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D.V. Catena Tinto Historico Red Blend 2014

8 Aug

D.V. Catena Tinto Historico Red Blend 2014; Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina. 13.7% ABV, Street $16-18/bottle.

 

Color is a thick garnet with ruby edging. The nose offers ripe, bold, black and red fruit with hints of clay and oak. On the palate: black plum and black cherry across the front palate; red ripe raspberry and clove across the side palate; while the bottom of the tongue experiences a heavy dose of blackberries, with notes of forest floor, peppercorn, charcoal, and cacao. Intriguing and exciting, this 92% malbec blend features 8% petite verdot that adds richness to an already lush palate. Big, bold and beautiful, perfect for grilled meats, dark or savory flavors, such as cheeses, salumi, even grilled vegetables. I’m on a summer diet and paired this blend beautifully with pesto, believe it or not! But sipping this tasty wine made me want to put a porterhouse on my grill and invite my neighbors over!

 

I have had good experiences with Bodega Catena Zapata in the past and this wine continues that history, showing as a well-made, balanced wine that is gorgeous on the nose and mouth, dense and complex as a foil for food, providing a rich overall experience. Lush and luxurious-tasting, for an Argentinian wine you can source for under $20, you’d be crazy not to add this to your cellar so pick up a few bottles for your next grill adventure!

 

à votre santé!

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Victor Schoenfeld and Yarden Wines

29 Jun

World-Class Wines, from the Middle East. That may not be the first region that comes to mind, but a few great winemakers are changing that. Victor Schoenfeld, a California native who has been the Yarden head winemaker since 1992,  is credited with being THE single greatest influencer in developing world class wines in Israel, most specifically in the Golan Heights. He’s also a very nice guy, and loves to talk wine. I could have chatted with him for hours and talked terroir and winemaking…but we had wine to taste!

 

Victor Schoenfeld, head winemaker of Yarden Golan Heights Winery

 

And these are some really good wines. World-class, kosher, made-in-Israel, non-mevushal, kick-butt wines.

Don’t believe me? Please, be your own judge and let your mouth tell you. Taste the wines, it’s that easy. I did, and I will tell you, they are worthy wines. I tasted seven wines, and each was impressive in its own way.  Here are my top three that will blow your mind; each of these was so good, I didn’t want to do anything but drink what was in my glass:

 

Yarden Blanc de Blanc 2009, Sparkling Brut Chardonnay, MSRP $30

Light gold in color, with a delicate nose. Beautiful, mature white fruit with gentle effervescence. A delicate sparkling with nice complexity, this wine shows delightful minerality with a hint of toast and no sweetness on the palate. A low-dosage sparkling brut, your mouth will think it is champagne. It was a perfect foil for a raw crudo appetizer.

 

 

Yarden Gewurtztraminer 2016, MSRP $21

Medium straw with a green tinge. Citrus & banana peel on the very floral nose. On the palate, an exotic blend of kiwi, passion fruit, and lychee is matched by a perfect acidity; secondary notes are floral and spice box.  I found this paired so gorgeously with asparagus risotto. I just kept going back and back to it and didn’t want the pairing to end.

 

Yarden Bar’on Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, MSRP $96

Deep, dark, maroon with garnet edging. The nose offers black plum, cassis, aged leather and cigar box. On the palate, mature red fruit along the tongue, with cassis along the sides. A lengthy finish features gravel, granite, and sandy clay. The price on this is worth every penny, comparing well to New and Old world wines in the same price range. This wine was as complex as the lamb I enjoyed with it: flavorful, sensual, evocative, exotic.

 

 

With a few tastes, it’s obvious that Victor Schoenfeld is doing something right, not just great wine (yes!), not just organic (oh, yes, that too!), and not just a few grapes with tremendous terroir. Yarden’s library of wines is varied and includes syrah, malbec, merlot, rosé,  muscat, sauvignon blanc, in addition to these listen just off the top of my head- surely something for every wine drinker.

If you haven’t tried Yarden wines, it’s time for you to taste how the Middle East compares to what you’ve been drinking. You will find yourself impressed, and might be tasting more and more of them. With a full stable of tasty delights, you are bound to find a wine that compares well, and maybe even blows away one of your current favorites.

 

à votre santé!

Your Super Bowl Wine: MALBEC!

5 Feb

It’s the day of the game. The BIG game.

The one we all watch together in a friend’s house. The SuperBowl.

You might be a football fan, you might not. But this is one of the biggest TV phenomenons in the world. And everyone eats and drinks while the game and the halftime go on, and this is the one time of year when we carefully watch and comment on the commercials!

So what are you drinking? Did you think about it?

Malbec.

Malbec the THE Super Bowl wine in my opinion. It’s got more spice than merlot and more heft than cabernet sauvignon. It’s a Harley-Davidson in a glass. It’s got more manliness than beer, ale, or lager (but not stout!). And it drinks just as well without food!

Yes, It’s a wine that pairs well with or without food. But when paired with food, it’s flexible and as powerful as the New England Patriots staring down a kickoff. Yes, it will pair with grilled meats. Yes, it will pair with vegetables and cheeses. Yes, it will work with anything spicy. So your nachos, pizza, wings, onion dip, guacamole, cheese dip, quesadillas, burgers, hot dogs- they will all taste even better with malbec.

So you’re thinking, “Ok, smartypants, WHICH malbec do I buy?”

I thought you might ask!

Here are my top picks in Malbec:

AR Blend from Locations (predominantly Malbec blend) $18/bottle. If you didn’t read my review, you can check it out here. Dave Phinney kicked some serious butt with his Locations brand, making them $20 or under, and this mostly-malbec AR won 95 points at the 2016 Sommelier Wine Challenge. My brother-in-law and I downed this bottle in a flash. A better wine value is hard, if not nearly impossible, to find. You might actually thank me- I’ve already received notes from a half-dozen readers who bought the wine after reading my review who loved it!

Alamos Malbec: Consistently 89 or 90 points year after year, you can find this on a grocery store shelf in addition to top wine stores for under $10. A tremendous value that delivers well, I’d put this up against a similarly priced six-pack any day of the year.

Catena Malbec – I’ll admit, I am a huge fan of Catena Alta, the reserve wine from the same maker, which sells closer to $50-60/bottle and is usually rated in the 94-95 point range. That’s a porterhouse pairing, for sure! But for Super Bowl Sunday and under $20, the standard Catena Malbec from the Uco Valley is a textbook 90+ point Malbec . BOOM.

MMM Mendoza Malbec Enrique Foster’s MMM has also been a consistent, classic Argentinian malbec ever since I started drinking the varietal. This is probably the single most popular malbec in higher-end American restaurants, as it is popular, versatile, easy to pair, and still an affordable value with restaurant markup.
Enjoy the Super Bowl! Let me know what you end up drinking. And remember to be safe! If you know you’ll be drinking, make alternative travel plans and please, don’t drive. SuperBowl Sunday is among the most dangerous days to be on the road. So please, be careful out there!

locations-ar5

à votre santé!

Locations Wine AR5 Argentinian Red Blend

30 Dec

Argentina.

Mendoza’s Uco Valley is ripe here.

And nowhere have I seen that ripeness as evident as right in this bottle of wine.

 

locations-ar5

 

Locations Wine AR5 Red Argentinian Blend; %14 ABV, MSRP $18/bottle. 

Color is magenta with light purple edging. Boysenberry, cassis, menthol and lavender oil are demonstrated on the nose. In the mouth, juicy black plum meets blackberry jam, spice box, saddle leather, slate, gravel and wet stone. Plenty of acid keeps the palate hopping, while firm tannins round out this young and exciting wine.

With a classic and bold Argentinian flavor profile, this blend of malbec & cabernet sauvignon paired beautifully with meatballs and pasta, as well as a bite of dark chocolate before the bottle was empty.

Adjectives like intense, explosive, and vibrant fit this wine well. I had expected to taste it with Thai, Mexican, and a classic American steak, but my brother-in-law and I quickly polished off the bottle without thinking. I expect you, too, will find this wine so easy to enjoy that it’s gone before you realize it.

It has been a while since I tasted the Andes and Argentina. But the taste of them are both bold and fierce in this bottle.

At this price, you should have a few of them in your cellar. Not because of the 95-point score it received from the 2016 Sommelier Challenge Wine Competition, and not because Robert Parker thinks the winemaker, Dave Phinney, is a wine god. Buy it just because it’s damn good wine that your mouth will thank you for. 

 

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à vôtre santé!

Bodegas Salentein Wines from Valle de Uco, Argentina

2 Dec

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Bodegas Salentein 2015 Reserve Chardonnay; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 13.5%ABV, Average street price  $18 USD.

Color is pale sunshine with green tinge. Gentle aroma of grilled pineapple, lemon-lime and wildflowers on the nose. In the mouth, golden delicious apple and citrus fruit mixes with powerful acidity. Directly behind the fruit, heat crosses the top palate while the back palate reels from the tannins and tart lime peel. Notes of vanilla, baked bread, and chalky limestone on the medium-long finish. A gorgeous, delicate chardonnay that is a pleasure to drink. Alone it may be a touch acidic, but with mild cheese or white meat, the wine is a perfect complement and palate cleanser. For friends who won’t drink Chardonnay made outside of California, here is something you need to taste- a subtle, mature, underscored hit of a chardonnay that smacks your interest early on and shows you how a star is born. If you can’t tell, I was very impressed by this chardonnay, which demonstrated clearly to me that truly great white wines are also possible from the famed Mendoza wine region Valle de Uco!

 

salentein-chardonnay

 

Bodegas Salentein Killka Collection  Torrentes 2015; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 12.5%ABV; Average street price $15 USD. 

Pale gold in color with a beautifully floral nose that features sweet honeysuckle and jasmine. In the mouth, fruit starts with bosc pear and a blend of secondary notes of tart lemon zest, star fruit and pineapple. Bright acidity with a hint of bitters that works well in the character. Chalky loam on the short finish. A great choice to enjoy under the hot sun when well chilled, this wine can quickly transition from being a tasty and refreshing apéritif to complement a salad and fish course, capable to handling shellfish, ceviche, or  grilled salmon, bass, and even seared tuna.

salentein-killka-torrontes-2015

Killka Collection Red Blend 2014; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 14% ABV, Average Street price $15/bottle. 

The color shows a garnet center shifting to deep ruby. The nose offers  red plum, cherry, and rose bush with a hint of menthol. In the mouth, sour cherry and ripe red plum are dominant fruits. Notes of aged oak, vanilla bean, schist, granite, and sodium round out the finish. Ideal for grilled meats. The blend is of 50% Malbec, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah and 5% Petite Verdot.

salentein-killka-red-blend-2014

 

Bodegas Salentein 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 14%ABV, Average street price  $18 USD.

Deep purple in color with a nose of eucalyptus, forest floor, and pencil shavings. In the mouth, a harmonious & moderate blend of fruit, acid and tannins. A dark fruit mix of aged blackberries, black currants, and prunes, with secondary notes of potting soil, tobacco, old leather, toasted oak, graphite and wet stone. Features a medium long and very dry finish; this wine is a solid value in reserve cab and a classic, firmly masculine expression of Mendoza’s terroir.

salentein-reserve-cabernet-sauvignon-2014

 

Bodegas Salentein 2014 Reserve Malbec; Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina. 14%ABV, Average street price  $16 USD.

Dark ruby color with a nose of blueberries and black plum. On the palate, a driven and singular focus of blackberry, with secondary notes of cherry cola, freshly cut grass, black pepper and spice box. The strong acidity and powerful tannins leave a real bite on the finish making this a great complement to grilled meats.

 

salentein-reserve-malbec-2014

 

If you taste these wines blind, you won’t immediately think of South America or Argentina. But you WILL think: “These are delicious, wonderful wines.” 

 

à votre santé!

Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2012

17 Apr

Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2012, Mendoza Argentina. 14.5% ABV, $18/bottle street. 

In celebration of Malbec World Day, here is a mouth watering delight!

Medium dark purple in color. On the nose, blackberries, iris and hint of old leather. The first taste is of massive dark fruit with heat behind it. Black plum and dark chocolate burst forward into the top palate, leaving a richly rinsed sensation behind. Secondary flavors are cassis, coca, sour cherry and toasted oak with notes of granite, tobacco leaf, and almond on the medium finish. An obvious  easy pairing with grilled steak on the night I popped the cork, it also works with savory dishes and was a great foil to a spicy ginger/pepper stir-fry I put together after work on night #3. Great flavors over several days. Well done! Solid value at this price point.

This wine is big and bold, yet balanced. Ultra is a good name for it- the flavors are like a rocket taking off. This is a fun wine to have on hand, and one I’ll come back to again. If you like a huge malbec, this is one to stock up on, and a perfect wine for bold flavors, or to enjoy around the game room with the guys.

Kaiken Ultra

à votre santé!

Kaiken Terroir Series 2011

2 Mar

Kaiken Terroir Series 2011, Mendoza, Argentina. 14.5% ABV, List price $17/bottle, street price as low as $12/bottle.

The color is dark purple with violet edging, while the nose features black fruit and floral notes with a hint of leather. In the mouth, this silky blend of 80% Malbec, 12% Bonarda and 8% Petit Verdot shows medium black plum, cassis and blackberry with matching acidity, and then powerful tannins- this is a meat lovers wine if there ever has been one. There is oak, followed by wet slate, limestone, and black pepper on the smooth and satisfying finish.

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The petit verdot leads in the mouth with gentle strength in the fruit and helps the finish with her tannin, while the bonarda provides suppleness to the mid-palate. Both add depth and density to the mix. By itself, the malbec would be enough for most red wine drinkers, but this blend demonstrates savvy winemaking and a product that will pair better, more easily, and more often.

The Kaiken paired beautifully with lamb meatballs. Did you know that March 9 is National Meatball Day? Now you have a great wine to pair with your meatballs! Need a meatball recipe? Try these! The blend also fares well with strong cheeses and can stand alone but truly shines when tasted in conjunction with a protein.

This wine opens up beautifully, showing best results from decanting/aeration when served at room temperature. At this price, Kaiken Terroir Feries offers great value to the consumer with a flavor profile that screams pricey grilled meats and game for upscale dinners but one that is still capable of chilling with a family meatball fest or burgers for the backyard. While some wine drinkers won’t recognize the grape Bonarda, (aka Douce Noir, a small and gently sweet black grape originally from the Savoie region of France) it doesn’t matter- what’s important is the winemaker knows the value the late-ripening grape offers, and is using it to your benefit in creating a wine with great flexibility and depth that competes with wines at a higher price point, which ultimately doubles your pleasure.

à votre santé!

Un, Deux, Trois: Three Wines from Paul Mas and the Languedoc Region

16 Aug

I often rant about how first and second growths are impossibly expensive. To find great value today you have to seek out  lesser-known wines that have rich history and huge local presence that have not yet exploded globally.  That way,  you can acquire good pricing on a wonderful product that amounts to great value. This is one of those tales. Through a winding story we won’t tell, I met up with a fellow wine lover who also adores country wines and especially wines from the Languedoc region. I was nervous I wouldn’t care for the wines I got to taste as happens sometimes, but read on, and you’ll see how I responded. Special thanks to Michelle and Anne for your help and support! -JvB

Un

Paul Mas Estate Pinot Noir 2011

List price  $14/bottle. 13.5% ABV. Samples provided by McCue Marketing.

Light ruby in color with a nose of fresh, sharp cherries, hints of cola and saffron. Cherry and red plum are the dominant fruit flavors on the palate. Holding the wine in my mouth, I pondered the experience: an unexpected, ideal expression of the grape. The clean finish made this wine feel like a pricier burgundy to me, but without the historic wooden barrel effects. Notes of gravel and chalk appear on the medium finish. Overall, my response is a great balance of fresh red fruit with a good acidity and tannin. Juicy, tart, and mouthwatering, you can drink this all day without getting bored, or start the evening with it and move on to pair it with lighter fare up through a fish course.

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Deux

The Paul Mas Estate Malbec 2011 

List price  $14/bottle. 13.5% ABV.  Samples provided by McCue Marketing.

Bright violet with a purple center and ruby edging. Ripe red fruit on the nose with herbs and wildflowers. On the palate: soft essence of cassis, boysenberry. Short notes of clay and lime and a long, tart finish.  Concentrated, singular and enjoyable, I expected this was a single vineyard before I looked at the label. Paired perfectly with spicy marinana sauce, strong cheese, and spicy food- such as Thai or Mexican, I made fajitas specifically on the second night of tasting this and was wowed by how nice the pairing was. The bright acidity and ripe fruit will allow the wine to cut through the palate when served with powerful flavors such as duck or a bourguignon sauce. Another surprising value from winemaker Jean-Claude Mas. 

PaulMas Malbec

Trois

Chateau Paul Mas Clos de Savignac Grés de Montpellier 2011

List price $27/bottle. 14.5% ABV. Samples provided by McCue Marketing.

Deep purple color with violet edges in the glass; the nose exhibits a lush blend of dark blue and black fruits. On the palate, the initial rush of blackberry, black plum, and currants are met with spice, licorice, oak, and a green vegetation note that hung across my top palate. Limestone, gravel, and mocha notes appeared during the lengthy, oaky finish.  This is a wonderful old world blend with modern efficiency. Speaking of the blend, it is 50% Mourvérdre, 30% Syrah, and 20% Grenache.

PaulMas Montpellier

Centuries of rustic charm on sun-beaten vines meets finesse with the relaxed tannins pulling forward after the liquid has moved below. Powerful, invigorating, and complex are my initial overall impressions, and they stayed consistent as I came back to this wine time and time again. Over four days the nose and fruit aired nicely and developed without losing quality. You can enjoy the 2011 now at this ripe young age, but the smart buyer will pick up a case or three hold this six to eight years and taste it to see how the tannins and fruit mellows over time.  I’d think this wine would cost at least twice as much for the quality, so enjoy it before everyone starts to stockpile and drive the prices up.

Clos de Savignac

About the winemaker: Jean-Claude Mas is a fourth generation winemaker who began work with his family’s winemaking at the age of three. He ascended to run the family business (begun in 1892) in 2000, and has expanded the acreage and updated the technology to mass production, including pneumatic pressers and stainless tanks. The brand Arrogant Frog are among his most visible successes and he has been named International Mediterranean Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young and the Domain Paul Mas was named Winery of the Year by England’s The Guardian Newspaper under his helm.

Jean-Claude Mas - Chai à barriques (1)

Paul Mas wines are carried nationwide by BevMo and other fine wine retailers. In the NYC area Paul Mas wines can be found at Beacon Wines & Spirits, London Terrace Liquor Shop, Phillipe Wine & Liquor, and 120 Wine & Liquor to name a few locations in Manhattan.

More about Domain Paul Mas can be found at their website,  www.PaulMas.com.

à votre santé!

Best Little Wine Store- Part 2: Wines from the Sorting Table

30 May

I got a note from a reader, asking if I tasted any wines from The Sorting Table on 7th  and if so, why didn’t I write about them? I admit, I am remiss in the time it took me to get these words out to you. Hence, Part 2! Wonderful Wines.

Yes, I tasted wines from Josh V’s Sorting Table, but it began with a challenge.  When I asked Josh for brilliant, funky, Napa blends he asked me back specifics as he handed me bottle after bottle starting from $15 and up to $50, all of which fell in that category and every one I wanted to try. So I kept asking, and tried several bottles to take notes for you, my fair readers.

And try I did. I tasted several wines from his store, and here they are in no particular order:

Salmon Vineyard’s 2011 Petite Syrah

R petite syrah

 

Deliciously wonderful, a wine that changed on the palate with every sip! I could not put this down. Amazing small-format winemaking- could rate in the company of Jason Moore and David Phinney, for $25/bottle. Paired this with an organic margarita pizza and thought that heaven could not be closer to my mouth. Deep purple in color, thick and viscous, jammy fruit with nice acidity, tart tannins, and an amazing finish. YUM!

Bennett Lane 2008 Maximum Red Feasting Wine

Maximus

94 points.  The ruby-purple color and blackberry nose entice you until the massive mouthfeel hits you: blackberry, cassis, and plum start off the tongue this mind-blowing red blend, and is followed with a slew of fabulous notes including mocha, truffle, chocolate, and cedar barrel to sate the palate of the serious wine guru for under $40. I’m buying more. ‘Nuff said!

Satisfied with red wine options, I took a different path. “Old world, yet affordable chardonnay that champions the grape,” I challenged. Two bottles appeared, and I chose:

Chateau de la Greffiere Macon La Roche “Vielle Vignes” Vineuse 2011

Macon La ROche

An amazing chardonnay from 50 year old vines for under $20. Stellar pricing for serious structure, I almost thought I could taste the vines standing in the clay underneath the perfectly aged chardonnay grape. Classic old world white!

Patient Cottat ‘s Le Grand Caillou Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Calliou

Chardonnay accepted, I asked for Sancerre, and Josh showed me three, then said- “what about a Sancerre that isn’t technically a Sancerre?” He pulled up a Sauv Blanc from the Loire Valley, outside of the lines that delineate Sancerre but one taste will show you how a half-price wine can blow away the competition. I knew this was the one I’d take. This is one of the best high value/low cost offerings in French wine you may ever see.  $12/bottle, and simply delectable. I’d love to see this in a blind tasting against “legit” sancerre!

Les Crêtes Valle D’Aosta Chardonnay 2011

Cretes

After pulling the sancerre out of his proverbial hat, I said “what is the best value white burgundy you have?” He riled thru a pair of wine fridges and pulled this lone bottle out along with a cheshire cat grin. And was he right? Spot on! This was a delicious, un-oaked white Burgundy-styled-white that impressed my palate with depth. Gentle tropical melon and floral notes in the mouth are followed by bright acidity, and find a finish with luscious terroir of sandy clay with a hint of chalk. Rich and delightful, savory yet taut, and drinks like an 80/bottle for under $40. I drank this with goat cheese on a fig cracker and ooh’d my way through every bite and sip.

Check, and mate! Perhaps in Josh’s world, I should try something akin to:

“R2 says the chances of survival are 725… to one” – C3PO, STAR WARS

à votre santé!

My Favorite Cheap Wine

27 Oct

Part of my blog’s focus is to introduce my friends & readers not only to new wines to try, but also to great values and sometimes to great classics. Today I’m giving you what I’ve realized has become my go-to cheap bottle of wine.

“It can’t be,” you might be thinking. “JvB choosing ONE wine?”

Haha, No, not a chance. You’re absolutely right. It’s not one wine, it’s one manufacturer.

The Naked Grape is a label that I have come to trust for a really passable $6 bottle of wine. Better yet, they offer a cabernet sauvignon, a pinot noir, a malbec, a chardonnay, a pino grigio, and a moscato, all of which I’ve tried and enjoyed. The last two I have opened are the californian moscato, which has nice pear fruit up front with distinct orange flavor and a sweet tang to it, and the argentinian malbec, a plummy, spicy offering that rocked leftovers, chinese food, & mexican at $1.50 a glass. Really!

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Check out their website here, which sadly demonstrates not a whole lot about this manufacturer. Demand your local shop carry this, like mine does. (Forest Hills residents, I get this at Mayfair Wine & Spirits on Union Turnpike. John carries all of these, right near the register.)

The coolest thing about The Naked Grape is (no, not the cutesy bottle color coding, that ranks third behind #1 value & #2 drinkable) that for 36 bucks you can have SIX different bottle of six different grapes and pair them for what they are with your meals, and then move up to something serious, or know a great cheap bottle of wine that will work beautifully with your meals.

Last but not least: these are all really decent, well-made vin du tables worth serving, but if you don’t like one, it’s less than the cost of a glass at the restaurant, so who cares? You can always toss it, use it in the sauce, or serve it to a drunken guest after they’ve had your good stuff, right?

à votre santé!

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