Napa Cabernets + SQN + others

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Tasted June 2, 2018 by csimm1161 with 413 views

Introduction

Thanks to all who contributed to this event at the house. Very much appreciate those who sacrificed their juice for the good of the order!

Flight 1 (3 notes)

White - Sparkling
N.V. Launois Pere et Fils Champagne Grand Cru Veuve Clemence Brut Blanc de Blancs France, Champagne, Champagne Grand Cru
91 points
Same as my previous notes. This displays a nice steely-driven push of white stone fruit and some upper register light yellow citrus notes. Effervescence was strong but not distracting. Compared to the Krug 165eme and ’12 Salmon Club Champagnes, this held the least interest for me, mostly in terms of its lesser complexity and whitewater rafting texture (a little more choppy than the Krug or Salmon). The Launois also displayed the most immature and youthful (higher toned) mid-palate; depth was notably more sophisticated with the Krug and Salmon. However, the Launois held its own as a fun drink on a warm evening. 90-92 points, depending on how cerebral you’re trying to be with your Champagne consumption. Drink now and over the next few years.
1 person found this helpful Comment
White - Sparkling
2012 Salmon Champagne Special Club France, Champagne
93 points
Similar to my notes on this wine a few months ago. A little more push and energy down the center of the palate than I recall from last time. Also, a little less ripe than I recall from the last bottle. Nevertheless, this delivered some nice yellow citrus fruit, bread dough, and oyster shell. Some ripeness, but a nice cut of acidity to keep it honest. Like the Launois, the Salmon’s effervescence was initially pretty powerful; some added time to settle down in the glass (BDX stem) helped to even that issue out considerably. This fell in-between the Launois and the Krug with regards to my personal preference. The Salmon offered more completeness and maturity than the Launois, but operated below the complexity level of the Krug165eme. The Salmon still falls in that 92-ish (inching into 93) point realm for me. Good to drink now, but a few years of aging might do it well.

Day 2/3 update: I had about half of a bottle of this left on 6/2, so I re-sealed it and opened it up last night (6/4). This still had tons of energy and flavor. In fact, it gained some added depth and complexity. Some nice quince and almond paste notes emerged. Solid 93++ points at this juncture, with upside in a few years.
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White - Sparkling
N.V. Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée Edition 165eme France, Champagne
93 points
2009 base. Seemingly more mineral driven and acidic, with an initial pucker factor that needed some time in the glass to sort out before it started to display what I would consider any semblance of worthy complexity or tiered flavoring. Once the jaw unhinged and the bite started to subside, notes of lemon, brioche crust (emphasis on the “crust” component - not necessarily that fresh doughy or yeasty quality), unripe apricot, and a beautiful ginger note emerged.

Overall, this wine seems to need some time. The front end was fairly fast and snappy, almost skipping the mid-palate in terms of depth on the initial sips. With an opportunity to air-out a bit more, the complexity started to show and the flavors remained on the palate, working their way toward the back end. The finish was slightly abrupt, but managed to inch-out additional length and form a measurable tail (if but a little stubby at the moment). It wasn’t a show-stopper of a Champagne for me with its current profile. Time will hopefully solve some of its seamlessness and textural issues. 93+ points for me at the moment. I would advise holding these for a few years at least.

The Krug was served next to a 2012 Salmon Club and an NV Launois. The Krug was in fact the favorite. But quite frankly, it better be. Not exactly fair to compare, as the other two are, if nothing else, more bargain-driven than the Krug. However, I honestly expected more from the Krug at that brand’s level. Again, hopefully it’s more of a time issue than anything else. Hold for now.
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Flight 2 (1 note)

White
2011 Marcassin Chardonnay Marcassin Vineyard USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Coast
94 points
“A beautiful wine,” was the general sentiment among most of the crowd, though some (myself included) felt like it was holding back quite a bit, with the frontal push of flavoring to be reticent and somewhat tame. Its overall profile was one of suppleness, with an incredibly gentle delivery. It certainly had some gorgeous feminine flavors that maintained an impressive BALANCE (which for me, was where it gained its points). The soft-spoken lemon and yellow citrus flavors had a calming demeanor, with some vanilla and chamomile converging the sides of the palate, as the delicate finish softly advanced and tailed-off.

I admittedly would’ve liked to have experienced a little more of a distinct personality from this wine; a little more discernable uniqueness by which to become seemingly captivated by its would-be individuality. I felt like I was missing a little something in that regard. I liked it. It was good…if not just a little too reserved for my personal preference. Lacking a little bit in the pizzazz flavor department overall for me. (Of course, not every wine is designed to be jazzy or intense).

I suppose I imagine it to be like the anticipation of meeting Chris Rock, only in that instant where I’m introduced, he just gives me a flat, “Hello,” and walks away. Nice enough and all, but no attempt to impress or flip the switch. No funny quip. No celebrity smile. Just a cordial, “Sup…”

Maybe I just need to reframe this experience. If I always wanted to meet Gwyneth Paltrow, then I guess I just did…

93-ish/94 points, mainly for its unreal balance and textural beauty. Drink now.
4 people found this helpful Comment

Flight 3 (1 note)

Red
2016 Wren Hop Pinot Noir Cautionary Tale USA, California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
97 points
Not one ounce of doom and gloom here with this “Cautionary Tale.” PnP with wonderful black cherry, saturated and sappy black raspberry, bark, cacao bean, and some incense and cinnamon stick. Most certainly a worthy successor to the ostentatious 2013 Architects & Saboteurs…maybe even better?!? The Cautionary Tale has less of a dense, boozy quality about it, instead, impressing with its perfect balance of flavor and grip; it is certainly more composed and focused, but not in that stuffy white-wigged barrister kind of way. It is intense without being tense. Attentive without being hypervigilant. And most importantly for a flavor-hound like me, the Cautionary Tale has an awesome push of enticing core fruit and spice.

It never gets to that Courtney Love sloppy level with the flavoring; the nucleus of this wine is decided and persistent. The back end seemed initially a bit paused, but then it almost instantly kicked into gear and the waves of flavors kept reappearing. It’s the kind of wine you think about even after you’ve moved on to the next volley of tastings (and considering the fact the wines that followed were big ass Cabernets, this was quite the feat to still be pondering a Pinot Noir). 94-95+ points on Day 1.

DAY 2 UPDATE: Now THIS is what I’m talking about here people! This flavor-gyrating rockstar was singing like a three-legged Mick Jagger on an epic Brown Sugar bender. More of everything awesome getting boosted into your taste cave.

Final conclusion: Let this wine sit for another 6-12 months in bottle. Get concert tickets and enjoy the afterparty in your mouth that is set to explode in 2019+. One of my favorite Wren Hops to date.
5 people found this helpful Comments (2)

Flight 4 (2 notes)

Red
2012 Sine Qua Non Grenache Stein USA, California, Central Coast
94 points
Served side-by-side with the ’12 SQN Touché. Decanted over the course of 5 hours, and followed throughout the night. PnP displayed a dark red and black core fruit profile. A little higher-toned black cherry, plum, dark cassis, red/purple plum, black rock, and some spice. Somewhat thinner and linear on the front end, with a medium-bodied mid-palate weight that pushed its flavors casually through the back end. Coated the mouth with furry tannins that ended with a bit of an abrupt finish initially. After a few hours in the decanter, this wine developed some additional weight and length. More unctuous than the first cork-pull, but still a little shy, especially on the tail.

To no one’s surprise, the Stein had trouble keeping up with the Touché. Once the Touché entered the equation for a side-by-side, any flaws existing in the Stein were only more emphasized. It’s one of those situations where the Stein is a very good wine, but the Touché just obliterated anything in its path with heightened everything. Flavor, drive, texture, weight/concentration, scaffolding…all were elevated with the Touché. It always sucks a little when the beautiful girl next door becomes instantly forgettable as soon as the rock-climbing fitness model with a Ph.D. enters the room. Ah, such is life…

Hold the Stein for another couple of years. The best sips of this wine were after at least three hours in the decanter. 94+ points, with possible upside after 2020+.
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Red
2012 Sine Qua Non Syrah Touché Eleven Confessions Vineyard USA, California, Central Coast, Sta. Rita Hills
99 points
Served side-by-side with the ’12 SQN Stein. Not surprisingly, the Touché was one of the wines of the night, and especially unfortunate for the 2012 SQN Stein, which received a serving up of a good ‘ol fashioned can of whoop ass from the Touché. Like the Stein, the Touché took a few hours in the decanter to fully come to life. But it was on a quick ascent of awesomeness from the word go.

Amazing levels of balanced concentration, texture, and complexity, with a meatier quality about it that elevated the core blackberry and black raspberry fruit flavors. Railroad tie, purple licorice, campfire, pulverized black river rock, and faint incense and floral notes all danced across the palate with total seamlessness. Everything was in check. The best sips were after a couple of hours in the decanter.

In a year or two, this will likely be a 100 point wine. Hold until 2020. The best SQN I’ve had to date.
6 people found this helpful Comment

Flight 5 (1 note)

Red
2015 MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
100 points
Double-decanted and re-corked in-bottle for approximately 8 hours; then consumed out of a decanter over the course of over four more hours. By hour two, this had presented itself in a way that was truly the perfect example of what I’m looking for in a Napa Cabernet…or any Cabernet from anywhere in the world. My previous notes apply from 2/7/2018, but I bumped this up even more because the service of this wine completely enabled what I believe to be a flawless example of the varietal. Black currant, dark, deeply pitched black raspberry, black asphalt, black soil, black river rock, obsidian, whole anise, clove, and faint tobacco leaf.

The scaffolding on this wine is so impeccable that it delivers a laser focus that cuts right through the flavors, grabs ahold of the palate, and takes it on a precision ride from the front, mineral-driven attack, through the mid-palate flavoring (perfectly weighted), and on through the impeccably executed finish. I had this wine just after trying a 2012 SQN Touché, which was an incredible wine in its own right. But this MACDONALD was even next level from the SQN (different varietals of course).

Previous notes apply otherwise. This is a wine to leave alone for a number of years (as in 3-5 minimum), and may not reach its ultimate optimal PnP drinking window until a decade from vintage. However, with proper planning and treatment, one can certainly start to reap the benefits of this multidimensional and extraordinarily complex wine. 99-100 points.
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Flight 6 (4 notes)

Red
2008 Rudd Oakville Estate Proprietary Red USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
96 points
Previous notes apply, though I experienced this as much less angular this time around. With the proper decanting (approximately 5+ hours total), this really started to show nicely. Somewhat surprisingly, this behaved like a much younger wine. Blind, I probably would’ve erroneously called it out as from the 2013 vintage. It’s pretty amazing that this wine is a decade from vintage and has so much energy and drive. The flavors were swirling around beautifully, most notably after we were well into hour four with it having been in the decanter and warming up to a cooler room temperature (from 54 degrees initially).

The Rudd’s profile was similar to a couple of the Morlet Cabs/blends we had served next to it. This had more grip and acid than a 2008 Morlet Coeur de Vallee served directly beside it. For those holding bottles, I’d suggest holding the Rudd even longer – possibly a couple more years – as it seems to have so much energy behind its push of flavor that I’d be curious to see how some of the acid and tannins continue to potentially integrate in-bottle. Hold until 2020+.

As a side note, there was much debate about whether the Rudd or a 2015 Scarlett Reserve wine was the better wine (of course, I was all-in for the Scarlett). Both were served blind (albeit, after we all had gone through the entire lineup a time or two – so our palates were fighting some fatigue). The Scarlett was the immediate and unanimous winner. Different styles to be sure, but the complexity and intensity of the Scarlett couldn’t be matched.
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Red
2008 Morlet Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Cœur de Vallée Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
97 points
Compared/served directly next to a 2012 Morlet Coeur de Vallee and a 2012 Morlet Force de la Nature. This was up there as one of my top wines of the night. I loved the way the Cabernet Franc component was harmonizing with the Cabernet Sauvignon. Black raspberry, dark red/purple plum, boysenberry, black soil, bitter chocolate, sappy cassis, Herbes de Provence (mainly singed bay leaf), tobacco leaf, leather, and some spice.

My previous notes from a little over two months ago still apply otherwise. Others ultimately favored the 2012 Morlet Force de la Nature over the 2008 Morlet Coeur de Vallee, but I was more a fan of the latter. Drinking well now, but able to sustain more cellaring over the next few years. For my palate, I’m all good with how it was performing shortly after PnP (though a couple hours of decanted air deepened the mid-palate even further).
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Morlet Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Cœur de Vallée Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
94 points
Compared/served directly next to a 2008 Morlet Coeur de Vallee and a 2012 Morlet Force de la Nature. My previous notes apply on this wine. This was 3rd of the 3 Morlets we had, mostly due to its youth. The 2008 was in a far better place and ready for consumption when compared to the 2012. I’m going to try to hold the 2012 for at least 4-5 more years before opening another bottle if I can help it. A little linear on the attack and not as giving in the flavor department as I would generally like. This came off like a math project and less like a festive offering. The potential is there, but it was bested by its siblings. 94+ points for now. Hold until 2023.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2012 Morlet Family Vineyards Cabernet Franc Force de la Nature Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
95 points
Compared/served directly next to a 2008 and a 2012 Morlet Coeur de Vallee. This Force de la Nature had some notable precision (especially when distinguished from the Morlet Coeur de Vallee wines, which offered up more in the fruit department in general; whereas the Force has a laser-like focus that elevated the intensity and provided lift for its distinct flavors). The Force seemed more earth and spice driven as well, with less overt fruit on the front end. Black and red currant, black cherry, soil, cedar, forest floor/mulch, and some subtle spice. Holding back some of its cards still, but starting to kick out some truly sophisticated essences. Hold until 2020/2021 minimum. 95-96 points at the moment.

Others at the tasting favored this wine over the other Morlets. I still preferred the 2008 Morlet Coeur de Vallee for its better accessibility and seamlessly intermingling complex flavor profile.
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Flight 7 (4 notes)

Red
2015 Venge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Bone Ash Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Calistoga
94 points
Definitely more fruit-driven than the Morlets and Rudd served alongside it, with seemingly less backbone and acidic grip. Ripe red and black core fruit, with lush, plush, rounded edges that would be just fine in a stand-alone situation, but when compared to the other wines next to it, seemed a little overly mushy at times. From the front end to the back, it is a “gushing with fruit” kind of wine. One comment made was that it seemed like it was trying too hard to be a top-shelf Cabernet. I still thought it was a good wine, but it did seem like it was graduating medical school with a D+… It’s still technically a doctor (which is noteworthy), but probably not one you’d want doing neurosurgery on your daughter. The 92-93 point MD is probably fine as a check-your-prostate kind of GP, but otherwise I’ll pay the extra tariff to seek out the summa cum laude from Stanford for my specialty needs.

The 2015 Bone Ash is a big wine, with still a lot to sort out. It just seems like a big “plop” of fruit flavor right now…good flavor, but alas, not as focused as I would prefer. The 2015 Venge Family Reserve was a bit more delineated and framed-out in its flavor profile when compared to this Bone Ash, but both Venges seemed less sophisticated when next to some of the other top performer Cabernets.

Previous notes from 12/31/2017 still apply otherwise. Hold until 2019/2020.

Day two update: Much better than day one. I bumped it up from 93 to 94 for the added depth and concentration.
2 people found this helpful Comments (4)
Red
2015 Venge Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Family Reserve USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
94 points
A step up from the 2015 Bone Ash, but still leading its attack with a lot of fruit in the mouth all at once. A darker flavor profile than the Bone Ash, with sappy black raspberry, wild blackberry, black currant, dark mulch and wet cedar, and some scorched earth. Big and bold, with nice concentration and depth, but a little sluggish on the drive toward the back end. Slightly heavy at the moment, with the delivery skipping a few necessary beats to best finish out the back end. Hopefully time will help this. 93-94 points at the moment, with possible upside in another year or two, where it hopefully will develop more seamlessness.

Like the Bone Ash, the Family Reserve typified much of Venge’s fruit-forward style. The Bone Ash was especially “fruity” when served side-by-side with this Family Reserve. Nevertheless, both wines are good (the Family Reserve was very good). However, they finished toward the middle/middle-end of the pack of the 30-ish wines tasted. I did not find them to be as compelling as the Morlets, Tusk, MACDONALD, Rudd, Scarlett Reserve, etc. (stiff competition to be sure).
2 people found this helpful Comments (2)
Red
2015 Outpost Immigrant True Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
94 points
Served next to the 2015 Outpost Cabernet Sauvignon (which I preferred ever so slightly – mainly for its elevated frame and grip). Purple and black core fruit, with black currant, black soil, chocolate chunk, and spice. I’m always a fan of this wine, and the 2015 vintage shows that this wine continues on its trajectory on being a solid performer year after year. It’s not the most complex of all the wines out there, and I probably find it to be a little less compelling than the 2014 version, but it has great flavor, wonderful textural, good purity of fruit, and some nice unctuous and accessible flavors that keep you coming back for another sip. Drinking fine now, but I’d wait another year to let it gain an even better glide.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2015 Outpost Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley, Howell Mountain
94 points
Same as my notes on this wine from last month. Black and purple core fruit (with some streaks of dark red), cassis, spice, and some licorice. More frame and grip than the 2015 Outpost Immigrant (which had somewhat softer edges by comparison). The drive of flavors was nice here too, if not a little youthfully clunky on the front end. Smoothed out nicely through the mid-palate and on the finish. I’d hold this for another year or two still. 94 solid points.
3 people found this helpful Comments (2)

Flight 8 (4 notes)

Red
2013 Revana Cabernet Sauvignon Block 6 USA, California, Napa Valley
94 points
Very similar to the 2012 Block 6 I had the week before. Dark black and some super dark red core fruit, with black currant, chocolate, black soil, and spice to round-out the flavor profile. Dark, sappy fruit and scorched earth notes washed up on the mid-attack and followed through on the finish. A fun and flavorful wine, with some darker, more earthy-gothic qualities that I found appealing.

This 2013 falls slightly behind the 2012 and 2014 versions of Block 6, as those two are sexier and more saturated than this 2013 in my opinion. The 2012 is more topless dancer (classy, but kinda not – in a good way), while the 2014 is straight ‘daddy didn’t love me’ stripper pole style – in the best of ways. The 2013 is more Dancing with the Stars on the sexy-a-meter. Although it is splitting hairs, the 2013 is missing some of the concentrated, inky characteristics found in the 2012 and 2014. Nevertheless, the 2013 still delivers. Drinking fine now, but hold for a few years with confidence if you feel like it. I personally don’t see a lot of improvement in store with this wine with any sort of significant bottle aging.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Carter Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon The Grand Daddy Beckstoffer To-Kalon Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
93 points
Somewhat similar to the 2012 Revana Block 6 (served beside it) in terms of its dark, black core fruit. Less chocolate-driven than the Revana, but displaying a nice streak of black soil and earthy mulch instead. Tannins were a bit grainy and gritty, but I actually liked the extra textural quality that it added to the profile. More medium-bodied than the younger Carter wines I’ve had recently. This was very similar to a 2010 Mondavi Oakville Reserve that was also at the table, except that the Carter had more power. Drink now.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2010 Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
91 points
Strikingly similar to the 2010 Carter Grand Daddy, except that the Mondavi had a lighter body overall, with a bit of an old-world, earthy quality that made it uniquely stand out when compared to the other more modern Cabernets in the lineup. Black currant, black soil, burnt cedar, and black rock. Like a number of the other wines in the lineup, this wine suffered as a result of its competition. As the solo wine you pop at a nice steak dinner, one would be most pleased. But amongst some of the other serious athletes, this had trouble keeping pace. Drink now.
1 person found this helpful Comment
Red
2013 Del Dotto Cabernet Sauvignon 887 USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
92 points
I always have a soft spot in my heart (or palate) for the St. Helena wines from Del Dotto. This 2013 is a medium-bodied animal (when compared to what I remember about the 2014), darker fruit profile, with some earthy minerality and gritty tannins. Some dark crunchy cassis as well. Drink now.
1 person found this helpful Comment

Flight 9 (4 notes)

Red
2015 Becklyn Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
95 points
Same as my previous notes on this wine. This was served to me blind and I identified it correctly as the ’15 Becklyn NV, mostly because of the unique array of blue, black, and red fruit notes swirling around the cassis and vanilla flavors. The delivery is very modern, but with so much energy and drive dancing around the palate, it’s not only a downright fun wine to drink, it is also surprisingly complex, especially for an appellation version. Still a little fat on the finish, but that’ll sort out with some short-term cellaring.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2015 Scarlett Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve USA, California, Napa Valley, Rutherford
99 points
All of my previous notes on this wine apply. I’ve written on and on about my adoration for the 2015 Scarlett Reserve. The best Scarlett ever. The best McGah ever. One of the best Mike Smith wines ever. And with a relatively awesome QPR when compared to any other wine in its league, this thing is just a great bottle of juice that I could drink every night. This showed best after about an hour of being in the glass and getting some much needed air. The initial PnP pull was a little fat and boozy, but that tapered off, leaving some extraordinarily complex dark fruit, rock, and spice flavors. Great energy and intensity. Ideally, I’d still hold for another year.
6 people found this helpful Comments (10)
Red
2014 Tusk Estates Cabernet Sauvignon USA, California, Napa Valley
98 points
All previous notes apply. PnP was a little boozy, but that settled down after some swirling in the glass. It was very good, but couldn’t fully run away from the liqueur component that was making it come off a little bit more like a cocktail than a top-shelf Cabernet. On the day of the tasting, this was operating at around the 94-95 mark for me.

On day two, this became a pretty awesome bottle of bad-assness. Similar to the 2013 Tusk, but with a little more of a fruit-driven profile. Hyper-pure and elevated quality was indeed evident, with black and red core fruit, deeply pitched, but with a lift and drive that catapulted the flavors out of the park. Velvety and silky but simultaneously powerful and intense. It is a tremendous modern day bad boy for sure, but with a cultured side that takes multidimensional and skyscraper complexity to the next level. I hope to hold remaining bottles until 2020+.
2 people found this helpful Comment
Red
2015 Bevan Cellars EE Cuvée Tench Vineyard USA, California, Napa Valley, Oakville
99 points
The only thing that kept this from being 100 points tonight was that the MACDONALD kept coming along and smacking around everything in front of it. All of my previous notes on this EE apply. This is truly a magnificent wine. Great fruit intensity; great frame and grip; great texture; great complexity. Easily my favorite 2015 Bevan. Drinking great now on PnP, but I’ll try to hold my next bottle until 2019+.
3 people found this helpful Comment

Flight 10 (1 note)

Red - Fortified
1994 Dow Porto Vintage Portugal, Douro, Porto
92 points
Smooth plum, camphor, and soil notes. A little bit of animal and bear paw fur on the back end. Not completely barnyard, but definitely some mammalian tinges on the finish. Still, this maintained its level demeanor, pairing quite nicely with homemade chocolate chip cookies! Drink ‘em if you got ‘em, as I think this is on the downward slope. It was good, but as a standalone, there wasn’t much of anything epic to be found here.
5 people found this helpful Comment
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