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 3/22/2012-3/27/2012
 

 

 

Napa Valley Burger Co - Sausalito

On my first full day in San Francisco I decided to take advantage of the warm sunny weather and rented a bike from Fisherman's Wharf. It cost me $30 for the day, so I turned most of the day into a self-guided bike tour. I rode down to Fort Point to see if there were any waves, but it was just a bunch of frothy, speeding currents. I biked over the Golden Gate Bridge and cruised down into Sausalito feeling hungry and thirsty. I stopped by Napa Valley Burger Co (ironic name, considering it's in Sausalito). Of course, I wanted to start off the trip with some California wine.

  • 2010 Poppy Chardonnay - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands (3/22/2012)
    I liked this better than the 2009 Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara chardonnay. The nose shows bright apple and orange peel. It's very floral, and just downright attractive on the nose. The palate shows smooth fruit and a good dose of acid. Flavors of green apple and lime, also some white peach. It rides the line between zesty and rich, and does so very well. (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay Santa Barbara County - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (3/22/2012)
    Golden colored. Aromas of buttery oak and yellow apple. The palate is plump and very rich with bruised apple and oak. There's enough acid to keep it interesting. (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Aiden Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (3/22/2012)
    So Sonoma Coast. Complex, seductive aromas of raspberry, asian spice, some cola and a hint of pine needle. The palate has firm tannins and plush fruit, showing spicy, brambly raspberry, cola and wild strawberry. This wine is really balanced and smooth and focuses almost exclusively on fruit flavors, but those flavors are elegant and smooth. The wine maintains a sexiness without being overbearing. Mocha and raspberry liquer linger on a silky finish. (90 pts.)

Bumming around SF and the East Bay

These are a few wines I tasted while I was dawdling around San Francisco on the next day. One day my girlfriend showed me around her alma mater, Berkeley. It was raining, but we still had a good time. We went to Chez Pannise for dinner, which was definitely the culinary highlight of the trip. That place lives up to all the hype. I loved the food, the staff and the atmospher, and their food is very reasonably priced considering the quality.

  • 2010 Bodega del Abad Godello Bierzo Abad Dom Bueno - Spain, Castilla y León, Bierzo (3/22/2012)
    Aromatically, I like this wine: pineapple, butter and a hint of hazelnut. The palate shows creamy apple and pear fruit with a shot of acid. Like chardonnay spiked with lime. (81 pts.)
  • 2009 Arrowood Chardonnay - USA, California, Sonoma County (3/23/2012)
    I had two glasses of this at Kuleto's Italian Restaurant near Union Square. It was a good accompaniment to a lovely linguine and clam sauce. Creamy and buttery, but it maintains freshness and vivacity. (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Lioco Chardonnay Demuth Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley (3/24/2012)
    I chose this wine from the Chez Pannise list knowing it would be good, but I had no idea how good. This chardonnay is simply stunning. Intoxicating aromas of meyer lemon, margarita salt, minerals and brie rind. Over the course of the evening, a bit of honeydew melon came out. This wine isn't oaked and it doesn't need it. Tangy acid hits the palate upon the first sip and carries through to the finish. This wine is almost Chablis-like with its mineral and lemon flavors, but the California sun shows through with the lemon curd and orange rind. Pure, vibrant and simply beautiful. Val, a fan of oaked chardonnays, was amazed by this wine as well. It stood up to oysters with its minerals and acid, as well as a rich, green-olive crusted hallibut. I would love to taste this again in five years. World-class chardonnay. I'd love to throw this wine into a tasting of Grand Cru Chablis because I have a feeling it would hold up very well. (94 pts.)

Copain Winery

I was really excited to visit this winery because I've been a fan of theirs for a long time. Most of my experience with Copain has been with their single-vineyard syrahs, and most of those were from older vintages 2003-2007. I was excited to try their new releases, and I'm happy to report that they're even better. Copain's wines have a lively, fresh style, while demonstrating focused fruit, mineral and earth flavors. The staff was really helpful, giving us generous pours. The experience couldn't have been better. My brother and his wife really enjoyed this style of wine and the visit in general. I think I've made a Copain convert. This place is high on my list of top spots for Sonoma wine tourists.

  • 2010 Copain Chardonnay Tous Ensemble - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley (3/25/2012)
    I really enjoyed this chardonnay. No new oak, and limited maloactic fermentation make for a fresh but fruit-forward chardonnay with a unique character. Aromas of fresh pineapple, pear and a very distinct mineral aroma. The palate is creamy to start, then the acid kicks in to keep it fresh. What a lovely white peach flavor, backed up with a dose of lemon and minerals. Long finish with lingering acid. Copain does a great job with reds, so I was thrilled to try this. It didn't disappoint. I look forward to some more Copain chardonnays in the future. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Copain Pinot Noir Les Voisins - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley (3/25/2012)
    Wow, what a beautiful pinot. Gorgeous strawberry color in the glass. The nose is soft and seductive, showing cherry, cranberry and a hint of pepper. Fresh and medium-bodied on the palate with medium acid. The flavors cascade over the palate like silk. I love the cranberry, licorice and underbrush flavors. Fine-grained tannins with a sexy finish, showing just a kiss of toast. This pinot has a lot of complexity that will surely evolve for at least a few years. I bought some, so I'm looking forward to popping a bottle in a year or two. (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Copain Pinot Noir Wentzel Vineyard - USA, California, North Coast, Anderson Valley (3/25/2012)
    This wine is so seductive, it's hard not to gush over. Bright, pure black cherry color in the glass. The nose is a medley of flowers, rose hips, roasted plums and just a hint of meat. The palate shows a firm structure, more so than the 2009 Les Voisons pinot noir. It's definitely got some grip to it. Flavors of black cherry, smoke and a bit of coffee. Acid keeps it balanced, but it's clear that this wine needs some time in the bottle or at least in the decanter to show its true stuff. Caramel on the finish. Pure and lovely, and it will only get better with a few years. I don't need a reminder why I love Anderson Valley pinot, but I got one anyway. (93 pts.)
  • 2009 Copain Syrah Les Voisins - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands (3/25/2012)
    Gorgeous dark purple in the glass. Dark and rich aromas of plums, cocoa powder and a bit of crushed rock. The palate shows restraint, with plush tannins and flavors of black cherry, currant and just a hint of vanilla and white pepper. The best way to describe this wine is purity. Creamy finish with a hint of subtle oak. I'd love to revisit this in three or five years. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Copain Syrah Thompson Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County (3/25/2012)
    I liked this wine, but it seemed a bit big for Copain. Dark purple in the glass. Aromas of boysenberry, blueberry and creamy milk chocolate. The palate is plummy and dark as hell, with brooding blue fruit and dense tannins. It's delicious, but this reminds me why my palate has shifted to North Coast syrah over the past few years. (89 pts.)

Joseph Swan

This boutique winery was recommended by the staff at Copain. Just a few miles away, it's a small, no frills kind of winery, with friendly staff and an even friendlier winery dog. Their wines seem to display a rustic, hand-made quality that is unfortunately rare in a lot of California wines. This is another highly recommended visit. Even if you're not a total fan of their wines, you'll still have a really interesting wine experience.

  • 2010 Joseph Swan Vineyards Gewürztraminer Saralee's Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/25/2012)
    This was one of the more interesting surprises of the whole trip: a single-vineyard, bone-dry gewurtz with a lot of class. Aromas of lychee, white peach and spice. The palate is dry, almost chalky, with pineapple and banana peel flavors. Long finish with lychee nut. The group really liked this wine's unique personality. (88 pts.)
  • 2010 Joseph Swan Vineyards Chardonnay Cuvée de Trois - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/25/2012)
    Aromas of yellow raisins and white grapes. The nose is a bit boring, to be honest. The palate shows a hefty dose of plump tropical fruit and butter. It seems quite typical in its style, but it's still a solid chardonnay. (86 pts.)
  • 2010 Joseph Swan Vineyards Viognier Saralee's Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/25/2012)
    This viognier is a tropical explosion of aromas: honeysuckle, pear and pineapple. The palate is much different, quite linear in its approach, with a strong clover honey flavor, along with a distinct note of grass. It's thick, with honey and wax on the finish. The alcohol might bother some, but I enjoyed the density of this viognier. (88 pts.)
  • 2007 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir Saralee's Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/25/2012)
    I'd love to pour this pinot noir blind for a lot of wine drinkers. I'm sure there would be some who'd guess Willamette Valley, or even Burgundy. It's a clear auburn/cherry color in the glass with medium viscosity. The nose shows fresh wild strawberry and a distinct beef bouillon and broth aroma. The tannins are soft and plush. The mix of currant tea and savory beef broth flavors are really interesting and exciting. Sour cherry as well. Medium+ acid makes this easy to sip and a great accompaniment to a lot of foods. (The first thing that comes to mind is beef stew!) Very pure, light and sexy. This is a wine for those who love to slam Russian River pinots as being too fruity and exctracted. Joseph Swan does some great things with the Saralee's Vineyard fruit, and this was no exception. (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Joseph Swan Vineyards Pinot Noir Cuvée de Trois - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/25/2012)
    This pinot was tied with the Saralee's Vineyard 2007 for my palate. Light cherry color in the glass. Richer fruit on the nose than the Saralee's, with currant and a streak of minerality. Fresh cherry fruit, bold and bright, along with hints of earthiness. Superb acid and structure. This wine has years ahead of it, but it's so pure and fresh right now. (91 pts.)
  • 2006 Joseph Swan Vineyards Zinfandel Trenton Station - Lion Ridge - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/25/2012)
    So, for some reason, Joseph Swan releases this zinfandel a solid five or six years from the vintage. It's a light red color in the glass, but don't let that fool you. This is a big wine. Juicy red fruit on the nose, gushing cherry and a hint of white pepper. The wine is creamy and juicy on the palate with raspberry, candied cherry and strawberry pie. While those flavors are usually associated with boozed-up zins, this wine stays balanced and light with smooth tannins and fresh acid. Nice stuff, Joseph Swan! (90 pts.)
  • 2006 Joseph Swan Vineyards Zinfandel Stellwagen - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley (3/25/2012)
    What a crazy/interesting zinfandel! Auburn/red color in the glass. The nose shows stewed cherry and freshly-cracked black pepper, along with a savory mushroom aroma. On the palate, this wine is really crazy. It starts off with sweet cherry and caramel, then a pork roast and steak flavor rushes in. White pepper sticks around the whole time. I really liked this wine for its uniqueness. Bekah summed it up quite well: "This is the weirdest zinfandel I've ever tasted." Good thing I like weird wine. (88 pts.)

Merry Edwards

This is a very pretty winery located in a great corner of Sonoma. Cats lay around the vines, the rich smells of mushrooms blow in from the neighboring mushroom farm. The staff is really helpful and I really liked the private tasting we received. Merry Edwards goes for a bolder, more bombastic style of pinot noir, which was quite a shift from Copain and Joseph Swan. Still, these wines show a lot of personality, and they are simply delicious. I'd love to drink any of these, any time. This is another solid recommendation for Sonoma wine fans.

  • 2009 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/25/2012)
    Vibrant purple color in the glass. Rich cherry on the nose and pure strawberry pie as well. The palate is smooth and jammy, but it maintains an elegance. Nice cinnamon flavor accents the rich cherry fruit, and the finish shows a taste of integrated oak. Silky, pure and elegant. (91 pts.)
  • 2009 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Georganne - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/25/2012)
    Gorgeous bright purple color. Aromas of carmelized sugar and fresh blackberries. On the palate this wine is jammier than the 2009 Russian River pinot noir, with cherry pie and mocha. Silky tannins support the rich, unctuous fruit. Lovely, but very rich indeed. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Meredith Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/25/2012)
    This is what I look for in a bombastic style Russian River pinot noir. The aromas are sweeter and darker than any of the other pinots tasted, with a blackberry-mocha aspect. Dense tannins and firm fruit on the palate. Mocha-accented raisins, black cherry and boysenberry. Spicy pepper adds complexity. For this style, this wine nails it. Delicious. I imagine a few years in the bottle would do this big girl good. (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Merry Edwards Pinot Noir Klopp Ranch - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/25/2012)
    Another great big pinot from Merry Edwards. The nose on this shows that classic Russian River black cherry, but also a unique mix of cranberry and rhubarb. The palate is both silky and dense at the same time. Pure, lush currant and black cherry fruit flavors, along with peanut shell and cocoa powder. The finish is soft, showing baking spice and brambles. This was a big hit with the tasting group at the winery. (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/25/2012)
    Among a plethora of wonderful Sonoma pinots, syrahs and chardonnays, this wine still stood out and wowed me. The aromas are superb: white flowers, white peach, chive and jalapeno. Creamy palate, showing white peach, honey and honeydew melon, along with a distinct chive flavor. It's complex as hell, carrying long onto the finish. A hint of peanut shell from the oak, but I didn't find this wine overblown by any means. Acid lingers on the finish, leaving the palate refreshed. Val and I both swooned over this wine. (94 pts.)

Siduri & Novy

This tasting room is located in a cavernous warehouse off a lazy street in Santa Rosa. The tasting staff was very helpful and the wines were really nice. I liked the no frills approach to tasting, and the fact that you could see all the winery equipment right there in the "tasting room."

  • 2009 Novy Family Wines Chardonnay Keefer Ranch - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/26/2012)
    A very fruity nose with lemon, melon and cream, hints of ginger. The palate is bold and creamy, but unoaked, allowing the pure, rich apple and pear flavors to show through. Nice bruised apple on the finish. I'm really impressed that Novy is able to make a Keefer Ranch chardonnay at $20. Hats off. (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Siduri Pinot Noir Chehalem Mountains - USA, Oregon, Willamette Valley, Chehalem Mountains (3/26/2012)
    This was the first pinot of the Siduri tasting, and definitely the lightest. Pure cherry aromas, along with rose petals, very subtle and attractive. The palate shows smooth tannins and medium acid. I like the black cherry flavors and distinct mineral notes to this wine. Very silky and refined. Well done. Zeke appreciated the light and pure nature of this wine. (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Siduri Pinot Noir Lewis Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/26/2012)
    Vibrant cherry color. Rich cherry fruit on the nose, rose hips and cherry liquer. Bold on the palate with solid tannins. Chewy blackberry, baking spice and mocha accents. Lovely rich finish. (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonatera Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (3/26/2012)
    This wine showed a much darker purple color than the other pinots. A burst of fruit punch on the nose, along with smoke and pipe tobacco. The palate is jammy, but somehow silky at the same time. Cherry pie, raspberry jam flavors and hints of tar and smoke. A slight funkiness glides onto the finish. It's not by any means goopy, but it's not bashful either. A great example of Sonoma Coast pinot, and it will improve for several years. (92 pts.)
  • 2009 Siduri Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills - USA, California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills (3/26/2012)
    This was the biggest of the Siduri pinots we tasted at the winery. The bright cherry color is deceptive, as the nose shows blackberry, sweet blueberry and tar. The tannins and chunky fruit completely coat the palate. Bitter chocolate, black cherry and smoky toast flavors dominate, following by a long, dense finish. A big pinot, a bit too big for my tastes, and it lacks a bit of that elegance and sexiness that the other Siduri pinots showed. (87 pts.)
  • 2007 Novy Family Wines Nebbiolo Stolpman Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Ynez Valley (3/26/2012)
    Light strawberry color. Aromas of strawberry smoothie, rose and hints of tar. The palate shows dense tannins and tangy acid. I'm surprised at the varietal typicality of this nebbiolo, even if it lacks the complexity of most any Piedmont nebbiolo. Red cherry flavors, roses and just a bit of tobacco. Smooth finish. (87 pts.)
  • 2010 Novy Family Wines Zinfandel Russian River Valley - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/26/2012)
    I was surprised by this zinfandel, maybe because I wasn't suspecting much. Luscious aromas of briar patch, raspberry and cherry sauce. It has surprising structure on the palate with dense tannins and pure raspberry and cherry fruit and licorice. A hint of white pepper on the finish. Yum. (89 pts.)
  • 2007 Novy Family Wines Syrah Judge Family Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Bennett Valley (3/26/2012)
    Black olive aromas, along with plums and dirt. Lovely nose. It was nice to taste some earthy flavors after all the fruit I'd been smelling on this trip. Big tannins provide structure from the attack to the finish. Complex flavors of dark plums, olives and tilled soil. Rich and pure, with a smoky finish. I love it when Sonoma syrahs show some earthiness, and this one did so wonderfully. (90 pts.)
  • 2009 Novy Family Wines Syrah Napa Valley - USA, California, Napa Valley (3/26/2012)
    Huge plummy color in the glass, like radioactive dark purple. The nose is dense and brooding with plums and chocolate shavings. There's some viognier in here, but you could've fooled me. The palate is dense and extracted, a bit much for my palate. Perhaps this will show better in a few years. Bold tannins keep it from feeling goopy, but this is definitely a big syrah. (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Novy Family Wines Syrah Rosella's Vineyard - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands (3/26/2012)
    This was my favorite of the Novy wines tasted, and the rest of the tasters agreed. The nose shows typical black cherry, but also a real earthiness. A distinct pot aroma on the nose, along with freshly tilled soil. The palate is a burst of plums and tangy cherry. There's a lovely creamy texture and plush tannins. Pure cherry and chocolate shift to toast and meat brisket on the finish. Lovely stuff. I can't wait to open my bottle in a few years. (91 pts.)

Iron Horse

My brother and his wife were in the mood for some bubbles, and I suggested Iron Horse. Their vineyards and winery weren't too far away, so we drove over for a tasting. It was a cloudy day with rain on the horizon and consistent winds, but we tasted outside. They had heaters and it was sheltered from the wind, so we tasted through a range of wines. I chose the "Reserve" tasting, and I'm glad I did. These wine's all cost more than $50, so they're not exactly cheap, but they were all solid, and some really exceptional wines. We had a great time hanging out and sipping our generous pours as we walked around a bit. It's definitely a place I'll remember fondly and recommend to anyone, especially lovers of bubbly.

  • 2007 Iron Horse Vineyards Brut X - USA, California, Sonoma County, Green Valley (3/26/2012)
    The first sparkling wine of the trip, and it was a really impressive one. Very pale straw color, almost translucent. Very yeasty nose, with lemon-lime and minerals. Razor sharp palate, very focused. Sea shell, salt and lime zest flavors streak across an extremely dry palate. You could've fooled me that this was Champagne. I was begging for oysters with this sparkler. Zeke really loved this as well. (91 pts.)
  • 2007 Iron Horse Vineyards Fairy Tale Cuvée - USA, California, Sonoma County, Green Valley (3/26/2012)
    Apparently, this is the wine that Iron Horse serves on Disney cruises and resorts, so I wasn't expecting much. To my surprise, it was quite nice. Gorgeous salmon color. Wild strawberries and fresh biscuits on the nose. Tangy on the palate with a burst of white cherry and a rush of minerals and ruby red grapefruit. Tangy acid. I was expecting something sweet and fruity, but this is much more my style. (87 pts.)
  • 2009 Iron Horse Vineyards Chardonnay Native Yeast - USA, California, Sonoma County, Green Valley (3/26/2012)
    This chardonnay is only made in certain vintages, when the native vineyard yeasts do the job all alone. Aromatically, this wine is both rich and lively, with lots of lemon and tangy grapefruit as well as cream. The palate starts off with a rush of acid, then creamy pears swoop in, as well as grapefruit candies and Smarties. Very complex, showing whipped honey and melon rind as well. Acid lingers on the refreshing finish. Very nice. (91 pts.)
  • 2010 Iron Horse Vineyards Pinot Noir Green Valley - USA, California, Sonoma County, Green Valley (3/26/2012)
    This pinot is heavenly. Bright ruby color. Smooth black cherries on the nose, an aroma that reminds me of those black cherries you come across in the best black cherry ice cream. There's some cherry cordial as well and rose petal. The palate starts off with tangy acid, and smooth black cherries. Subtle tannins and pure fruit make this one elegant pinot noir. It's pretty much all fruit flavors, but they're all so complex as the wine graces the palate. Tangy acid carries the finish, which ends with just a hint of that gorgeous sweet black cherry. This was one of Zeke's favorite pinots of the trip and it was right up there on my favorites. (92 pts.)
  • 2010 Iron Horse Vineyards Pinot Noir Russian River Valley - USA, California, Sonoma County, Russian River Valley (3/27/2012)
    This pinot was darker in color than the 2010 Green Valley Estate. Lovely aromas of raspberry jam and smoke, then there's this carmelized sugar aroma that reminds me of creme brulee and cloves mixed together. Aromatically, this wine is serious stuff, and I'm loving it. Significant tannins, but they feel plush. The fruit tastes sweet, but not goopy. Still, this is a much bigger pinot than the Green Valley. Finishes like a hedonist, with vanilla and chocolate-covered cherries. That hint of clove sneaks in on the finish. (90 pts.)

Vino Volo

My flight from SFO back to DC was delayed for a long time, but luckily SFO has a Vino Volo, an airport wine bar chain that that I've been to several times. It's overpriced, but they have a decent selection of wine flights and a good by-the-glass selection.

  • 2009 Schug Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast (3/27/2012)
    Aromas of cranberry and red meat, and something that reminds me of rain puddles. On the palate, the sour cherry fruit and dark soil flavors meet very smooth tannins and medium acid. Cinnamon and cherry on the finish. This is very subtle for Sonoma Coast, but it's well made and a solid easy-drinking pinot noir. (88 pts.)
  • 2009 Outcast Pinot Noir - USA, California, North Coast, Yorkville Highlands (3/27/2012)
    Red currants and cedar aromas, as well as something that reminds me of Kahlua. Bold black cherry fruit on the palate and shameless tannins. There's a minerality to this wine that I like, almost like crushed rocks. Cedar and oak on a long, smooth finish. (89 pts.)
  • 2009 elusiv Pinot Noir - USA, California, Central Coast, Monterey County (3/27/2012)
    This was the sweetest pinot noir of the flight. Very fruity nose of strawberry and cherry. The palate has soft tannins and flavors of maraschino cherry, milk chocolate, and cool, cranberry fruit. A tasty, easy-sipping pinot. (87 pts.)
  • 2007 Peju Province Winery Cabernet Sauvignon - USA, California, Napa Valley (3/27/2012)
    Dark purple color. Very dark aromas of cocoa bean and blackberry. The aromas are almost paint-like in their density. The palate is obviously dense and dark. The blackberry and black cherry fruit is backed up by grainy tannins. All of this is slathered in gobs of oak and mocha. Low acid makes this a bit harsh on my palate. After a week of more balanced and less oaked Sonoma wines, the massive injection of oak on this wine really overwhelms me. (85 pts.)

 


 
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