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Fresh Sheet December 20th 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013





Today’s Fresh Sheet – reviews of new and recent releases – includes wines from Savage GraceCadenceWalla Walla Vintners, Kiona VineyardsCloudlift CellarsNorthstar, and Stottle Winery.

Savage Grace

Savage Grace is a new winery located in Woodinville that made its first wines in the 2011 vintage. Founder and winemaker Michael Savage – whose wife’s name makes up the second part of the winery’s moniker – says of his interest in wine, “As long as I can remember I've loved wine and, maybe even more so, going to wine shops and browsing, trying to make sense of all the wine labels, styles, and regions.”

For Savage, his ‘Aha!’ moment came when he realized that wine could transform an everyday meal - and could do so without breaking the bank. “Rather than spending $50+ on a Napa Cab, for example, I could get a Loire Valley wine that went better with most meals,” Savage said.

Savage immersed himself in learning more about wine by taking the Wine and Spirit Educational Trust (WSET) courses, where he is currently in the middle of Diploma-level certification with the ultimate goal of taking the Master of Wine examination (“Although I don't expect to ever pass it,” he said of the notoriously rigorous test). He also studied winemaking at the Northwest Wine Academy at South Seattle Community College.

Savage says of the style he is striving for, “The winery focus is on wines that are vibrant, flavorful, textural, and food-friendly. Site-specificity is important to me, so I've tried to pick sites where I feel like this will lead to the strongest wine, as well a wine that somehow echoes that place. There needs to be something extra there to make the wine worth caring about.”

These are certainly wines worth caring about. The 2012 Cabernet Franc in particular is one of the more attention getting wines I’ve come across this year: a 2012 vintage red wine from the Rattlesnake Hills that comes in at an unheard of 12.5% listed alcohol. I know what you’re thinking…No, the aromas and flavors are far from green and unripe. Rather, it’s a focused, flavorful wine that only saw a limited amount of neutral French oak.

Like its Syrah-Grenache counterpart, the 2012 Cabernet Franc is a young wine that needs some additional time in the cellar or a few hours open to really show its stuff but is well worth the wait. Keeping with the desire to make food friendly wines that don’t break the bank, the Savage Grace wines are also well priced for the quality that’s in the bottle.

Savage Grace produced 550 cases in 2013 with plans to move up toward 850 next year.

Savage Grace Cabernet Franc Copeland Vineyard Rattlesnake Hills 2012 $22
91 pointsThis is a completely unique wine for the state, one that calls out more to the Loire Valley than to Rattlesnake Hills. Coming in at a cool 12.5% alcohol—in a vintage known for average temperatures—it brings detailed notes of flowers, cigar box, raspberry and moist earth. With nine months of neutral French-oak aging, there’s barely a trace of oak influence. It’s lighter in style but still brings good depth with a long, flavorful finish. As far from a cocktail wine as you can get; serve this one at the dinner table. Wine Enthusiast December 31, 2013

Savage Grace Syrah-Grenache Columbia Valley 2012 $23
 (Excellent) Lightly aromatic with herbs, a very pure, fresh raspberry note, berry, and mineral. The palate is medium bodied, fresh in feel with a compelling texture and minimal oak influence. Still drinking quite young, give it another six to twelve months in bottle before opening and serve it with food to see it at its best. 65% Syrah, 35% Grenache. Ambassador, Stillwater Creek, and Den Hoed vineyards. 14.2% alcohol. 75 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Savage Grace Riesling Underwood Mountain Columbia Gorge 2012 $17
90 points. An immediately appealing wine with notes of freshly cut apple, apricot, mineral and jasmine. Though it has 17 g/L residual sugar, it drinks barely off dry with the vineyard’s electric acidity more than balancing out the midpalate’s sugar, providing a dry feel to the drawn-out finish. Equal parts phenolic feel and flavor, put it on the dinner table now to see it at its best. Wine Enthusiast, December 31, 2013

Savage Grace Chardonnay Celilo Vineyard Columbia Gorge 2012 $20
88 points. Aged in equal parts new and neutral French oak along with stainless steel—the latter with no malolactic fermentation—this wine brings out notes of toast, straw and citrus. It has a thick mouth-feel while alternately delivering good concentration and length. It has a thick somewhat ponderous, lemony feel while alternately delivering good concentration and length. It doesn’t quite feel entirely like Chardonnay but it’s quite delicious. Wine Enthusiast, December 31, 2013

Savage Grace Sauvignon Blanc Red Willow Vineyard Yakima Valley 2012 $15
 (Good) All fermented in stainless steel, this is a lightly aromatic wine with notes of citrus, lees, mineral, and a light grassiness. It’s weighty in feel with a (quite) tart, steely spine of acidity running throughout. Best served at the dinner table and screams out for oysters. 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Les Vignes de Marcoux Vineyard. Aged seven months in stainless steel. 12.7% alcohol. Sample provided by winery. Reviewed December 11, 2013

Savage Grace Syrah Rattlesnake Hills 2011 $22
88 points. All coming from Dineen Vineyard, the grapes were whole-berry fermented and aged 18 months in neutral oak. Bright, fresh and fruity with notes of cranberry and red currant, it’s lightly styled, soft and supple with a sense of freshness and polish. This wine is drinking young and needs additional time in the bottle to flesh out but will deserve a spot at the dinner table. Wine Enthusiast, December 31, 2013


Cadence

A cooler vintage like 2010 plays right into the hands of winemaker Ben Smith at Cadence. Smith eschews the riper style favored by a number of Washington wineries and instead crafts wines that are built on structure. The result is some of the state’s finest and most ageworthy wines, and the 2010 Cadence releases are no different. Sampling these wines over the course of a week they continued to shine and should provide timeless cellaring potential.

While the 2010 releases from Cadence bring much to celebrate, the real story here might just be the 2011 vintage Coda, perhaps the winery’s finest to date. It’s a flat out beautiful wine that punches well above its weight class and shines a spotlight on the winery’s style. As with the other wines listed, this wine should age nicely in the cellar. Then again, it’s drinking so beautifully now, there’s really no reason to keep your hands off it. If this is the declassified juice, I look forward to what the 2011 vintage brings from Cadence.

Of note, Cadence has a revamped website – a substantial improvement – with plentiful information about the winery and wines.

Read previous posts about Cadence here and an article in Edible Seattle about the winery here.

Cadence Bel Canto Red Wine Cara Mia Vineyard Red Mountain 2010 $60
(Exceptional) An aromatically compelling wine with earth, floral notes, mineral, strawberry, raspberry, and cherry. The palate is seamless, textured, and restrained with beautifully integrated tannins and a thirty-plus second finish. A classic Bordeaux-style blend with a long life ahead of it. Give at least three years. 77% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot, and 8% Petit Verdot. 14.4% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Cadence Camerata Red Wine Cara Mia Vineyard Red Mountain 2010 $60
(Exceptional) A perfumed, dazzling wine with mineral, cherry, black and red currant, and violets. The palate is restrained yet intensely flavored with dry fruit flavors and tightly coiled, brooding tannins. Give at least three years. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot, 8% and Petit Verdot. 14.4% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Cadence Tapteil Vineyard Red Wine Red Mountain 2010 $45
 (Exceptional) Cabernet Sauvignon aromas of olive, black currant, fresh herbs, and cassis rise out of the glass followed by floral, mineral, and barrel notes on this aromatically brooding wine. On the palate, the black plum flavors show great depth and intensity, pinpoint focus, a palate coating feel, and tannins combed to a fine sheen. A highly structured wine that goes off the end of the delicious scale. Best after 2017. 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, and 14% Merlot. 14.4% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Cadence Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Wine Red Mountain 2010 $45
(Excellent/Exceptional) Tight as a drum right now, it opens to reveal outrageous minerality, plum, dark cherries, chocolate, violets, and graphite. The palate is highly structured, supple in feel with firm, slightly dry tannins. Needs a long rest in the cellar. 39% Cabernet Franc, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 17% Petit Verdot, and 11% Merlot. 14.4% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Cadence Coda Red Mountain 2011 $25
(Excellent/Exceptional) Locked up tightly right now, it opens to reveal a vivid fruit profile of red and black currant, plum, macerated cranberries, bittersweet chocolate, herbs, and barrel accents along with floral and mineral notes. The palate is laser focused, restrained in feel with seamless fruit flavors and exceptionally well integrated tannins and a whole lot of flavor. An impressive find at this price with exquisite balance and a great look at the house style. 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, and 14% Petit Verdot. 14.4% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.


Walla Walla Vintners

The latest releases from Walla Walla Vintners show the diversity of the winery’s offerings on full display. They include three Italian inspired wines: a Dolcetto, a Sangiovese, and a Super Tuscan-style blend. These wines are each of high quality but the Dolcetto in particular is a showstopper, as good an example of this variety as I’ve had from Washington.

Dolcetto is already exceedingly rare in the state but single vineyard, single varietal offerings are that much more so, let alone from the Walla Walla Valley. Seeing no new oak, Walla Walla Vintners’ 2011 Dolcetto is fresh, vibrant, and fruit filled; it is a wine to seek out.

Meanwhile, Vintners continues to shine with its Bordeaux offerings, including its trademark Cabernet Franc. As usual, the winery continues to offer high quality and extremely reasonable prices, such as its 2010 Sagemoor Cabernet Sauvignon coming from some of the oldest vines in the state.

Read previous posts about Walla Walla Vintners here.

Walla Walla Vintners Dolcetto Dwelley Vineyard Walla Walla Valley 2011 $22
(Excellent) A rare (rare) single vineyard, Walla Walla Valley designated bottling of Dolcetto, it’s light in color and brightly aromatic with notes of fresh red currant, red plum, cranberry, and light, spicy notes. The palate is light bodied, delicate yet flavorful with fine grained tannins that ever so slightly outmatch the fruit that’s in the glass, pleasing acidity, and a pronounced finish. As good as I’ve had from Washington. Best at the dinner table. Drink now. 100% Dolcetto. Aged 17 months in neutral French oak. 13.8% alcohol. 191 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Walla Walla Vintners Sangiovese Columbia Valley 2011 $25
 (Excellent) Sangiovese remains a rarity in Washington and few do it better year in and year out than Walla Walla Vintners. The 2011 vintage is spot on, lightly aromatic with notes of dark chocolate, raspberries, cherries, and light barrel spices. It’s lighter in style, tart with vibrant, mouthwatering acidity, sultry fruit flavors, and firm tannins. Serve it with dinner to see it at its best - as it should be. 83% Sangiovese, 10% Syrah, and 7% Malbec. Sagemoor, Kiona, Seven Hills, Dwelley, and  Lewis vineyards. Aged 17 months in French oak (10% new). 14.2% alcohol. 656 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Walla Walla Vintners Bello Rosso Sangiovese 50%/Cabernet Sauvignon 50% Columbia Valley 2011 $32           
(Excellent/Exceptional) Moderately aromatic with carob, herbs, black and red cherries, earth, cranberry, and barrel spices. It’s a thoroughly beguiling wine that coats the palate from end to end with soft, sumptuous fruit flavors that stick around for a lingering finish. 14.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Franc Columbia Valley 2011 $30
(Excellent/Exceptional) Explores this grape’s intoxicating floral side along with an assortment of herbs, earth, and cherry. The palate is all about elegance and refinement showing exceptional polish and lightness of being with chalky tannins and tart acidity. Give it some time open to flesh out. 85% Cabernet Franc, 13% Merlot, and 2% Carmenere. Weinbau, Sagemoor, Grove, Dwelley, and Spring Creek vineyards. Aged 17 months in 35% new French and Hungarian oak. 14.2% alcohol. 651 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Walla Walla Vintners Washington State Cuvee Red Wine Washington State 2010 $28
(Good/Excellent) Draws you into the glass with chocolate, melted caramel, char, cherry, pencil lead, earth, and herbs. The palate is medium bodied showing some tannic grip that can be a little rough around the edges at first but smooths out toward the lingering finish. 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 17% Cab Franc, 5% Syrah, 3% Petit Verdot, 3% Carmenére, and 2% Malbec. Minnick, Sagemoor, Dwelley, Chan, Pepper Bridge, Windrow, Spring Creek, Kilian, Grove, Weinbau, Lewis and Frazier Bluff vineyards. Aged 17 months in French, American, and Hungarian oak (37% new). 14.3% alcohol. 495 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley 2010 $36
(Excellent) Aromatically brooding with milk chocolate, black cherry, and distinct herbal notes that ventures toward the green but stay in the savory. It has a beautiful feel to it, washing over the palate with waves of soft fruit flavors with depth and texture and a lingering on the finish. Drink 2015 to 2021. 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 5% Franc, 3% Carmenére, 2% Malbec, and 2% Petit Verdot. Walla Walla Vintners Estate, Chan, Tokar, Pepper Bridge, Windrow, Seven Hills, Weinbau, Frazier Bluff, and Dwelley vineyards. Aged 20 months in French and American oak (52% new). 14.5% alcohol. 636 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Walla Walla Vintners Sagemoor Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2010 $40
 (Exceptional) Aromatically reticent initially with notes of barrel spices, cassis, milk chocolate, a medley of herbs, and cherry. The palate is rich with silky soft cherry flavors and structured tannins and tart acidity. An impressive, very pretty wine with a long life ahead of it. Give two years. 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and 6% Cabernet Franc. Sagemoor (Blocks 3, 9, 4, and 2). 14.5% alcohol. 263 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.


Kiona Vineyards

Unlike Canada, which produces ice wine in abundance, in Washington these sticky, sweet wines are comparatively rare. Kiona Vineyards year in and year out not only makes one of the state’s best ice wines, it also makes one of the most affordable ones. The 2012 Kiona Chenin Blanc Ice Wine guarantees to make these cold winter days a little warmer without making the wallet that much lighter.

Kiona’s 2010 vintage Merlot also provides a lot of value. Though labeled as Columbia Valley, this is all Kiona Estate Vineyard fruit. Better still it’s one hundred percent varietal and all free run juice. Free run, Red Mountain Merlot at $25? Yes please.

Read previous posts about Kiona Vineyards here.

Kiona Vineyards Chenin Blanc Ice Wine Red Mountain 2012 $25(375ml)
(Excellent) An aromatic wine with honey, apricot, mango, and pineapple. At 17.2% Residual Sugar, it’s richly sweet but with the grape’s natural acidity shining through. 100% Chenin Blanc. 8.2% alcohol. 17.2% Residual Sugar. Sample provided by winery. Reviewed November 26, 2013

Kiona Vineyards Merlot Columbia Valley 2010 $25
(Excellent) Though labeled Columbia Valley, this is Red Mountain estate vineyard fruit. All made from free run juice, it’s locked up aromatically at present but opens to reveal an assortment of red fruit, fruit leather, cinnamon, and Good n Plenty. The palate has lip smacking fruit flavors and firm, chewy tannins with little excess alcoholic weight. Just a baby now, give this one some time in the cellar to let it evolve or give it a long decant. Best after 2016. 100% Merlot. Kiona Estate Vineyard. 13.9% alcohol. 477 cases produced.

Kiona Vineyards Estate Bottled Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Red Mountain 2010 $42
(Good/Excellent) With fruit coming from the vineyard’s 1975 plantings, it’s a brooding wine with vanilla, baking spices, olive, golden raisins, cinnamon stick, and dark cherry. The palate has sweet fruit flavors with abundant barrel accents, a compelling mouthfeel and firm, grippy tannins that need some time to settle down. Lots of good things going on here but give it some time to come together. Best after 2016. 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Petit Verdot. Kiona Estate and Heart of the Hill Estate vineyards. 13.5% alcohol. 351 cases produced.

Kiona Vineyards Cyclops II Red Mountain NV $40           
(Good) A mixture of 2009 and 2011 fruit made from two barrels each of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, it’s an aromatic wine with freshly rubbed mint, vanilla bean, strawberry jam, and fruit leather. The palate has full bodied, plush fruit flavors, and soft tannins with a warm, vanilla filled finish. Wood gets a bit too far out front but still provides enjoyment. Grenache (Vinagium), Syrah (Ranch at the End of the Road), and Mourvèdre (Heart of the Hill). 15.4% alcohol. 147 cases produced.

Kiona Vineyards Late Harvest Riesling Columbia Valley 2012 $15
(Good) An aromatic wine with apricot, tangerine, and peach. The palate is sweet with rich fruit flavors. 94% Riesling, 6% Gewurztraminer. Holton (Columbia Valley), Crawford (Yakima Valley), and Ranch at the End of the Road (Red Mountain) vineyards. Aged in stainless steel. 10% alcohol. 10% Residual Sugar. 1,456 cases produced. Recommended.

Kiona Vineyards Estate Bottled Lemberger Red Mountain 2011 $15
 (Decent/Good) A moderately aromatic wine with notes of dried orange peel, dusky spices, cinnamon, and wet stone. The palate has sweet fruit flavors and pasty tannins. An enjoyable wine best suited for the dinner table. 100% Lemberger. Aged 14 months in French and American oak. 13.5% alcohol.


Cloudlift Cellars

The latest releases from Georgetown’s Cloudlift Cellars include some impressive wines. Among them are two whites, one a Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc blend called Updraft and the second a Chardonnay. Both hail from Bacchus Vineyard in the Columbia Valley, part of Sagemoor Vineyards.

Winemaker Tom Stangeland tank fermented the Sauvignon Blanc and barrel fermented the Semillon in once used French oak. The result is a pleasing interplay of bright fruit flavors and creamy texture. The Chardonnay meanwhile was barrel fermented and then aged in new French oak for four months before being moved to tank.

Whereas a number of 2012 vintage wines tended to go over the top in terms of richness, bringing excess alcohol along with it, these two wines both dance relatively light but still deliver. The Halycon Cabernet Sauvignon, which comes from Alder Ridge Vineyard in the Horse Heaven Hills, is also a standout.

Read previous posts about Cloudlift Cellars here.

Cloudlift Cellars Updraft Columbia Valley 2012 $18
 (Excellent) A moderately aromatic, complex wine with gooseberry, grass, citrus, underripe pineapple, straw, and spice. The palate is medium bodied with a creamy, rich feel while still dancing lightly to a lingering, lemon pith filled finish. Hits the balance just right. Sauvignon Blanc 64% (Bacchus Vineyard) and Semillon 36% (Dionysus Vineyard). Tank fermented (Sauvignon Blanc) and barrel fermented in once used French oak. 13.6% alcohol. 141 cases produced.

Cloudlift Cellars Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2012 $20
 (Excellent) An aromatically appealing wine with light toasty spices, tropical notes, pear and buttered acorn squash. The palate is creamy and textured with a rich feel while still retaining a sense of lightness with a straw-filled finish. A highwire act. 100% Chardonnay. Bacchus Vineyard. Barrel fermented in 100% new French oak. Aged 4 months in barrel and 5 months in tank. 13.6% alcohol. 92 cases produced.

Cloudlift Cellars Halycon Cabernet Sauvignon Horse Heaven Hills 2011 $28
Moderately aromatic with high toned high toned herbs, vanilla, cherry, and medicine cabinet. The palate is on the lighter side of medium bodied, plush but with a lower alcohol feel, tart acidity, and a pleasing sense of balance. 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot. Alder Ridge Vineyard. Aged 20 months in French and American oak (33% new). 13.9% alcohol. 93 cases produced. (Wine Enthusiast review to be published in an upcoming issue).

Cloudlift Ascent Cabernet Franc Horse Heaven Hills 2011 $25
Vanilla and coconut are at the fore followed by cherry and herbs. It’s on the lighter side of medium bodied with abundant cherry flavors. 81% Cabernet Franc, 19% Merlot. Alder Ridge Vineyard. Aged 20 months in French and American oak (33% new). 14% alcohol. 60 cases produced. (Wine Enthusiast review to be published in an upcoming issue).

Cloudlift Cellars Panorama Horse Heaven Hills 2011 $26
A moderately aromatic wine with herbs, chocolate, and cherry. The palate is soft and supple in feel with abundant chocolate flavors and slightly gritty tannins. 57% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 17% Cabernet Franc. Alder Ridge Vineyard. Aged in French and American oak (33% new). 13.9% alcohol. 100 cases produced. (Wine Enthusiast review to be published in an upcoming issue).


Northstar

Some interesting things are afoot at Northstar. The winery recently announced the launch of its Northstar Blending Experience, a 90-minute class that provides consumers with a hands-on opportunity to try blending wine at its Walla Walla winery. Uniquely, people not only get to create their own blends. They also get to go home with a bottle of their creation.

Long known for its Merlots – the reason the winery was founded – Northstar is also starting to shine a brighter light on some of its component wines, such as the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon reviewed below. This wine provides the opportunity to taste a 100% varietal wine from Cold Creek Vineyard, which recently celebrated its 40th birthday.

Read previous posts about Northstar here.

Stella Maris Red Wine Columbia Valley 2009 $29
 (Excellent/Exceptional) A very intriguing, Merlot dominated wine that also includes substantial amounts of Syrah (12%) and Petit Verdot (11%), it’s moderately aromatic with coffee ice cream, cherry, smoke, cola, and a wealth of spices. The palate is full bodied, rich and luscious with seamlessly polished fruit flavors that linger on the finish. Brings a whole lot of wine for the money. 65% Merlot, 12% Syrah, 11% Petit Verdot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6% Cabernet Franc. 13.5% alcohol. 2,472 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.

Northstar Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2010 $40
 (Excellent/Exceptional) One hundred percent varietal – all coming from the esteemed Cold Creek Vineyard, this is an aromatically appealing wine with dark coffee, vanilla, and dark fruit. The palate is soft, polished and fruit filled, speckled by vanilla and other oak spices that linger on the finish. Shows both elegance and power. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. Cold Creek Vineyard. Aged in French (75%) and American oak (48% new). 14.5% alcohol. 1,232 cases produced. Sample provided by winery.


Stottle Winery

Stottle Winery – named after founders Amy and Josh Stottlemeyer – is located in Lacey, Washington with a satellite tasting room in Hoodsport. Stottle offers an eclectic lineup of wines, including Barbera, Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, Viognier, Roussanne, Syrah, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The winery sources its fruit from across the Yakima Valley, Horse Heaven Hills, and Columbia Valley appellations.

Stottle Winery Viognier Elerding Vineyard Yakima Valley 2012 $25
(Decent/Good) A lingering reduction distracts from this otherwise enjoyable wine that shows strong white floral notes, pear, and ripe peach. The palate is full bodied, slightly oily in feel with a warm finish. Tasted twice with consistent notes. Barrel fermented and aged in neutral oak. 14.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Stottle Winery Roussanne Marcela Vineyard Yakima Valley 2012 $24
(Good) An aromatically appealing wine with toasty spices, straw, and melon. The palate is full bodied with tart fruit flavors and a warm finish. Barrel fermented and aged in neutral French oak. 14.5% alcohol. Sample provided by winery.

Stottle Winery Lucille Late Harvest Viognier Yakima Valley 2012 $20
(Decent/Good) A brightly aromatic wine with floral soap and pear. The palate is viscous in feel with sweet fruit flavors. 100% Viognier. Elerding Vineyard. 13.1% alcohol. 5% Residual Sugar. Sample provided by winery.

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