Oldies But Goodies 04-06-16

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Jacques Selosse–his avant garde bubblies are getting harder & harder to come by AND the prices keep getting higher & higher.  Still, the wines are unique, though probably not BB1 SelosseBB13 Selossefor everyone.  For me, for instance, they can be real hit or miss.  We recently were fortunate to try 2 different bottlings, 3 nights apart.  The first was the Extra Dry “Premier Cru” which was shared by a VINO guest from Japan.  While this wine has a very solid core, it displayed too many oxidative qualities for my taste.  I am all for what used to be called “English style” (aged & developed), but this was just too much.  It took away from my appreciating the wine itself.  I found the same to be true with the Exquise Sec, we were fortunate to taste a few nights later.  I don’t mind little flaws in a wine (even some brett or volatile acidity), but when it excessive & really takes away from focus of the wine, then I believe it is too much.  I haven’t had enough of Selosse wines to say if the overt oxidative qualities were intentional or not., but in these 2 cases, they were just not my cup of tea.

BB4 831983 Von Simmern Auslese “Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen”–Back in the day, Von Simmern was making some stellar Riesling from his holdings–Erbacher Macrobrunn, Hattenheimers– Mannberg & Nussbrunnen.  In fact, his 1983 Eisweins from Mannberg & Nussbrunnen  were real standouts & very memorable.  I have since had some of his 89, 90, 92 & 94 wines (Spatlese & Auselse quality) & was quite frankly underwhelmed.  I therefore did not know what to expect from this wine as it was being opened.  Wow…..what a real surprise it proved to be!   This 1983 really was drinking wonderfully with a very intriguing combination of complexities & breed.  It was also quite remarkably youthful still in its core given the 33 years of bottle age & had superb structure & balance with a much more gentle, graceful flow on the palate.  Thank you to Ryan & Sarah for sharing.  BB5 90

1990 JJ Prum Auslese “Wehlener Sonnenuhr”–Manfred Prum sure has a masterful touch with his Rieslings, especially those from his iconic Wehlener Sonnenuhr parcels.  I was astounded at the great purity, filigree & deft balance of this 1990.  The once apparent sweetness has since changed (at least 2/3’s) to a more tactile viscosity, which also allowed the wine’s minerality & pedigree once again to show so brilliantly.  The wine’s now seemingly racy acidity was scintillating & very refreshing.  It is rieslings like this which keeps me going back for more & more.  Outstanding!  Thank you to Vern & Gail for sharing.

BB8 99 donhoff1999 Dönnhoff Auslese “Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle”–yet another of the iconic, top echelon producers & vineyards from Germany.  Hermannshöhle is a relatively steep hillside on the northside of the Nahe River & generally considered by many to be the best site in the whole region.  The soils are a blackish slate with igneous rock, porphyry & limestone.  In its youth, these wines can be quite hard, closed & is essentially what I would refer to as liquid rock.  Helmut Dönnhoff is without a doubt, one of the world’s true master winemakers & his showpiece wines combine power, breed, grandeur & balance.  At 17 years of age, I was sad to see this wine was completely shut down.   Those cellaring this wine should really hold off for a while before popping one open.  BB6 Lafite 89

1989 Chateau Lafite Rothschild–someone just handed me this glass of wine as I was walking by one night in VINO.  With one whiff, I knew it was Lafite, as it had such a magnificent, majestic quality to its aromas.  The 1989 also displayed the gravel, graphite, cedar nuances of older Bordeaux, but with ripe, generous fruit which I had really noticed in the Chateau’s wines, from the 1978 vintage on.  Global warming?  I don’t know what to say about that, but will say, the Lafites of old had an ethereal-ness to them & were therefore surprisingly lighter on their feet with an intoxicating, seductive perfume.  Still, this wine was undoubtedly grand & majestic, just done in a riper style.  Thank you Mike for sharing.



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Oldies But Goodies 03-29-16

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Here was another opportunity to taste some wines which have bottle age.

A Wine #7AA 7Jasmin Côte Rôtie–I first visited this small, family owned domaine in 1991.  Back then the domaine was run by Robert Jasmin with his son Patrick  helping.  Robert had a larger than life personality, was jovial & full of life.   I could later see these kinds of qualities in his wine, as we tasted through several vintages with father & son. They were proud of their 4 hectares of vineyards, which were spread throughout the Côte Brune & the Côte Blonde.  (Today the Domaine lists 5.5 hectares).  They were champions of Petite Sérine, which was the only Syrah they used in their Côte Rôtie, (the one wine they produced, at least as far I knew).  I was especially taken by the 1989 vintage on that visit because of its ripe black fruit & wild cherry, savory bay leaf, peppercorn, roasted nuances, its richness & surprising openness for such a young wine.  I could also detect new oak qualities, eventhough there was only about 10% new oak used in that vintage.  On this night, the 1989 Jasmin Côte Rôtie, was a completely different wine.  It was earthy, smoky, feral, gamey with lots of burnt sandalwood nuances.  It was ripe, round, well resolved.  I used to think of Cote Rotie, especially in comparison to Hermitage, as the Queen of Syrah.  Well, there was nothing Queen like or feminine or aristocratic about this wine!  It was manly, blue collar & Old School to say the least, but without heaviness or being beefed up or testosterone driven.  Fascinating!  Kind of like a warrior tribal chieftain rather than a European king or queen of the old, grand days.  The 2000 Patrick Jasmin Côte Rôtie, on the other hand, seemed to have changed stylistically–more forward fruit, more oak, more modernized, without being internationalized–a definite changing of the generations.  AA 9

1986 Chateau Haut Brion–this wine had lots of gravel character both in the nose & in the taste.  The wine has greatly resolved itself in many ways since the last time I was fortunate to taste it.  There are no hard edges, & the oakiness I remembered the last time I tasted this wine is further in the background, as the gravel has really emerged to the forefront.  This wine has class & deserves a second, third & fourth dive back into the glass to better appreciate all of the nuances that have evolved from the bottle age.  A Wine #11

1986 Chateau Cheval Blanc–This wine was so compelling on first whiff.  OMG.  & I was quite taken initially.  I loved its deepness, its earthiness, its grandeur, aristocratic/regal, qualities to its nose, despite the huge dollop of oak & still surprising, unresolved youthfulness, especially on the palate.  Quite impressive to say the least.  Thanks Mike for sharing!AA 2

2004 Maume Mazis Chambertin–Over the years I have been quite a fan of this domaine & many of their wines, especially their Grand Cru, Mazis Chambertin.  I know many wine tasters, whose palate I greatly respect, who don’t really care for this old style Burgundy producer’s wines & I completely understand why.  It is not perfect or any of the other qualities just mentioned, but is without a doubt Grand Cru quality.  I am not looking for a perfect wine & I certainly do not always look for precise & correctly made wines, nor do I always get caught up in the newer snazzy, flamboyany styled wines from the media darlings.  I seem to have a soft spot for wines which have something to say, gutterly & in their own voice & especially those over delivering quality for the dollar.  I could say the Bandol wines from Domaine Tempier truly helped lead me down that path.  Well, here is just another example.  I love the musky, dark, provocative, mesmerizing pheromone scented character of this wine.  The 2004 is really in the zone right now–with lots of bottle age development, character & Grand Cru pedigree, BUT still with a more rustic, virile, masculine, soulful core.  I was sorry to hear this winery sold.

AA 3AA 4AA 52004 Bouchard “La Romanee” Grand Cru

1990 Leroy Vosne Romanee Premier Cru “Les Beaux Monts”

1990 Henri Jayer Echezeaux Grand Cru

What can one really say about superstar status wines like this?  Cherries?  Sandalwood? Long finish?  Hardly does the wine any real justice.  What instead tends to happen, is tasters will instead start pointing out the wine’s flaws, even if they at minute, & therefore not really appeciating the 90%, 95%, 99% that is really good…..& enjoying/ celebrating having such a wine.  Stop & think for a moment.  How many people have the opportunity to even try wines of this caliber (& expense)?  Plus, when one is looking on this quality level of site & this kind of winemaker, I find that the vintage variation shows a very different perspective on what the vineyard wants to say.  (rather than clamouring whether it should be rated 89 or 100 points).  I was astounded how profoundly ethereal & majestic each were.  Yes, these wines showed incredible pedigree & it was clearly evident how special & unique each independently were.  What a REALLY special opportunity, one I will certainly remember for a long time!  Thank you Nunzio & Joanne for sharing!  On that note, I would like to say, when I checked on line how much each were worth, I questioned my friends about in fact whether to even open these wines.  Joanne’s answer was simple–“Who better to share them with?”  It is true & when I think about all of the wines we have experienced together over the years, it really is mind boggling.  So, I say, thank you VERY much again!

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Oldies But Goodies 03-31-16

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We are so fortunate to have so many opportunities to taste some very special older wines at VINO.  Here are some of those which truly re-inspired the tasters.

AA12007 Coche Dury Meursault Premier Cru “Perrieres”–Over the past couple of decades Coche Dury has garnered huge accolades & a cult like following.  Theirs are therefore some of the most highly sought after, expensive white wines out there today.  While their Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru is their crown jewel, a case can also be made for this particular bottling.  On this night, this wine was glorious with such aristocratic grandeur.  Truly mesmerizing!  It truly was like liquid rock or like licking a piece of limestone, it was so soil driven.  After tasting this kind of power & breed, it is understandable why insiders insist that the Meursault Perrieres vineyard should be considered for an upgrade to Grand Cru status.   AA2

2007 Lafon Meursault Premier Cru “Charmes”–I was one of those wine lovers who once thought that the Meursault Premier Cru Charmes vineyard should be elevated to Grand Cru status, mainly because of the many vintages I was fortunate to taste from Francois Jobard.  I now think otherwise & this wine was yet another example which reconfirmed that for me.  Although this 2007 was superb, stylish & VERY captivating with its elegance, refinement, texture & balance….& quite a memorable wine in its own right, it just wasn’t Grand Cru in pedigree.  Please don’t take it like I am poo-poo-ing this wine…..I am NOT.  I would ceratinly & absolutely love & cherish having bottle after bottle if I could.  It just reminded me how wise the decision makers of old were when they classified this vineyard as Premier Cru.  A Wine #3

1997 Francois Jobard Meursault Premier Cru “Genevrieres”–This was truly an amazing, breathtaking Chardonnay, one I will remember forever!  While Jobard’s wines don’t have the grandeur or flamboyance of those from Coche Dury or even Roulot, they certainly have the pedigree (Grand Cru quality in this case from my point of view), intensity & soulfulness in the core of top echelon wine.  This is Old School white Burgundy in all its glory, one after 19 years of bottle age, has blossomed into the “swan”, most tasters would not have foreseen in the wine’s youth.  I would also say, this is an ideal time of having this wine, eventhough I was astounded how it just kept opening up more & more as it sat open.  I am sure in a blind tasting, I would say this is Grand Cru quality.  I would also say, this style of wine is not for everyone though.  I know lots of professionals, whose palate I respect, would not really care for this style & profile, especially this aged.  I just think……great!…..that just means more for me.   Since then, we have tasted the 2002 Francois Jobard Meursault Premier Cru “Genevrieres”, have to say what poor timing.  Eventhough the wine was 14 years old, it was so tight, closed down & seemed a waste that we opened it at this time.  I learned once again, ripe vintages like this just need WAY more time.  I must say, though, this is going to be some kind of wine once it has a chance to resolve itself. Interestingly, I surmise that wine collectors will taste a wine like this, at this state & wonder why they bought it.   Some will then look to sell it off, which is why one can sometimes see these kinds of wines offered online & at surprisingly good prices.A Wine #2

2003 Ramonet Chassagne Montrachet Premier Cru “Les Vergers”–here is yet another aged. majestic wine from one of Burgundy’s great white wine producers.  This wine was much more civil, classy, aristocratic in style than the previous Jobard wine, which surprised some because 2003 was such a hot vintage.  Ramonet has a distinctive style to their wines.  While their more famous Grand Cru bottlings display such grandeur, I liked this wine because of its sheer elegance, etherealness, finesse, sophistication & seamlessness, & was clearly reminded why this superstar producer is so highly regarded & why their top tier wines just seem to be harder & harder to get.  Furthermore just to shed some light from a different point of view, I remember reading somewhere the following quote (which I apologize if I didn’t get it absolutely right), which said something like– “More importantly, Ramonet wines are very individual. A Ramonet wine is a Ramonet wine before it is a Chassagne, or a Bienvenue, or a Bâtard….or a Montrachet“.  BBB7 Raveneau

2005 Raveneau Chablis Premier Cru “Monte de Tonnerre”–What did I learn tasting this wine?  Yet, another case of opening a wine at the wrong time.  Formidable, intensely structured wines like many from the 2005 vintage need lots of time!  I sadly did not really enjoy this wine, at least at this point of its life (11 years old).  It was like a block of rock.  Impenetrable.  There really was nothing delicious or ethereal currently present & there was a noticeable bitterness in the finish.  I am sure time will resolve all of the hard edges, as Raveneau is a master of his craft & this wine does have a lot to say.  Because we are experiencing more & more ripe vintages today, I just need to get better at understanding & estimating when to open a bottle like this, as I know it has a lot to say once it has a chance to resolve itself some more.  BBB8 Roulot

2006 Roulot Meursault Premier Cru “Perrieres”–here is yet another example of why so many “insiders” think this vineyard should be elevated to Grand Cru status.  This 10 year old wine had mesmerizing perfume–full of minerality, vinosity & pedigree, all done so masterfully & effortlessly AND with such a fine touch.  I have heard several wine aficionados were lukewarm about Roulot’s 2006 whites.  I liked them at the winery before they were released & I certainly liked this one on this night!

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Oldies But Goodies 02-28-16

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The 1990’s was a standout decade for German wines.  Where previously we were lucky to find 2 or 3 vintages out of every decade where all of the variables came together to make really good wines, the 1990’s had at least 8 quality years.  Lucky us!  Here was a chance for me to revisit 2 of the wines.  It can be such a thrilling experience to taste how wines like this can change with years of bottle age.

A Wine #131993 Zilliken Spatlese “Saarburger Rausch”–I have been a huge fan of superstar German winemaker Hanno Zilliken & his wines.  I remember how taken I was with his 1993 offerings way back when.  I thought they were some of my favorites from Germany that year.  Upon release, his 1993’s were so tight fisted & UN-showy, but still displayed great minerality, filigree & fine tuned, masterful balance with lots of tartaric (ripe) acidity.  I bought the Kabinett & Spatlese that vintage, because I thought they way over delivered for the dollar.  The wine’s once apparent sweetness has now completely changed to a more tactile creaminess, which is actually not really so noticeable because of the racy, scintillating acidity & completely riveting minerality which is now totally in the wine’s forefront.  I, in fact, think most tasters would think this is a medium dry to dry wine today, because of the tactile change from the years of bottle age.  This wine is another reminder that true wine lovers just need to be more patient & allow Zilliken’s wines to age in order to better see its true core & innate complexities like this.  I am more of a believer now than ever.  A Wine #14

1996 Fritz Haag Gold Kapsule Auslese “Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr”–In the early months 1996 was looking to be a challenging vintage, but things seem to change as the growing season progressed, especially in the last couple of months & there were therefore some really good wines to be had.  Of the wines I tasted, I specifically zeroed in on those from Fritz Haag, especially the those of the Auslese quality level.  I still vividly remember how really impressed I was with Fritz Haag’s 1996 wines upon release.  They were rounder than the 1995’s & more elegant & refined than the rich, prolific 1997’s.  I felt they would be so captivating & glorious with bottle age AND at a younger age than the 95’s & 97’s.  Having the 1996 now is having a wine still WAY too shamefully young & has been much slower to resolve & develop than I had expected.  Yes, this baby has a long time more to go.   Although the nose proudly shows the pedigree & breathtaking nobility of this vineyard in the hands of legendary Wilhelm Haag, the core, structure & residual sugar still needs much more time so it can really strut its stuff.

On another note–

BB30 02 Haag2002 Fritz Haag Gold Kapsule Auslese “Brauneberger Juffer Sonnenuhr”–I was so looking forward to trying this wine.  We popped open a bottle, because we had an opportunity to buy some more & wanted to check it out first.  When the 2002’s were released, Fritz Haag was at the top of my list.  Back then, however, I actually preferred the 2001’s, but thought the ’02’s would be well worth cellaring for the long term.  With first whiff, I was flabbergasted.  Despite being 14 years old, this 2002 was merely an infant–so undeveloped & primary.  Still, this wine is certainly one to be reckoned with in the distant future, as it effortlessly combines resounding fruit, mega-intensity, unreal physiological maturity, profound depth, structure & pedigree…..kind of like a top notch 1961 Bordeaux First Growth was like in its youth.   I will definitely be trying to get some more.

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In Search of Value

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I am sure there are many wine drinkers who go to a store’s wine section, get overwhelmed by all of the different bottles, labels and names that are lined up on the shelves.  Yes, it can be quite confusing.  And because of that,  I have heard countless times, how people select wines based upon the eye catching label, pretty packaging, the 96 point rating  or the fact that the wine was on sale.  There is so much marketing jargon and image building in today’s world, it is hard to find out what the real dealio is on wines, even for the professional.

With a little research and digging around, however, one can find great values, which will deliver much more quality for your dollar spent.

For example, one of the aspects of wine I relish is those where a family owns the vineyard.  The really passionate and dedicated ones are then vested in the wine from the ground to the bottle.

Another good sign then is if they farm their vineyard sustainably and try to create a “living” vineyard, one they can later proudly turn over to the next generation.  This says something about them & their core values.

I then usually dig around in the less en vogue wine growing areas to find true value, where the land is much less expensive, especially if it was bought a generation or so ago, as this can greatly affect the store shelf price tag.

To help you get started, here are a few of our favorites.

2014 HYBIRD CHARDONNAY–The Schatz family purchased their vineyard in the 1950’s, out in Lodi, California. They farm sustainably, the first grower In the region in fact to certify 100% of their acreage by a third party.  The resulting estate Chardonnay is wonderfully tasty, pure, refreshing, thirstquenching & hard to beat for the price…and on many different levels.

2013 ANCIENT PEAKS MERLOT  “MARGARITA VINEYARD”–The Ancient Peaks estate vineyard is roughly 1000 feet in elevation in the hills of southern Paso Robles, California and is owned by three ranching families.  Certified “sustainable in practice”, the 2012 Merlot comes from 3 different parcels, each with ancient seabed soils.  There is therefore nothing simple or tooty fruity here, just lots of “mountain grown” flavor, depth and earthy character, which is why its perennially gets so much accolades and acclaim.  It really is too hard to beat for the price and therefore well worth searching out for.

2012 ERNESTO CATENA CABERNET SAUVIGNON  “TAHUAN”–Ernesto is the oldest son of the iconic , Argentinean wine legend Nicolás Catena. He decided in 2002 to branch out on his own to fulfill his vision of what the foothills of the Andes Mountains could create in the vines and the resulting wines.   Like his father, Ernesto also has vineyards high up in the foothills, which he organically farms.  The Ernesto Catena Cabernet Sauvignon is one of our favorites in terms of great value, as it is  elegant, suave, classy in style and certainly over delivers for the price.

2013 DOMAINE de FONTSAINTE CORBIERES–Historically, the  vineyards of this domaine were planted by the Romans, way back when.  The  Laboucarié family came on the scene sometime in the 17th Century and have been farming their vineyards & making wine since.  This is one of our all time favorite southern French “country” red wines, because of how delicious, lighter bodied and gulpable it is year in and year out.   You will also be amazed how diverse this wine can be with foods, from pizza, to meatloaf to vegetarian oriented foods to lighter pasta dishes to even more complex fish preparations when served slightly chilled.   With every cork popped and subsequent taste, I am always utterly re-amazed at the still very reasonable price tag.

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Today in our VINO wine bar we did a tasting of 4 different Pinots from a very unique perspective.

2009 Movia Pinot Noir “Modri” –we began the tasting with a Pinot totally “out of the box”.  We wanted to get the tasters out of thinking & evaluating Pinot Pinot 1with preconceived notions.  In doing so, this wine was like serving a wine to the tasters blind.  Furthermore, we did not ask participants to identify the grape variety, soil, vintage, producer.  We instead asked if this was a “good” wine, eventhough it was not something they were used to.  What would they pay for this wine…….& what kind of foods would they think of serving this wine with.

Afterwards, we provided tasters some information from the winery’s website–“The Movia estate dates back to 1700, passing into the hands of the Kristančič family with a wedding in 1820. The estate extends over 22 hectares of land, about half of which lie on the Italian side of the Goriška Brda (Collio).  Heading up this iconic family estate is the absolutely brilliant & vanguard ALEŠ KRISTANČIČ, who once noted–Pinot Noir is like a virus. Once you’re infected, there’s practically no cure. At the same time it is one of the most difficult varieties for cultivation: there is no system, there are no rules, neither in selecting the parcel, nor in deciding on the method of planting, nor regarding the right time for harvesting. This is a variety that never ceases to surprise – sometimes it brings joy, sometimes disappointment. It causes so many headaches that even a small success delivers great joy“.  The Pinot is grown in Brda marl, hand harvested, wild yeast fermented & spends up to 4 years in 220 liter barrique.   Pinot 2

2011 Fürst Spätburgunder “Centgrafenberg GG”–Owner/winemaker Paul Fürst was selected as 2003 “Gault Millau Winemaker of the Year” & is today one of the top Pinot Noir maestros in the world.  In contrast to Pinots from other well know “homes” of this varietal, I find his renditions to be so hauntingly ethereal & so remarkably delicately nuanced & therefore so incredibly unique & probably “out of the box” for most avid Pinot lovers.  This therefore was yet another opportunity for tasters to ask themselves if this was a “good” wine… much they would be willing to pay & what kind of foods it might work with.  As readers will recall from past blog posts, the initials GG represent Germany’s attempt at a Grand Cru system & therefore the Bürgstadter Centgrafenberg has deservedly been selected as one of those standout vineyards.  Located in the Franconia winegrowing region of Germany, its red sandstone-clay-rocky soils create a very different profile of Pinot in comparison to his other holdings, most notably the Klingenberger Schlossberg.  Yes, the wines are pricey, but I believe one gets much more quality & pedigree than many equally priced Pinots from the New World.  Furthermore, I also think they have a rightful place on the world class mantle even in comparison to many one finds from Burgundy in similar price ranges.   Pinot 3

2014 Lucien Boillot “Les Grands Poisots”–here is a white wine, produced from the Pinot Beurot grape variety (a mutation of Pinot Noir), grown in Burgundy, France.  While visiting Boillot  several years back, my wife Cheryle & I were captivated by the one white wine in the incredible line-up of new releases we tasted at the domaine.  It smelled vividly of wild strawberries & all kinds of cherries, which really caught us off guard.  So, we ordered the wine.  Much to our surprise when the wine actually arrived into Islands & we excitedly cracked open a bottle, the red fruit had taken a back seat to Burgundian minerality.  Wow, what a trip!  We really loved the wine nonetheless.  Back then I was told the wine was produced from a couple of rows of vines in their Gevrey Chambertin holdings, but have subsequently also heard the vines are in Nuits St Georges.  In any case, as we have noted in previous blogs, the Cote de Nuits is most famous for their red wines & the Cote de Beaune for their white wines.  Here was an example of a Cote de Nuits white which because it was not Chardonnay had a very different character (with qualities/character I also see in other whites from the area).  Besides the red fruit nuances, there is a much more copper hue to the color & a rounder, more generous mouthfeel, especially in the middle.  Kind of reminds me of the Pinot Noirs vinified white used in Champagne before the extended yeast/less aging.  Fascinating to say the least.  Pinot 4

2008 Cavallotto “Langhe” Bianco–to continue this thought, we ended this tasting with a Piemontese Pinot Noir vinified white. The wine had wonderful minerality, flowed so evenly & completely from beginning to end & finished UN-oaky, UN-alcoholic & UN-bitter.  The wine smelled of Burgundy like minerality & over the years has fooled many of its origin.  Many years back, Cheryle & I stayed in & toured Piemonte, Italy.  I just wanted to see & walk as many of the Cru vineyards as I could.  At the top of my list was the steep hillside, conca Bricco Boschis & the brothers Cavallotto, who produce some of my favorite Nebbiolo.  In our tasting there, I was mesmerized by one of their white wines, which was simply labeled as Langhe Bianco.  It truly was one of the most interesting we encountered on that trip to Italy.  I soon found out that the family, we were told, had recently purchased some of the lower, flatter parcels down below, which included some then 22 year old Pinot Noir & Chardonnay vines.  I surmized, being a family engrained in producing more traditional styled wines, a red Pinot Noir would look odd in their portfolio.  However, by vinifying it white, it would then be a wine of the vineyard rather than of any grape varietal…..hence Langhe. (in addition to legal labeling requirements).  In any event, it made total sense to end this tasting with this wine.  Being a 2008 & therefore some bottle age & development, it was mesmerzing, captivating & VERY uplifting.  AND, there was again a reminder in color, taste & texture of the Pinot Noirs vinified white used in Champagne before the extended yeast/less aging.

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The next flight of this comprehensive Rhone grape varietal tasting featured 3 white wines from southern France.  The first wine, 2013 Clos Ste Magdeleine Cassis comes from a Cassisbreathtaking vineyard jutting out into the surreal colored Mediterranean Sea in the Cassis appellation of Provence, France.  This wine, however, is far from being a romantic notion because of its spectacular vineyard setting.  If you look more closely at the soil below the vineyard, one can see it is limetone dominated, which gives this white its vitality, freshness, ethereal lightness on the palate &  mesmerizing minerality.  For many years, therefore, this iconic white wine was the definitive wine pairing with Bouillabaisse, the world renown fish B Wine #9soup of Provence.  The blend is typically 40% Marsanne, 30% Ugni Blanc, 25% Clairette & 5% Bourboulenc, fermented in stainless steel, after which the lees in added back in & then further aged for 14 to 18 months.  (I remember a time, when this wine was more Clairette & Ugni Blanc dominated…..& fermented in concrete, so times have changed).  Having said that, this is still a wine of the site–soil, the salty air, the generous sunshine & the cooling sea winds.  For me, a classic.  The 2011 Domaine Vinci “Coyade” is a very unique & interesting southern French white wine which I frequently refer to as “liquid rock”, as it really does smell & taste like sun baked rock, with some wild shrub & herb nuances.  Produced from 75% Maccabeu, 15% Carignane Blanc & 10% Grenache Blanc grown in clay limestone soils, foot stomped & wild yeast fermented.  1/2 of the Maccabeu is fermented in stainless steel (with lees) & the other half in old demi muids, where it will age for 16 months.  This is a very masculine, mega intense, wild, powerful, stony wine, which makes you rethink your previous perceptions/thoughts with each sip & taste.  The 2014 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape Blanc is another mega intense, masculine, stony white wine.  The reason why we served this after the Vinci “Coyade” is because of its innate pedigree & more layered/nuanced character.  It, however, really took me a long time to understand this wine.  The 2014 is 40% Clairette, 30% Grenache Blanc, 15% Bourboulenc & 15% Roussanne, 1/2 fermented in cement, 70% malolactic & then aged in foudre/demi muids, 10 to 15% new.  Definitely a white wine of the stones.

The final flight of this epic tasting, “In Search of Good Wine” featured 3 pink wines produced from Rhone grape varietals.  The first wine, 2014 Domaine Fontsainte Corbieres “Gris de B Wine #10Gris” has grown meteorically in popularity since I first brought this wine to the Islands sometime in the late 80’s/ early 90’s.  I would say key factors in its growth include a charming, outgoing personality, deliciousness year in & year out, its incredible food friendliness AND mainly because it really does over deliver for the dollar!  The 2014 is 50% Grenache Gris, 20% Grenache Noir, 20% Carignane, 5% Mourvedre & 5% Cinsault, tank fermented with no malolactic.  I would also say, that the quality has really improved over the years, without any significant price increases amazingly.  In comparison, the next wine, 2014 Chateau D’Esclans “Whispering Angel”, has changed since I first had it.  I am sure that has a lot to do with its growth in popularity, as I readily see it on top wine lists across the country.  The 2014 is a blend of mainly Grenache, with Cinsault & a smidgeon of Rolle (all from La Motte en Provence), fermented in stainless with twice a week less stirring.  The wine is still delicious, light on its feet, ethereal & therefore quite remarkably food friendly.  The final wine of this flight & the tasting, 2014 Maxime Magnon Corbieres Rose “Metisse”, is quite a unique & interesting wine, one that took me some time to get a handle on.  While there has been a movement to lighter, more ethereal, minerally styled roses, this masculine, heady, minerally one comes along.  The 2014 is 40% Carignane, 30% Grenache, 20% Cinsault & 10% Grenache Blanc, direct pressed, whole cluster (the Grenache & Carignane co-fermented) in cement, malolactic, with 6 to 8 month aging in old barrels.  My aha moment was when trying this wine with foods, & then realizing it really is more like a red wine in style.  Having said that, rest assured there is lots of vineyard character still in the wine (not some fruit bomb) AND it still has wonderful deliciousness & gulpability despite its heady, robust style.

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The next flight featured Mourvedre based red wines.  For many, the Mourvedre grape variety is a tough one to get to know & understand.  It can very easily make very non-chalant, raisiny wine or very high acid, super tannic juice or a combination of all of the above.  In actually, therefore, there really isn’t too many I would buy for our restaurants, for many reasons.

Here are 3.  The 2009 Skaggs “Montage”–Superstar entertainer Boz Skaggs is also a real wine lover.  On his 2 visits to VINO, he ordered red wines from southern France.  So, it is B Wine #4understandable that when he planted his own vineyard, 1100 to 1400 feet up (3 to 4 week longer hang time in comparison to the valley floor below) Mount Veeder (Napa Valley), it would be to mainly Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre grape varieties & which he would organically farm.  The mix of grape varieties %’s change each vintage.  The 2009 is 48% Mourvedre, 38% Grenache, 9% Syrah & 5% Counoise.  The resulting wine has a darker, more masculine edge than I tasted in his previous releases, but it still flows so evenly & completely from beginning to end.  The 2012 Force Majeure “Collaboration VI” features high quality Clos de Ciel vineyard grapes & the winemaking talents of James Mantone of Syncline.  The 2012 is 55% Mourvedre, 39% Syrah & 6% Grenache, fermented & aged in concrete & large puncheons.  This masculine, sultry, intriguingly rustic gives an inkling to the potential the Mourvedre grape variety really has in Washington state.  The 2013 Domaine Gros Nore Bandol–is the family project of avid hunter Alain Pascal.  The 2013 is 80% Mourvedre, 15% Grenache & 5% Cinsault grown in their estate’s clay dominated soils.  The 2013 was partially de-stemmed & spent 18 months in foudres.  Eventhough this remarkably “rising” star is only hundreds of yards away from the iconic Domaine Tempier, these wines are so decidedly different–much more masculine, earthy, robust….still with lots of the rustic, meaty, gamey, wild herb qualities it shares with Tempier.  B Wine #7

We decided to taste the 2013 Keplinger “Sumo” on its own as this wine is very different from anything else we poured on this afternoon.  I think we can safely say, this is a big, masculine, lavish, opulent, full throttle beast of a red wine, which the name “Sumo” aptly describes.  The 2013 is 76% Petite Sirah, 20% Syrah & 4% Viognier, all from the Shake Ridge Vineyard up in Amador county.  The 2013 was aged in muids d’Oc & demi muids from Burgundy.  Rated 94 to 95 points & a 270 case production, I would say, makes this a real challenge to get.

The next flight featured 5 Syrah based red wines, so that tasters could better understand what this innately noble grape variety can offer.  The first of the 5 was the 2013 Gramercy Syrah “Lower East”–here is what the  winemakers had to succinctly say–“Walla Walla lies in the Lower East corner of Washington State. Our goal was to make a fantastic Syrah at a fantastic price. B Wine #8Previously called the Lower East Southern Blend, in 2013 we decided to change the wine to a 100% Syrah blend. The 2013 combines the freshness and acidity of Minick and Upland Vineyard, sitting at 1300 ft in the Yakima Valley, with the funk and meatiness of the rocks at Stoney Vine and SJR Vineyards in Walla Walla“.  The wine spent 16 months in French, only 10% new.  How can true wine lovers not love the wonderful elegance coupled with the gamey, rustic, masculine, savory character of this wine?  Furthermore, this is essentially the “entry” level Syrah for this standout Washington producer.  There are several other very stylish Syrahs in their portfolio to try, as well as a most interesting Mourvedre based red.  The 2012 Mollydooker “Carnival of Love”, exemplified a lavish, opulent, decadent 95 point rated Australian Syrah fruit bomb in all its glory.  The 2013 came from the Gateway Vineyard in McLaren Vale & was aged in 100% new American oak.  This side by side provided a very clear comparison between 2 very different takes on Syrah based wines of the New World.  The 2011 Faury Syrah “L’Art Zele”, in comparison is a more traditional minded Syrah from France’s northern Rhone Valley.   The grapes actually came from a small parcel, 850 feet in elevation, only 150 feet from the Cote Rotie appellation boundary.  The 2011 was 70% de-stemmed & spent 15 months in 5 to 15 year old demi muids.  The classical stony, meaty, gamey, lavender/violets, hawthorne northern Rhone character just jumped out of the glass with such a wonderful textural, balanced & classy mouthfeel.  This classical style reminded me of what true Syrah was like when I was growing up in the industry, & I was immediately reminded of such classics as those from Joseph Panel.  The next 2 wines came about from a collaborative meeting of 2 giants of the wine field–legendary French wine maestro Louis Barruol & superstar wine importer Kermit Lynch.  The first of the wines we tasted was the 2012 Crozes Hermitage “Les Batits”.  It’s not often one runs across an engaging,  attention grabbing Crozes Hermitage, much less a good one, worth the asking priceQuite candidly I was somewhat skeptical before trying this wine.  The dangling carrot, however, is that Louis Barruol has such a passion for the old, standout Petite Serine selection of Syrah grown in the northern Rhone Valley.  Because of his long time reputation & his (& his family’s) resulting network & relationships, Barruol is therefore able to find & source these heirloom/heritage grapes.  Because he then passionately crafts each as unique individuals, we therefore thankfully get some really “good”, authentic, artisanal Syrah rather than losing them to huge negociant blends (which usually are more about generalities rather than uniqueness).  This parcel features 40 to 50 year old vines in sandy loam soils, is 90% destemmed, fermented in cement & aged for 15 months in 1 to 2 year old barrels.  This really was a pleasure to savor & certainly (& thankfully) provided the impetus to reminiscent of the old days AND the pure enjoyment of & sense of wonder created by the wines of the old days.  B Wine #12The final wine of this flight was the 2009 Cote Rotie “La Boisselée”.  I really loved this wine as it vividly reminded me of the old days & why I so passionately loved northern Rhone Valley Syrah based reds.  Aside from the characteristic gaminess, rusticity, stoniness, pepper, it still was so wonderfully aristocratic & regal.  And, I am not sure how many would say this wine also had a loveliness & charm, without taking anything away from its masculinity, virility or rusticity.  I wish more people could taste wines like this, so they can better understand the incredible, true potential the Syrah grape variety innately has.  AND, although lately I have been more enamored by what I have been tasting out of Cornas than Cote Rotie, this wine resoundingly reminded me how inspiring Cote Rotie can be.  I am really hoping this collaborative project can continue sourcing this quality level of Petite Serine for their cuvees.

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On this day, with the help of Warren Shon, we put together another comprehensive tasting for young wine professionals.  The theme for this one centered around Rhone grape varieties.

The main goal was to again help shed light on what is “good” wine.  In most cases, therefore, I prefer to taste the wines blind.  No one has to guess grape variety, soil, region…NO deductive, grid kind of angle.  The questions we instead ask… it a good wine?  Why/why not?  How much would you pay for this wine?  What foods would you consider pairing the wine to & why?  And finally, when would you consider recommending the wine & how?  We feel this is much more pertinent to the restaurant or retail store floor.

The first flight featured Carignane based red wines.  This red grape variety, I find, is not as showy or flambouyant as the Grenache, Syrah or Mourvedre grape varieties.  BUT, well grown & crafted Carignane can have a wonderful deliciousness, pliability & a surprisingly wide opportunity for a whole myriad of foods.   The secret is finding the good ones.

B Wine #1The 2014 Neyers “Sage Canyon”–is, in my opinion, a homage to the totally inspiring wines of Didier Barral & Maxime Magnon down in southern France (whose wines we will discuss shortly).   The 2014 is 34% 100+ year old Carignane & 25% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre & 15% Syrah (all heirloom/heritage grape vines), which has been foot stomped & made with deliciousness & gulpability in mind.  This wine is really unlike anything else I have tasted out of California.  The 2014 has compelling, charismatic fruit, an unprententious personality, coupled with intriguingly rusticity & vinosity, all done with absolute deliciousness, balance & wonderful, seamless texture.  We are HUGE fans.   The 2013 Domaine Fontsainte  Corbieres “La Demoiselle”–is one of those wines we buy year in & year out because of its inherent deliciousness & food friendliness.  The Corbieres appellation is located in southern France & Fontsainte’s vineyard holdings have a mix of soils–silica, gravel, clay & limestone.  The La Demoiselle parcel has 102 year old Carignane vines which serves as the core of this cuvee–60% (done carbonic) with 30% Grenache Noir & 10% Mourvedre, fermented in cement & aged in barrels for 8 to 12 months.  The 2012 Leon Barral Faugeres–Faugeres is another village down in southern France.  The dominant soil is schist, the 40 to 70 years old vines are biodynamically farmed.  This wine sees wild yeast fermentation with whole clusters & spends 2 years in cement & stainless steel.  Unlike the previous 2 wines, this is much more gamey, wildly rustic, even with a little “fur” to it.  Furthermore, one can readily smell & taste the sun baked rocks, wild shrub & herbs that surround the vineyard.  The 2013 Maxime Magnon “Rozeta”–is typically the hardest of these wines for us to get.  The core is 50 to 60 year old vine Carignane with some Grenache Noir, Syrah, Grenache Gris, Maccabeu & Terret, all grown in limestrone/schist soils.  The wine is then aged in old Chassagne Montrachet barrels.  The wine’s outgoing fruity/gunflint core nose is somewhat reminiscent of the wines from Jean Foillard of Morgon, Beaujolais–(protege & teacher?), although actually so different in character.  Well worth checking out!!!  (We also opened a bottle of the 2014 Maxime Magnon “Campagnes”, but it was sadly corked).

The next flight featured Grenache based red wines.  Grenache is typically a tough love for me.  I run across too many hollow examples & too many which B Wine #6have an extreme sun baked, raisiny quality which I find very distracting.  Still, passionately farmed bottlings from interesting vineyards & highly skilled winemakers can really help fill a void I see between Pinot & Cabernet based red wines, in terms of weight & drama.  The 2012 Villa Creek Garnacha–comes from 3 of the top caliber limestone/siliceous clay soiled vineyards of Paso Robles (Luna Matta, James Berry & Denner).  The soils help to create mesmerizing minerality in the finished wine, which makes it seem less heavy AND much more interesting.  This 91 point rated 2012 saw 75% whole cluster & was aged in 500 liter puncheons, 25% new.  I really believe that there is a huge opportunity with a wide audience of wine lovers for this wine because of how delicious & mineral driven it is.  The 2011 Samsara Grenache “Larner Vineyard”–this 100% Grenache comes from the limestone bedrock soils of the iconic Larner Vineyard of Ballard Canyon.  The resulting wine has more lushness, fullness & less obvious minerality on the palate than the previous wine, while still being elegant & refined.  The specs on the 2011–clone 136, whole cluster, aged in old oak….total of 56 cases….90 to 92 point rating.  The 2013 Keplinger “Lithic”–is a new wine to Hawaii.  Owner/winemaker Helen Keplinger has honed her skills & craft at several top caliber wineries including Bryant Family in the Napa Valley.  I find it so fascinating that the 2 wines we tasted on this day each came from the Shake Ridge Vineyard up in Amador county & its high altitude, quartz, basalt & shale soils.  The lavish, full flavored, outgoing, 93 point rated 2013 Lithic is 42% Grenache, 33% Mourvedre, 25% Syrah, 20 to 30 whole cluster & then aged for 16 months in 1 year old demi muids.  The 94 point rated 2012 Epoch “Veracity”–comes from the estate Paderewski & Catapult vineyards of westside Paso Robles & their rolling hills of limestone/siliceous clay soils.  The 2012 is 55% Grenache, 27% Mourvedre & 18% Syrah, fermented in concrete & stainless steel & then aged for 17 months in concrete egg & 30% new French oak puncheons.  Tasting this wine after the Keplinger clearly reminded the tasters how minerality from these kinds of soils can create mesmerzing minerality & buoyancy in the finished wine & thereby making it appear less heavy than it actually is.

B Wine #5We decided to showcase the Sella & Mosca Cannonau de Sardegna “Riserva” in this Grenache flight because it delivers such GREAT VALUE.  The enormous 1200 acre estate vineyard is located in northwest part of the isle of Sardegna.  Grown in clay-sand soils, this 100% Grenache is fermented in stainless steel & aged for 2 years in large Slavonian oak.  We have found the resulting delicious, wildly rustic scented wine has a wide appeal & with a wide array of Mediterranean styled foods it can readily work with. The 2009 Arrels Garnatxa “Clos Oblidat”—is 100% Grenache, which hails from the Montsant appellation of Spain (an appellation which surrounds the more famous Priorat).  This is the project of Master Sommelier Emanuel Komiji & the estate vineyard is only 6 acres in size with slate/clay soils & harvested at a scant 1 1/4 tons per acre (186 cases).  The 2013 Sang des Cailloux Vacqueyras is typically one of our favorite bottlings from France’s southern Rhone Valley, because of its soulfulness & deliciousness, quite a rare combination.  A taster asked me the other night, if this wine had VA (volatile acidity) & brett (brettanomyces).  Yes.  And?  I still like the wine.  The grapes come the estate’s 17 hectare parcel on the “Plateau de Garrigue” & its combination of red clay, limestone & the round galet (stones).  Typically the blend is somehwere around 70% Grenache, 20% Syrah & 10% Cinsault, organically farmed, de-stemmed, fermented in cement & aged at least 6 months in foudre.  This is a masculine, virile, more traditionally made beast.  In comparison, the 2013 Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape “La Crau”, also from the southern Rhone Valley, is an aristocrat, with much more class & refinement.  We also love its strength, rusticity & great longevity.  I am absolutely blown away with each visit to the iconic La Crau vineyard.  It really does look like a sea of stones (galet).  Even when they dug down 20 feet, it still was 75% stones (with red clay “molasses” & some limestone).  The blend is typically 65% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, 15% Syrah & 5% Cinsault/Calirette, partially de-stemmed, fermented in stainless steel & aged for 12 months in cement & foudre.  This is, without a doubt, the crown jewel of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which by the way, gets even more interesting & complex with further bottle aging.

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Oldies But Goodies 02-27-16

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One of the real pleasures of wines, I must say, is enjoying an aged wine at a perfect time of its life.  Not all wines, however, get better with age.  And, not all wines are in fact meant to age.  Furthermore, I have found ageworthy wines often periodically go through peaks & valley as it sleeps/ ages.  The question then would be, when do I open it?

I remember, for example, watching one of the true “trophy” wines early on in my career, the 1976 Chateau Lafite Rothschild, evolve over the years, both in bottle age development & price.  I marveled at how the 2 attributes were so linked.

The 1976 vintage, eventhough a lighter year which therefore produced more approachable wines, Lafite was the clear star, at least for my palate .  I really liked the wine, because it had Lafite’s standout pedigree/truly noble nuances while still being surprisingly approachable.  I didn’t have much money then, but I liked the wine so much, I splurged & also purchased several 1/2 bottles too.

Over the years afterwards, I followed the 1976’s development (AND the prices, just out of interest).  I was fortunate to taste the wine at my work place, where I would serve the wine now & then, & I could therefore periodically keep abreast of how it was developing in the bottle as time went on.

As another perspective, I noticed every time the price really spiked, I would then try one of my 1/2 bottles.  In every such case I was amazed at how the wine had come out of “hibernation” & had opened up again.  I then surmised that when the wine had in fact opened up again & showed well, collectors would want to go out & buy some, so the demand therefore increased, thus driving the price up.

Watching a wine evolve over the years was a truly invaluable experience.  Because of the insight experienced over the years, I now better understand what the real sweet spot is I want to look for in an aged wine.  First of all, I relish bottle age development–bouquet & perfume, as well as a wonderfully harmonious, balanced & well textured flow on the palate.  At the same time, I also still want there to be a virile, solid core to the wine as well.  I therefore generally look for 15 to 25 year bottle age for most “trophy” styled reds.

I recently had 3 standout red wines the other night in VINO that fit the bill.  I would also, in fact, say…… was drinking each at the perfect time of its life!  OMG.  wine 1

1985 Laurel Glen Cabernet Sauvignon “Sonoma Mountain”-this wine certainly caught my attention.  Although I have been an avid fan & follower of the Laurel Glen Cabernets over the years, I still marvel at what they did to produce such an amazingly ageworthy wine like this.  This 1985, which was young, virile & quite hard in its youth, was not the prune mui, dried autumn leaves, dried, leathery, sometimes pruney nuanced wines one finds in the majority of 1985 Californian Cabernets we typically run across.  AND, there were no raisined, deeply oak laden qualities one finds in aged, contemporary styled wines.  This wine had a strong, deeply flavored, surprisingly youthful core still, with wonderful structure, balance & texture.  The nose had all kinds of different nuances & earthy qualities which were mesmerizing.  Wow!  This was truly memorable & reminded me of the Californian Cabernets of old……..PRE-fruit bombs.  Thank you Kevin for sharing!  wine 2

1987 Domaine Tempier Bandol “La Tourtine”–I have been very fortunate to taste lots of Tempier Bandol over the years.  I must admit, it took me a while to completely “get it”….BUT I certainly finally got it.  I told tasters at this particular VINO get together, this was the most floored I had ever been with a Tempier wine!  This 1987 was so wonderfully developed AND open, in all its glory on this night.  I loved the nose–wildly rustic–hung, aged game, wild herbs & shrub, licorice, lavender, gunflint, sun baked rocks with all kinds of dried red fruit; the superb, harmonious mouthfeel & texture & the long finish.  This wine was truly glorious & was singing confidently & purely!  Thank you to Gail & Vern for sharing.  Wow!    A Wine #5   A Wine #6

Interestingly, roughly 2 weels later, we were able to taste a 1987 (La Tourtine) & a 1985 (La Migoua)  Tempier Bandol again, but this time side by side!  Initially, on this day, the 1987 seemed much more youthful with lots of vigor & virility in the core.  In comparison the 1985 seemed to be freying at the edges with a prominent charcoal nuance to the nose.  With some breathing, however, the 1985 came alive & showed more youth than the 1987.  This bottle of 1987 Tempier Bandol “La Tourtine” just seemed much more lackluster & tired than the one we had weeks earlier.  What a very different experience!!!  Thank you to Vern, Gail & Brent for sharing!wine 3

1994 Chave Hermitage–here was yet another epic red wine in all of its glory!!!  Again, I have been very fortunate to visit Chave a few times over the years & also privileged to taste this iconic wine in many different vintages.  I can’t think of an occasion, however, where I was as astounded as on this night.  This truly was having a standout wine at an ideal time of its life in the bottle.  The nose was majestic, confident, masculine, savory, stony with graphite, herbs, dried fruit, meaty/andouille sausage/feral rusticity, lavender, smoke, pepper & a thousand other nuances.  I absolutely loved the breed & vinosity this wine deftly & proudly exuded.  Yes, it was a most memorable wine!  (We had the 1998 a couple of nights later & it was unfortunately quite shut down in comparison).  This taste totally reinforced to me why the Chave Hermitage is truly & undeniably one of the great red wines of the world.  Thank you Mike for sharing!


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