on the 23rd, a black-tie gala on Christmas Eve, and the option to attend midnight service […]

FrontRunners: Hump Days

Mongolia’s Gobi Desert is the setting for perhaps this winter’s most obscure excursion. Nomadic Expeditions (800.998. 6634, is taking 15 travelers on an otherworldly 11-day trip to Mongolia, timed to coincide with the country’s Lunar New Year and Thousand Camel Festival. Upon arrival, participants will ring in the Year of the Monkey with a […]

FrontRunners: Luxury Layover

Stay at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport (604.207.5200, http://www.fairmont .com), and you will hope that your flight is delayed, or better yet, canceled. The Fairmont offers all of the amenities you expect in a luxury hotel: soundproof, spacious rooms, a fine restaurant, and a romantic bar; a deluxe fitness center, pool, and spa; and high-speed Internet […]

Travel: Vegas Vibe

Overhead, the chihuly glows deep red and orange, its tendrils seeming to squirm like a colony of electrified tube worms mysteriously levitating in midair. “Isn’t it beautiful?” asks the young lady from Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Atlantic City’s newest and—at $1.1 billion—most costly property. The crowd gathered beneath the bilious glass sculpture nods in […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: For All Seasons

The problem with vacation homes is that they are often best enjoyed during a specific season of the year, and you must endure the drudgery of setting them up at the dawn of the season and shutting them down at the end. In an ideal world, you would have a vacation home for each season, […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Next Stop: the Macallan

The Macallan distillery is offering an intriguing seven-day trip that will take you and a guest from Spain to Scotland to show you how whisky becomes the Macallan. The trip will begin with a first-class flight from Chicago or New York to Jerez, where you will dine with sherry producer Gonzalez Byass, visit a cooperage […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Where the Games Began

You and nine guests can be party to a once-in-a-lifetime event in Greece next August, when the country that created the original Olympics in ancient times hosts the summer games for the first time since 1896. Private Jetaway of Los Angeles is offering a two-week trip for 10 that will transport you aboard a Boeing […]

Breaking the Ice

Expedition leader Susan Adie made the announcement over the shipboard intercom just after midnight on Thursday: “We’ve sighted another polar bear off the bow. It’s about a quarter- to a half-mile away.”   Like many of the passengers aboard Yamal, the 11-year-old nuclear-powered Russian icebreaker that Quark Expeditions chartered to take travelers to the North […]

From the Editors: Gifts Fit for Kings

As common as the exchange of gifts at this time of year has become, the origins of this sometimes-burdensome tradition are actually anything but. Beginning with the proverbial Three Kings—who were neither three (according to Orthodox tradition, they were 12) nor kings—monarchs and their courtiers have for centuries shaped our notions of largesse and plenty […]

FrontRunners: From the Robb Cellar

Robb Report exclusive: The Scotch Malt Whisky Society of America Cask #45.11 The Society (as enthusiasts know it) has attracted a devoted following over its more than 30-year history, owing primarily to its private stock of unique casks of unfiltered, unblended, and undiluted malt whiskies. Cask #45.11 hails from the Dallas Dhu Distillery in Highland, […]

FrontRunners: Select Smoke

Fonseca Reserva Especial, Matasa The handsome oily wrapper on the latest Fonseca cigar, a 7 x 52 figurado, is one of the finest specimens of Honduran criollo leaf we have seen. The slightly strong, spicy flavor is a pleasant complement to the mild 7-year-old Dominican-grown Cuban-seed filler. The availability of the cigars, which have been […]

Robb Design Portfolio: Virtuoso Performance

If the future unfolds as Fred Paroutaud anticipates, we will no longer experience chamber music in our homes only through loudspeakers. Paroutaud, an inventor/musician/composer based in San Francisco, believes that we will be able to listen and watch as a computer-controlled string quartet performs. One component of this future has already arrived. The Virtuoso Violin, […]

Dining: Back to Basics

Few chefs remain on top of the Paris restaurant scene for long, but Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon have proved their staying power. Earlier this year, both opened establishments that serve simple dishes in a casual atmosphere, though neither has turned his back on haute cuisine. On the contrary, these chefs have adopted a stripped-down […]

Desert Oasis: Royal Highness

The jagged spine of Camelback Mountain rises high above the desert floor, an unfailing navigational guide through the tangled Phoenix freeway system. As I approach the rugged outcropping, crowded asphalt gives way to a stone-paved drive flanked by towering palms; the machine-made cacophony cedes to the songs of birds. Before me, a garden courtyard and […]

Desert Oasis: Sonoran Shangri-La

Joe MacDonald, a retired U.S. Army Ranger, asks me, as he secures the belay rope to my harness, if I am confronting any barriers in my life. Other than the 32-foot man-made climbing rock standing 90 degrees in front of me, I can think of none.   But once I am on the wall, maneuvering […]

Desert Oasis: Slim City

Health, fitness, and sophistication are concepts not commonly associated with Las Vegas. But at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas, just 17 miles from the Strip, the Sin City stereotype succumbs to a wholesome, salutary, and refined state of mind.    Set in the heart of MonteLago Village, on the sandy shores of the country’s largest […]

Desert Oasis: Desert Star

From the street, Estrella looks like one of those nondescript apartment buildings that dotted the Los Angeles landscape during the 1960s. That is, except for the plaster whippet statues peeking out from each balcony of the Palm Springs resort. Dubious, I approach the unremarkable structure. But all doubts evaporate as I step into a gleaming […]

Leisure: Grand Coup

“They say the eskimos have 50 different words for snow,” Francois Nodet, cellar master at Château Lafite-Rothschild, muses as he leads the way across the vineyards into the Rothschild cellars. “Here in the Médoc, we have 50 different ways of saying ‘a small hill.’ ”   This is with good reason. Called côtes, croupes, puys, […]

FrontRunners: Made for American

While glassmakers produce a variety of vessels designed for specific spirits or wines, bourbon is generally relegated to chubby rocks tumblers. The spirit’s plight may soon change, however, with the release of the Bourbon Glass, the world’s first glass designed expressly to capture and release the swirling aromas that make American whiskey so appealing. Renowned […]

Smoke: Camacho Comes on Strong

When Julio Eiroa and his son christian reach for a smoke, rest assured that they will select a strong cigar. Both seasoned aficionados—the forces behind Caribe Imported Cigars, a vertical operation based in Miami that grows its own tobacco and produces and distributes 13 million cigars a year—crave the powerful taste reminiscent of the Cuban […]

Wine: Natural Progression

From the winery at Peter Michael, a road wends its way along a stream toward the mounting hillsides of Knights Valley in Sonoma, California. Les Pavots, the famous vineyard and source of the eponymous red blend, looms lush in the foreground. High above, the white soils of Chardonnay vineyards La Carrière and Ma Belle-Fille climb […]

Art: Blueprints for a Collection

David Jameson is enjoying it while it lasts. As the founder and owner of Chicago’s ArchiTech Gallery, he savors the privilege of surrounding himself with drawings, engravings, and copper plates that the most renowned architects of recent centuries created in the course of their work. “I’ve had [drawings by] Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright […]

Personal Technology: Spellbinding

Equip your office or home with a computer created by VoodooPC, and some might regard it as evidence of a midlife crisis. With chassis painted in vibrant colors like Imola pearl orange or Laguna Seca blue and such visceral monikers as Fury and Envy, Voodoos are clearly intended for the video game–playing set. However, even […]

Robb Report 21 Ultimate Gifts

Contrary to popular perception, the items on the following pages are not intended for the man (or woman) who has everything. They have been selected for you, the Robb Report reader, someone possessing taste, sophistication, and the knowledge that not everything is worth having. Recognizing this, we present these 21 rare, exclusive, and exquisite items […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Crème de la Cremona

Violin makers are still trying to determine what Antonio Stradivari knew that they do not. In more than 250 years, no luthier has been able to build an instrument quite like his. In fact, the master himself may not have understood what made his violins sound so supernaturally beautiful. This much is certain, though: Cremona, […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Roll Playing in the Bahamas

You can visit the Dominican Republic and return home with boxes full of your favorite cigars. If you are not averse to the risk, you can travel to Cuba and try to do the same thing. However, no cigar quest will yield a bounty comparable to this gift from the Graycliff Hotel in Nassau, the […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Bonbon Voyage

To connoisseurs of chocolate, quantity is almost as important as quality, and this gift from Neuhaus Chocolate delivers on both counts. You and a guest will fly on a Cessna Citation X jet from the nearest airport to Belgium, home of the 146-year-old chocolatier. During the weeklong visit, you will stay at Château Beloeil, a […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Wine Lover’s Affair

Since its 2001 debut, the annual Naples Winter Wine Festival has drawn an impressive crowd of vintners to the Florida resort town. Next year’s edition, which takes place from February 6 through 8, promises to be no different. Attendees will include Prince Robert de Luxembourg, the vice president and general manager of Château Haut-Brion; Marchese […]

Golf: Taming the Wild

No one sits still for very long in Park City, Utah. In the winter, of course, everyone in town is skiing on what the locals call “the world’s best powder” at Deer Valley, The Canyons, or Park City Mountain Resort. Or they are ice-skating, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing through the Wasatch Mountains. Come summer, there […]

Sport: Mountain High Tech

The designs for some of the latest winter sports equipment reflect an eclectic array of influences—from NASA, to New Age, to surfers. The result is ski and snowboard gear that offers faster, smoother, and warmer runs than in seasons past. Bodies of Ion Wearing the latest parka from Descente (303.790.1155, is like spending a […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Tee Party

Most golfers know more than just three friends who love the game. If you would like to include all of those people in the same round, the Lodge at CordeValle in San Martin, Calif., has the answer: your own golf tournament. You, a guest, and 39 other couples will have the entire resort to yourselves […]

Golf’s Necessities

Every serious golfer can recite the feats he longs to accomplish before he hangs up his spikes—not the litany that names all of the courses he would like to play, but a checklist of what he considers the game’s essential, if not ultimate, experiences.   This list might include walking into the champion’s locker room […]

FrontRunners: Bell Epoch

Watch aficionados with a taste for the exquisite and the very rare will have their appetites gorged by Audemars Piguet’s Musical Hours exhibition, coming to the brand’s New York boutique from December 1 through 15. The exhibit showcases 45 repeater and sonnerie watches, the largest collection of timepieces yet assembled that chime off the time […]

FrontRunners: Neutral Corner

When Ermenegildo Zegna acquired Agnona (310.770.5166, in 1999, many assumed the men’s clothing giant would use the small Italian textile mill to establish a foundation in the women’s fashion business. After all, the tiny weaver—known for its use of natural-colored cashmere, camel hair, vicuña, and alpaca cloth—has been supplying couturiers Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, […]

FrontRunners: Worldly Jewelry

In the true spirit of haute couture, the Parisian fashion house Chanel (800.550.0005, has unveiled a collection of 150 one-of-a-kind jewelry designs that has em-barked on a global tour of its boutiques for a series of private showings. The Private Collection landed in New York in November; next it is off to Beverly Hills, […]

FrontRunners: Fine Lines

Montblanc (800.995.4810, has introduced a new collection of platinum-plated and sterling silver accessories based on the German pen maker’s Bohème pen design. The sleek cuff links, tie bars, money clips, and key rings—priced from $125 to $190—were inspired by the 1930s industrial design movement of the same name. Grid patterns and barley guilloche surfaces […]

FrontRunners: Top-Notch Trimmings

What would the holidays be without a little sparkle? Prepare to be dazzled by the new limited edition precious ornament collection from Beverly Hills jewelry design house Edwards & Rellas (310.475.9979, While the snowflake, icicle, glass ball, and teddy bear motifs may be time-honored classics, with prices ranging from $1,600 to $5,400, these are […]

Jewelry: In Full Bloom

In the dreary days of the early 1930s, as the world sank into economic depression, the Parisian jewelry house of Van Cleef & Arpels bucked the somber mood and forged its revolutionary and decidedly luxurious serti mystérieux, or mysterious setting. The now-famous process involves cutting rubies and sapphires to meticulous specifications and setting them on […]

Watches: Disk Jockey

There comes a point in every watch devotee’s life when it is time to try something different. Once you reach the decision to wear an unconventional timepiece, you are faced with choices that can range from the bizarre—even the grotesque—to the merely avant-garde. Among these oddities, the creations of German watchmaker Bernhard Lederer stand out—not […]

Wardrobe: Wheeler Dealer

The newest store in Chicago furrier Hana K’s rapidly growing signature chain is not only the smallest, it is also the most unconventional. The tiny boutique is sandwiched between a gold neoclassical pillar and an elaborate staircase railing on the mezzanine of Chicago’s Bentley Gold Coast auto dealership. Although the setting is unusual, in this […]

Health & Grooming: Hair Club for Men

At first glance, John Allan’s resembles a typical private men’s club. A dozen leather chairs line the room populated with men smoking cigars and sipping draft beer while waiting for a chance to control the pool table. A few savor their own privately stored liquor reserves, while others are fitted for custom-made suits and dress […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Timeless Mystery

Fraudulent claims notwithstanding, no one has yet succeeded in creating a genuine perpetual-motion machine, and the promise of a limitless, nonpolluting energy source remains just that: a promise. But 75 years ago, Swiss engineer Jean-Léon Reutter did invent a clever device that bends the laws of physics in its favor. That this device is designed […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Sparkling Suite

Every woman knows the value of versatility in a wardrobe, and she knows the value of having spectacular diamond jewelry in her collection. This remarkable suite of diamond-and-platinum jewelry delivers both. It consists of a necklace, a brooch, a bracelet, and ear pendants that contain a staggering amount of white diamonds—more than 452 carats in […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Time Exposure

Vacheron Constantin is renowned for its skeleton watches, which feature faces that reveal the timepieces’ delicate, handmade components, and for its highly complicated watches. From the latter category, collectors are especially fond of the Malte Tourbillon. Most purchasers will wait more than two years for delivery—roughly the same length of time needed to deliver a […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Best of Britain

Three of Savile Row’s finest custom tailors—Henry Poole & Co., H. Huntsman & Sons, and Richard Anderson—and one of London’s most esteemed bespoke shoemakers, G.J. Cleverley, have united their extraordinary talents to offer an incomparable wardrobe. Each tailor will assemble a selection of limited edition garments that represents its distinct style, from classic to updated […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Desktop Dazzlers

E-mail is convenient, but it cannot offer the satisfaction derived from sending or receiving a handwritten letter. Nor should it; etiquette experts insist that certain highly personal forms of communication, such as thank-you notes, remain in the analog realm of pens and paper. While writing a letter can seem like a chore, it does not […]

Time: Time as Spectacle

The beauty—or tragedy, depending on how you view it—of Audemars Piguet’s $2.25 million Springtime Charm watch and earrings suite, currently sitting for a limited engagement in the window of its flagship store in New York City, is that there is and will be only one. The company provides a written guarantee that the pieces will […]

Style: Formal Introductions

A Washington, D.C., Microsoft executive who attends an exhaustive number of black-tie functions recently called upon Jack Simpson of Oxxford Clothes to put an end to his formal fashion boredom by suggesting alternatives to the traditional tuxedos that filled his closet. One of Simpson’s proposals—a gold-colored cashmere dinner jacket worn with a silk vest and […]

Wealth Management: Helter Shelter

Ever since the colonists dumped British tea into Boston Harbor, Americans have been going to great lengths to protect their wealth from the tax collector. When the government increased the levy on horse-drawn coaches with metal—not wood or leather—suspensions, shrewd entrepreneurs sold retrofitting kits that enabled carriage owners to travel on the newest metal springs […]

Robb Design Portfolio: Special K

The Mercedes-Benz 500k was among the most desirable cars built during the 1930s. Its 5-liter straight-8 engine produced 160 hp with its supercharger engaged and could power the 500K to 100 mph where roads permitted. (The “K” in the car’s designation stands for “kompressor.”) However, the car’s avoirdupois (nearly 5,000 pounds) raised its zero-to-60 time […]

FrontRunners: Back on Track

For those who consider the 572 hp Lamborghini Murciélago too tame for the track, the good folks in Sant’Agata Bolognese have the answer: the Murciélago R-GT. Lamborghini has not released its specifications or performance numbers, but the R-GT, powered by a 6.0-liter V-12 engine, will be eligible to compete in FIA GT and American Le […]

FrontRunners: Kart Dart

The g forces at 80 mph are so strong that my chest tightens and I gasp for air. A hairpin left approaches, so I ease off the gas and begin to brake. But as I enter the turn, my left foot still squeezing the brake, my right foot inadvertently hits the gas pedal, causing my […]

Autos: V is for Velocity

When introduced a few years ago, the CTS, the opening salvo in Cadillac’s image makeover, presaged a new look and performance standard intended to revive the carmaker’s former glory. Out went front-wheel drive and nondescript styling; in came rear-wheel drive and sharply creased design that defied indifference—either you loved it or you despised it. Also […]

Motorcycles: End of the Road — Again?

Richard Keck, president and owner of Indian Motorcycle Evansville, had two things planned for his five-day September stay in Las Vegas: to enjoy a Jimmy Buffett show at the MGM Grand Amphitheatre, and to place his orders for 2004 Indians. He did neither. In fact, he never made it to Las Vegas. On September 19, […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: On the Fast Track

For all of its race-inspired attributes, the Porsche Carrera GT is equally at home on highways and back roads. The 612 hp, 5.7-liter V-10 engine is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission that exploits the engine’s flexible power, while Porsche’s effective traction control helps non-racers to toe the line. If any supercar can be considered […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Tour de Force

Recognizing that every motorcycle enthusiast should see Europe from the saddle of a bike at least once in his or her lifetime, Lotus Tours presents a way to take this ride in grand style with its Best of Europe—the Ducati Way gift. The tour begins in April 2004 with a day of readiness lessons at […]

Der Carrera GT

It is only fitting that we first encountered the Carrera GT at a location previously unmarked on any map. The largest expanse of concrete in Europe—located about 85 kilometers from Berlin and now used by Michelin for tire testing—was a secret airbase of the former East Germany and, until reunification, was represented as a mere […]

Wheels: Teutonic Tuner Wars

Last August, while the builders of the Bentley Continental GT and Maybach 62 were extolling their 500 hp machines, AMG catapulted into another dimension. The über-performance specialists at Mercedes-Benz blitzed through the 600 hp barrier with a twin-turbo, 6.0-liter, 12-cylinder coupe: the 612 hp CL65. The grins on AMG executives’ faces had barely begun to […]

Back Page: 20 Years of Ultimate Cars

Some people send fruitcakes every holiday season. Robb Report delivers a car, a fantastic limited-edition machine that would surely supplant sugarplums in the dreams of most any child of any age.   In gathering the items for this, our 20th Ultimate Gift Guide (page 93), we took note that the covers of 18 of our […]

Boating: Tall Ship Tale

In 1984, divers from the Swedish Underwater Archaeology Society made a groundbreaking discovery. They found the wreck of Götheborg, an 18th-century Swedish trading ship. The 150-foot wooden merchant vessel, known as an East Indiaman for its trade route, was commissioned by the Swedish East India Co. for voyages to China. On September 12, 1745, upon […]

Aircraft: Family Ties

Three years ago, travelers who did not want to purchase their own aircraft had only charter or fractional ownership as choices for private flight. Today, in response to the downturn in fractional ownership and the success of Marquis Jet Partners—the NetJets-affiliated program that requires clients to commit to as few as 25 flight hours per […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Magnificent, Indeed

The lure of the open sea is difficult to resist, especially when you have a spectacular siren such as the Magnifica III beckoning you. When Italian yacht builder CRN completes the 150-footer in June 2004, it will bear a strong family resemblance to the Magnifica II, a sister ship pictured here. The steel and aluminum […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Fantastic Voyaging

More than just a two-man submersible, the Deep Flight Aviator (see “Wet Jet Set“), a 22-foot vessel that can dive to 1,500 feet, represents a unique travel opportunity: a chance to visit regions where no one else has ventured. The winged Aviator resembles a high-performance plane, with thrusters that propel the submersible to a top […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: Frequent Flier

It is difficult to be the coolest kid on the block at Spruce Creek, the first fly-in community in the United States. For the past 33 years, Spruce Creek, located in Daytona Beach, Fla., has attracted ardent aviators possessing formidable collections of toys, winged and otherwise. However, it is still possible to make the neighbors […]

21 Ultimate Gifts: The Wright Stuff

On June 17, 1926, Orville Wright wrote a letter to a journalist commenting on the remarkable feat he and his brother, Wilbur, had accomplished 23 years earlier: “It amuses me that practically every one now thinks he has always believed in its possibility and that many think that before 1903 they had predicted its early […]

Wings & Water: Wet Jet Set

The familiar hues of blue that John Jo Lewis had so often viewed from behind his mask grew darker as he drew closer to his destination. When he nudged the throttle of his vessel forward, his surroundings faded to black—the deepest, richest, starkest black he had ever seen, like the depths of the universe absent […]

Journeys: On Cloud Nine

The diesel engines have been cut for the moment, and the yacht drifts as if becalmed while waves lap against the gleaming white hull. On the deck the crew members stand by, their eyes on the captain. Each of the passengers holds his or her breath in expectation. Then the captain issues the command: “Hit […]