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  • I'm just going to play a brief video clip.

  • fifty thousand pounds

  • On the fifth of December 1985, a bottle of 1787 Lafitte was sold

  • for 105,000 pounds -- nine times the previous world record.

  • The buyer was Kip Forbes,

  • son of one of the most flamboyant millionaires of the 20th century.

  • The original owner of the bottle turned out to be

  • one of the most enthusiastic wine buffs of the 18th century.

  • Château Lafitte is one of the greatest wines in the world,

  • the prince of any wine cellar.

  • Benjamin Wallace: Now, that's about all the videotape that remains of an event

  • that set off the longest-running mystery in the modern wine world.

  • And the mystery existed because of a gentleman named Hardy Rodenstock.

  • In 1985, he announced to his friends in the wine world

  • that he had made this incredible discovery.

  • Some workmen in Paris had broken through a brick wall,

  • and happened upon this hidden cache of wines --

  • apparently the property of Thomas Jefferson. 1787, 1784.

  • He wouldn't reveal the exact number of bottles,

  • he would not reveal exactly where the building was

  • and he would not reveal exactly who owned the building.

  • The mystery persisted for about 20 years.

  • It finally began to get resolved in 2005 because of this guy.

  • Bill Koch is a Florida billionaire who owns four of the Jefferson bottles,

  • and he became suspicious.

  • And he ended up spending over a million dollars and hiring ex-FBI and ex-Scotland Yard agents to try to get to the bottom of this.

  • There's now ample evidence that Hardy Rodenstock is a con man, and that the Jefferson bottles were fakes.

  • But for those 20 years,

  • an unbelievable number of really eminent and accomplished figures in the wine world were sort of drawn into the orbit of these bottles.

  • I think they wanted to believe that the most expensive bottle of wine

  • in the world must be the best bottle of wine in the world,

  • must be the rarest bottle of wine in the world.

  • I became increasingly, kind of voyeuristically interested in the question of

  • you know, why do people spend these crazy amounts of money,

  • not only on wine but on lots of things,

  • and are they living a better life than me?

  • So, I decided to embark on a quest.

  • With the generous backing of a magazine I write for sometimes,

  • I decided to sample the very best, or most expensive, or most coveted item

  • in about a dozen categories,

  • which was a very grueling quest, as you can imagine.

  • (Laughter)

  • This was the first one.

  • A lot of the Kobe beef that you see in the U.S. is not the real thing.

  • It may come from Wagyu cattle,

  • but it's not from the original, Appalachian Hyogo Prefecture in Japan.

  • There are very few places in the U.S. where you can try real Kobe,

  • and one of them is Wolfgang Puck's restaurant, Cut, in Los Angeles.

  • I went there, and I ordered the eight-ounce rib eye for 160 dollars.

  • And it arrived, and it was tiny.

  • And I was outraged.

  • It was like, 160 dollars for this?

  • And then I took a bite, and I wished that it was tinier, because Kobe beef is so rich.

  • It's like foie gras -- it's not even like steak.

  • I almost couldn't finish it.

  • I was really happy when I was done.

  • (Laughter)

  • Now, the photographer who took the pictures for this project

  • for some reason posed his dog in a lot of them,

  • so that's why you're going to see this recurring character.

  • Which, I guess, you know, communicates to you

  • that I did not think that one was really worth the price.

  • White truffles.

  • One of the most expensive luxury foods by weight in the world.

  • To try this, I went to a Mario Batali restaurant

  • in Manhattan -- Del Posto.

  • The waiter, you know, came out with the white truffle knob

  • and his shaver, and he shaved it onto my pasta and he said, you know,

  • "Would Signore like the truffles?"

  • And the charm of white truffles is in their aroma.

  • It's not in their taste, really. It's not in their texture.

  • It's in the smell.

  • These white pearlescent flakes hit the noodles,

  • this haunting, wonderful, nutty, mushroomy smell wafted up.

  • 10 seconds passed and it was gone.

  • And then I was left with these little ugly flakes on my pasta that,

  • you know, their purpose had been served,

  • and so I'm afraid to say that this was also a disappointment to me.

  • There were several -- several of these items were disappointments.

  • (Laughter)

  • Yeah.

  • The magazine wouldn't pay for me to go there.

  • (Laughter)

  • They did give me a tour, though.

  • And this hotel suite is 4,300 square feet.

  • It has 360-degree views.

  • It has four balconies.

  • It was designed by the architect I.M. Pei.

  • It comes with its own Rolls Royce and driver.

  • It comes with its own wine cellar that you can draw freely from.

  • When I took the tour, it actually included some Opus One, I was glad to see.

  • 30,000 dollars for a night in a hotel.

  • This is soap that's made from silver nanoparticles,

  • which have antibacterial properties.

  • I washed my face with this this morning in preparation for this.

  • And it, you know, tickled a little bit and it smelled good,

  • but I have to say that nobody here

  • has complimented me on the cleanliness of my face today.

  • (Laughter)

  • But then again, nobody has complimented me on the jeans I'm wearing.

  • These ones GQ did spring for -- I own these -- but I will tell you,

  • not only did I not get a compliment from any of you,

  • I have not gotten a compliment from anybody

  • in the months that I have owned and worn these.

  • I don't think that whether or not you're getting a compliment

  • should be the test of something's value,

  • but I think in the case of a fashion item, an article of clothing,

  • that's a reasonable benchmark.

  • That said, a lot of work goes into these.

  • They are made from handpicked organic Zimbabwean cotton

  • that has been shuttle loomed

  • and then hand-dipped in natural indigo 24 times.

  • But no compliments.

  • (Laughter)

  • Thank you.

  • Armando Manni is a former filmmaker who makes this olive oil from an olive that grows on a single slope in Tuscany.

  • And he goes to great lengths to protect the olive oil from oxygen and light.

  • He uses tiny bottles, the glass is tinted,

  • he tops the olive oil off with an inert gas.

  • And he actually -- once he releases a batch of it,

  • he regularly conducts molecular analyses and posts the results online,

  • so you can go online and look at your batch number

  • and see how the phenolics are developing,

  • and, you know, gauge its freshness.

  • I did a blind taste test of this with 20 people and five other olive oils.

  • It tasted fine. It tasted interesting.

  • It was very green, it was very peppery.

  • But in the blind taste test, it came in last.

  • The olive oil that came in first was actually a bottle of

  • Whole Foods 365 olive oil which had been oxidizing next to my stove for six months.

  • (Laughter)

  • A recurring theme is that a lot of these things are from Japan --

  • you'll start to notice.

  • I don't play golf, so I couldn't actually road test these,

  • but I did interview a guy who owns them.

  • Even the people who market these clubs -- I mean, they'll say

  • these have four axis shafts which minimize loss of club speed

  • and thereby drive the ball farther -- but they'll say, look, you know,

  • you're not getting 57,000 dollars worth of performance from these clubs.

  • You're paying for the bling,

  • that they're encrusted with gold and platinum.

  • The guy who I interviewed who owns them did say

  • that he's gotten a lot of pleasure out of them, so ...

  • Oh, yeah, you know this one?

  • This is a coffee made from a very unusual process.

  • The luwak is an Asian Palm Civet.

  • It's a cat that lives in trees,

  • and at night it comes down and it prowls the coffee plantations.

  • And apparently it's a very picky eater and it, you know,

  • hones in on only the ripest coffee cherries.

  • And then an enzyme in its digestive tract leeches into the beans,

  • and people with the unenviable job of collecting these cats' leavings

  • then go through the forest collecting the, you know, results

  • and processing it into coffee -- although you actually can buy it

  • in the unprocessed form.

  • That's right.

  • Unrelatedly --

  • (Laughter)

  • Japan is doing crazy things with toilets.

  • (Laughter)

  • There is now a toilet that has an MP3 player in it.

  • There's one with a fragrance dispenser.

  • There's one that actually analyzes the contents of the bowl

  • and transmits the results via email to your doctor.

  • It's almost like a home medical center --

  • and that is the direction that Japanese toilet technology is heading in.

  • This one does not have those bells and whistles,

  • but for pure functionality it's pretty much the best -- the Neorest 600.

  • And to try this -- I couldn't get a loaner,

  • but I did go into the Manhattan showroom of the manufacturer, Toto,

  • and they have a bathroom off of the showroom that you can use, which I used.

  • It's fully automated -- you walk towards it, and the seat lifts.

  • The seat is preheated.

  • There's a water jet that cleans you.

  • There's an air jet that dries you.

  • You get up, it flushes by itself.

  • The lid closes, it self-cleans.

  • Not only is it a technological leap forward,

  • but I really do believe it's a bit of a cultural leap forward.

  • I mean, a no hands, no toilet paper toilet.

  • And I want to get one of these.

  • (Laughter)

  • This was another one I could not get a loaner of.

  • Tom Cruise supposedly owns this bed.

  • There's a little plaque on the end that, you know,

  • each buyer gets their name engraved on it.

  • (Laughter)

  • To try this one, the maker of it let me and my wife

  • spend the night in the Manhattan showroom.

  • Lights glaring in off the street,

  • and we had to hire a security guard and all these things.

  • But anyway, we had a great night's sleep.

  • And you spend a third of your life in bed.

  • I don't think it's that bad of a deal.

  • (Laughter)

  • This was a fun one.

  • This is the fastest street-legal car in the world

  • and the most expensive production car.

  • I got to drive this with a chaperone from the company,

  • a professional race car driver,

  • and we drove around the canyons outside of Los Angeles

  • and down on the Pacific Coast Highway.

  • And, you know, when we pulled up to a stoplight

  • the people in the adjacent cars kind of gave us respectful nods.

  • And it was really amazing.

  • It was such a smooth ride.

  • Most of the cars that I drive, if I get up to 80 they start to rattle.

  • I switched lanes on the highway and the driver, this chaperone, said,

  • "You know, you were just going 110 miles an hour."

  • And I had no idea that I was one of those obnoxious people

  • you occasionally see weaving in and out of traffic,

  • because it was just that smooth.

  • And if I was a billionaire, I would get one.

  • (Laughter)

  • This is a completely gratuitous video I'm just going to show

  • of one of the pitfalls of advanced technology.

  • This is Tom Cruise arriving at the "Mission: Impossible III" premiere.

  • When he tries to open the door,

  • you could call it "Mission: Impossible IV."

  • There was one object that I could not get my hands on,

  • and that was the 1947 Cheval Blanc.

  • The '47 Cheval Blanc is probably the most mythologized wine of the 20th century.

  • And Cheval Blanc is kind of an unusual wine for Bordeaux

  • in having a significant percentage of the Cabernet Franc grape.

  • And 1947 was a legendary vintage,

  • especially in the right bank of Bordeaux.

  • And just together, that vintage and that chateau took on this aura

  • that eventually kind of gave it this cultish following.

  • But it's 60 years old.

  • There's not much of it left.

  • What there is of it left you don't know if it's real --

  • it's considered to be the most faked wine in the world.

  • Not that many people are looking to pop open

  • their one remaining bottle for a journalist.

  • So, I'd about given up trying to get my hands on one of these.

  • I'd put out feelers to retailers, to auctioneers,

  • and it was coming up empty.

  • And then I got an email from a guy named Bipin Desai.

  • Bipin Desai is a U.C. Riverside theoretical physicist

  • who also happens to be the preeminent organizer of rare wine tastings,

  • and he said, "I've got a tasting coming up

  • where we're going to serve the '47 Cheval Blanc."

  • And it was going to be a double vertical --

  • it was going to be 30 vintages of Cheval Blanc,

  • and 30 vintages of Yquem.

  • And it was an invitation you do not refuse.

  • I went.

  • It was three days, four meals.

  • And at lunch on Saturday, we opened the '47.

  • And you know, it had this fragrant softness,