Perfect Gems for Fall 2014

Explore the little luxuries the world has to offer.

BY DONALD CHARLES RICHARDSON

ESCAPE ARTISTS

There are many opulent hotels on the glamorous island of St. Barths. Then there’s the Taiwana. Set on Flamands Beach, Taiwana is the island’s most private retreat. Within moments of your arrival, the staff knows your name and room number and is quickly learning your preferences in wine and food. Both are superb at this resort (and if you wake up hungry in the middle of the night, you’ll find someone on duty in the restaurant to supply a snack or ice cream). The rooms are sleek and sumptuously supplied with Frette towels, robes and linens. There’s an excellent Neville hair salon and spa. But it’s the ambiance of an exclusive club that truly sets Taiwana apart and makes it one of St. Barth’s most stylish places to unwind.

Image by Richard Termine

CAT HITS HIGH NOTE

Celebrated for producing works composed for intimate venues, New York’s Gotham Chamber Opera is now in its 12th season. Performances have included rarities from the Baroque era, such as Mozart’s Il sogno di Scipione and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, and contemporary operas including I Have No Stories to Tell You by Lembit Beecher and The Raven by Toshio Hosokawa. During the 2014/2015 season, the company will present a revival of a favorite, El gato con botas (Puss in Boots), by Xavier Montsalvatge, at New York’s El Museo del Barrio. The opera tells the children’s story of a miller who inherits a mangy cat with magical talents. The cat woos a princess for the miller and, after defeating an evil ogre through trickery, happily unites the miller and princess. They marry and provide a warm home for the cat (which is probably what the cat had in mind all along).

GATHERING THE GRAPES

At the 56-acre Hestan Vineyards located at the base of Okell Hill on Napa Valley’s eastern slopes, individually farmed blocks are planted with all five Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. The grapes are co-harvested and cofermented to create Stephanie Proprietary Red Wine, a Bordeaux made from a layered blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Petit Verdot, 16% Malbec, 12% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Limited to 900 cases, Stephanie is a complex wine with an intriguing nose of licorice, clove and sweet spice mingled with cedar, tobacco and black currant. And rich mocha notes unfold on the supple palate, lingering well into the long, elegant finish.

Image by Nicola Gnesi, courtesy of Eykyn Maclean

ROCK STAR

Sculptor Kan Yasuda’s critically acclaimed work is exhibited and installed at galleries and public spaces all over the world. The Boboli Gardens in Florence displayed the first abstract sculptures in this 500-year-old collection; a solo exhibition featured 18 large works at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park; and a 17-acre sculpture park is dedicated to him in Japan. Working in marble (his studio is in Pietrasanta in northern Italy, near the Carrara quarries), Yasuda’s creations are gentle, tranquil and contemplative, encouraging interaction with the viewer. At his recent American debut show at Eykyn Maclean Gallery, when asked how an individual should chose a sculpture, Yasada replied, “Touch it, and if it touches you back…”

 UN CHÂTEAU AVEC DES ANIMAUX EXOTIQUES

As you drive into the Château of Thoiry, about 30 miles west of Paris, don’t be surprised if a giraffe strolls past your car. Many animals, such as camels and zebras, roam freely. Others, like tigers, leopards and cheetahs, are kept in the château’s zoo. While touring this 16th-century, 370-acre estate, you’ll also discover a maze, several gardens, a restaurant, and possibly the current Count and Countess of La Panouse, who still live in the château (part of which is shown to the public by costumed guides). Because architect Philibert de l’Orme designed the château to be in perfect harmony with nature, the most spectacular time to visit is during the summer or winter solstice, when the center arch marks the exact position of the sun.