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Wine Events for February 16 - 24

The next 10 days offer almost 50 excellent opportunities to taste and learn about the wines of Northern California. Here's a long-weekend itinerary I'd love to follow:

richardsanford
California Pinot Noir Pioneer Richard Sanford

All events listed below are in chronological order within each region. I also recommend checking the increasingly jam-packed events calendar at NorCalWine.com for future events. Some require advance reservations or ticketing.

To go directly to a particular region, click the appropriate link below.
East Bay - Lake County - Lodi & Sacramento - Mendocino - Monterey & Santa Cruz - Napa Valley - Paso Robles - San Francisco & Peninsula - Sierra Foothills - Sonoma County - Upcoming Highlights

Event organizers and publicists get your events published here by posting your events in the calendar at NorCalWine.com. Posting events there requires a one-time registration (easy, peasy), but is totally free of charge. And it only takes a couple of minutes. I’ll soon post a guide here with tips on how to make event posts as effective as possible.

East Bay

Thursday, February 16

Dutcher Crossing Winery presented by Diablo Tasters Guild at Faz — Danville: 6:45pm - 9:30pm
An evening with winemaker Kerry Damskey and Dutcher Crossing wines paired with fine cuisine.

Friday, February 17

Dark & Delicious 2012 at Rock Wall Wine Co. — Alameda: 6:00pm - 9:00pm
55 preeminent Petite Sirah wine producers and 30 fabulous Napa and Bay Area restaurants and/or food caterers. [THIS EVENT IS NOW SOLD OUT. NO TICKETS WILL BE AVAILABLE AT THE DOOR.]

Saturday, Februrary 18

Cedar Mountain Winery, Presidents' Day Weekend Barrel Tasting — Livermore: noon - 4:00pm
Sample 2009 Syrah and 2005 Souzao Port.

Thomas Coyne Winery Winter Open House — Livermore: noon - 5:00pm
Bring a picnic and enjoy sweeping views of the Livermore Valley.

Sunday, Februrary 19

Cedar Mountain Winery, Presidents' Day Weekend Barrel Tasting — Livermore: noon - 4:00pm
Sample 2009 Syrah and 2005 Souzao Port.

Thomas Coyne Winery Winter Open House — Livermore: noon - 5:00pm
Bring a picnic and enjoy sweeping views of the Livermore Valley.

Taste with the Winemaker of Carica Wines at Rock Wall Wine Company — Alameda: 2:00pm - 6:00pm
Enjoy complimentary samples of Carica's newest releases, including Petite Sirah and Sauvignon Blanc with Winemaker Charlie Dollbaum.

Monday, Februrary 20

Cedar Mountain Winery, Presidents' Day Weekend Barrel Tasting — Livermore: noon - 4:00pm
Sample 2009 Syrah and 2005 Souzao Port.

Thomas Coyne Winery Winter Open House — Livermore: noon - 5:00pm
Bring a picnic and enjoy sweeping views of the Livermore Valley.

Taste with the Winemaker of Carica Wines at Rock Wall Wine Company — Alameda: 2:00pm - 6:00pm
Enjoy complimentary samples of Carica's newest releases, including Petite Sirah and Sauvignon Blanc with Winemaker Charlie Dollbaum.

Wednesday, February 22

Evening With The Winemaker at Winemaker's Pour House — Livermore: 6:30pm - 8:00pm
This week's guest is Fenestra Winery of Livermore Valley.

Thursday, February 23

Capiaux Cellars tasting at The Vine — Danville: 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Winemaker Sean Capiaux pours his Pinot Noir... and maybe an O'Shaughnessy Cabernet.


Lake County

Saturday, February 18

Ceago Winemaker Dinner at the Tallman Hotel — Upper Lake: 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Owner Jim Fetzer, winemaker Barney Fetzer and family members will be there to introduce the wines and pairings.

Lodi & Sacramento

Sunday, February 18

Sip and Savor a Monthly Wine Appreciation Class at Oak Ridge Winery — Lodi: 10:00am - noon
Conducted by G.M. "Pooch" Pucilowski, Chief Judge for the California State Fair Wine Competition

Pour Your Heart Out Wine Tasting & Silent Auction at Carvahlo Winery — Clarksburg: 6:00pm - 10:00pm
A benefit party for Mended Little Hearts of Sacramento.

Mendocino County

Saturday, February 18

Int'l Alsace Varietals Festival Technical Conference — Boonville: 9:00am - 11:30am
Winemakers from around the globe discuss winemaking and grape growing specifically for Alsace varietals.

7th annual Int'l Alsace Varietals Grand Tasting — Boonville: 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Meet the winemakers and taste Alsace-style white wines from around the world, including Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Muscat.

Alsace Festival Winemakers Dinner at Shaffenberger Cellars — Philo: 6:30pm
Enjoy a sumptuous dinner with the winemakers and learn more about their wines in the elegant private dining room at Sharffenberger Cellars. [THIS EVENT IS SOLD OUT. They do have a waiting list in case of cancellations.]

Monterey County & Santa Cruz

Friday, February 17

Wine 101: Lecture & Tasting with Sommelier Ronaldo Goularte at New Leaf — Santa Cruz: 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Learn the fundamentals of wine, viticulture and viniculture, in a casual and relaxed atmosphere.

Saturday, February 18

Swirl, Sip & Celebrate National Drink Wine Day at Holman Ranch - Carmel Valley: 11:00am - 6:00pm
Stop by and celebrate National Drink Wine Day!

Wednesday, February 22

Ventana Estate Pours & Discusses the Arroyo Seco Region at Food Inc. Trattoria — Monterey: 4:30pm - 6:30pm
Learn about the history and terroir of the vineyards while tasting Pinot Noir.


Napa Valley

Ongoing Events

Saturday February 11 - Monday, February 20
The Ultimate Decadent Tasting at Trefethen Family Vineyards — Napa: 10:00am - 4:30pm

Enjoy special selections of Trefethen wines paired with handmade confections produced by one of Napa’s finest chocolatiers.

Friday, February 17

Cornerstone Cellars Winemaker Dinner at Bardessono — Yountville: 5:30pm - 8:30pm
Enjoy a  special 5-course tasting menu drawn from Lucy’s Garden by Chef Victor Scargle, inspired by the wines of Jeff Keene.

Saturday, February 18

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Release at Nichelini Family Winery — St. Helena: 11:00am - 5:00pm
Leona Marini, 4th generation, will be on hand to offer food pairings and stories.

Winemaker's Dinner & Bob James Concert at Miner Family Winery — Oakville: 6:00pm - 10:00pm
An intimate concert in the caves followed by a a four-course dinner prepared by La Saison chefs Natalie & Jonathan Niksa paired with new release 2009 Miner Cabernets.

Sunday, February 19

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Release at Nichelini Family Winery — St. Helena: 11:00am - 5:00pm
Leona Marini, 4th generation, will be on hand to offer food pairings and stories.

Monday, February 20

6th Annual Vintners Hall of Fame Induction Celebration at CIA Greystone — St. Helena: 4:00pm - 8:00pm
A rare opportunity to mingle with noted winemakers, famous chefs, and wine-loving celebrities.


Paso Robles

Sunday, February 19

Paso Robles Rhone Rangers Experience: Seminar & Luncheon — Paso Robles: 10:30am - 1:00pm
Hear from winemakers and principals who have chosen the Rhone Ranger route in Paso Robles, and who are forging the area's reputation as California's "Rhone Zone".

Paso Robles Rhone Rangers Experience - Grand Tasting: 1:30pm - 4:00
Taste nearly 150 wines from the complete membership of the Paso Robles Rhone Rangers, including top single Rhone varietals and the best in Rhone blends.

Monday, February 20

RN Estate Supper at Artisan — Paso Robles: 5:00pm - 9:00pm
Three course prix fixe menu served “family style”

Sharp's Hill Vineyard / Enoteca Winemaker Dinner at La Bellasera — Paso Robles: 6:30pm - 10:00pm
An expertly paired four course dinner featuring Sharp’s Hill wines and delicious items from Enoteca Restaurant

San Francisco & Peninsula

Thrusday, February 16

Schramsberg Vineyards w/Keith Hock at KL Wines — San Francisco: 5:00pm - 6:30pm
The oldest sparkling wine house in California will be here to feature their delicious sparkling wines, including the J. Schram.

Saturday, February 18

San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Public Tasting at Fort Mason — SF: 2:00pm - 5:00pm
Your chance to taste the award winners. Now you get to be the judge.

California Chardonnays at Beltramo's Wines — Menlo Park: 2:30pm - 5:30pm
Taste nine of Beltramo's favorite California Chardonnays, including Shafer, Walter Hansel, Paul Hobbs and Kongsgaard.

Monday, February 20

Peter Franus Winemaker Dinner at Cafe des Amis — San Francisco: 6:00pm -
Peter Franus has one simple philosophy: Wine should be delicious!

Tuesday, February 21

Donkey & Goat Winemaker Dinner at AQ Restaurant — San Francisco: 6:00pm - 11:00pm
Featuring local wine producer Jared Brant of Donkey & Goat Winery in AQ’s intimate Cellar Room.

Shafer Vineyards Winemaker Dinner at Spruce — San Francisco: 6:30pm
This dinner will showcase Shafer’s range of styles paired beautifully with a menu crafted by Chef Walter Abrams.

Nemerever Vineyards Tasting & Dinner at Taj Campton Place — San Francisco: 7:00pm - 10:00pm
Founding partner Bill Nemerever will take guests through a tasting of some of his Cabernet Sauvignons followed by dinner paired with the wines.

Wednesday, February 22

Wente Vineyards Tasting w/ Karl Wente at Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant — San Francisco: 4:30pm - 7:30pm
Meet fifth-generation winemaker Karl Wente and taste a flight of his best wines.

Thursday, February 23

Brack Mountain Wine Company at KL Wines — San Francisco: 5:00pm - 6:30pm
Winemaker Dan Fitzgerald features his new releases of Russian River Valley Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.


Sierra Foothills

Friday, February 17

Presidents' Wine Weekend Wine Tour in Calaveras — Murphys: 11:30am - 5:30pm
A customized Calaveras wine tasting tour

Saturday, February 18

Barbera for President! at Vino Noceto — Plymouth: 11:00am - 5:00pm
See why Vino Noceto Sangiovese and Barbera make for a winning “ticket” in the Valley.

Presidents' Wine Weekend Wine Tour in Calaveras — Murphys: 11:30am - 5:30pm
A customized Calaveras wine tasting tour

Acoustical Music at Casque Wines — Loomis: 5:00pm - 8:00pm
Matt Cooksey plays.

Sunday, February 19

Barbera for President! at Vino Noceto — Plymouth: 11:00 am - 5:00pm
See why Vino Noceto Sangiovese and Barbera make for a winning “ticket” in the Valley.

Presidents' Wine Weekend Wine Tour in Calaveras — Murphys: 11:30am - 5:30pm
A customized Calaveras wine tasting tour

Monday, February 20

Barbera for President! at Vino Noceto — Plymouth: 11:00 am - 5:00pm
See why Vino Noceto Sangiovese and Barbera make for a winning “ticket” in the Valley.


Sonoma County

Friday, February 17

VinOlivo Grand Tasting at The Lodge at Sonoma — Sonoma: 7:00pm - 10:00pm
Sip Sonoma Valley's best wines as you get to know the personalities behind the wine. Sample food from more than 25 of Sonoma's purveyors.

Music at Vino di Amore Tasting Lounge — Cloverdale: 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Guitar ballads with Brian Ward

Saturday, February 18

Mardi Gras Celebration at Meadowcroft Wines — Sonoma: noon - 4:00pm
The St. Gabriel's Celestial Brass Band, down home Louisiana cookin', a Second Line-Parade, award winning wines and of course BEADS!

Sunday, February 19

Amphora’s Zinvitational: Zinfandel and Cioppino at Amphora — Healdsburg: 11:00am - 4:30pm
Current, library and barrel-sample Zinfandel plus Cioppino, sourdough and green salad.

President's Day Celebration at Old Roma Station — Healdsburg: 11:00am - 4:00pm
Limited production wines from Bluenose, Hart’s Desire, J. Keverson, Kelley & Young, Sadler-Wells, Sapphire Hill, Skewis, Shippey and Willowbrook.

Sundays on the "Terraza" at Santa Rosa Vintners Square — Santa Rosa: 2:00pm - 5:00pm
Bring a picnic. They'll will provide the wine, bocce ball court and live music.

Thursday, February 23

J Vineyards & Winery Winemaker Dinner at John Ash & Co. — Santa Rosa: 6:00pm - 10:00pm
Join J Vineyards & Winery Assistant Winemaker, Scott Anderson, for an excellent dinner paired with five J wines.


Looking Forward

If the tastes of Schramsberg sparkling wine at K&L this week leave you wanting more — a lot more — you might consider Camp Schramsberg. A luxury food and wine event in Napa Valley, it will be an experience you'll remember for years. It's a three-day event starting on March 11.

Don't forget, the Rhone Rangers Weekend Celebration of American Rhones is March 24 & 25. The seminars will probably sell out — especially the bacon pairing — so get our tickets soon.

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook. Also check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2012 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved. Event details are subject to change without notice.

Review: Eight California Chardonnays for Less than $10 per Bottle

Yesterday, Eva filled you in on a super-bargain in California Chardonnay. That was the 2008 Quail Creek Cellars Chardonnay selling at Whole Foods for $3.99 a bottle. But, that wasn’t the only sub-$10 Chardonnay we tried. Nor was it the best.

Today, I’ll give you a breakdown of the full tasting with all the results. And I’ll let you know what our favorite wine was.

Free: Hospice du Rhone 2010 iPhone App Available

I'm really looking forward to Hospice du Rhone this year. it's coming up soon, April 29 - May 1, in Paso Robles. To help people like me, and you, get up to speed on everything that will go on there, the wineries involved, etc., the HdR organization has put out an iPhone app. This is the first event based iPhone app i've seen.

I downloaded it as soon as it hit the Apple App Store on Monday. There's a lot of cool stuff in there that could well be of use to you regardless of whether or not you go to the event. There's winery and varietal information, Rhone wine quizzes and more. And the price is right. Free!

Sonoma William posted an in-depth HdR 2010 iPhone app review at Simple Hedonisms if you want to learn more.

North Coast Rhone Rangers Build Momentum with Second Tasting

The Rhone Rangers North Coast Chapter is fairly new as an active group. The tasting they held on Tuesday was just their second. Despite that, the event was thoughtfully organized, a pleasure to attend and included a number of excellent wines.

It’s a little surprising to me that there hasn’t been an active chapter of Rhone Rangers until recently. Napa Valley, Sonoma County and Mendocino County all have excellent sites for growing Rhone-variety grapes. Some of California’s best come from those areas. Of course mindshare for varieties such as Syrah, Grenache, Viognier and Grenache Blanc, not to mention Marsanne, is still much lower than that of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or even Sauvignon Blanc. Which makes it all the more important for this to group thrive.

Tuesday’s North Coast Rhone Rangers tasting was held at the Napa Valley Museum in Yountville. The museum was an excellent venue—clean, quiet, temperature-controlled, easy to get to and just the right size. The fresh white walls and attractive art also brought an elegance usually missing for group tastings. That said, I hope that the group outgrows the facility soon.

Fifteen wineries poured at this tasting, a respectable number and a manageable size for attendees. I’d love to see three times that many producers participate. There are more than enough quality producers to make that an achievable goal. However, the chapter only has 34 members at present and just six from Napa. Come on, Napa...

The majority of the producers at this tasting were small. Of the wines poured, about 45, only five had case volumes above 500. Quite a few are below 200.

The tasting also confirmed a trend toward leaner, less syrupy Rhone-variety wines in northern California. Of all the wines poured, only one exceeded 15% alcohol and that just barely at 15.1%. More than half of the wines offered come in below 14% alcohol.

NorthCoast2
Map: Rhone Rangers North Coast Chapter

 Wines to Covet

I own way too much wine. This is only a problem in that I try very hard not to acquire any more these days. And sometimes I taste wines that I really, really want to buy. Here are the three wines that most made me regret having put myself on double-secret wine-buying probation.

William Allen made just half a barrel of the 2012 Two Shepherds Marsanne Russian River Valley. That’s very sad because it’s an absolutely beautiful wine. The people, probably club members, who get some are going to be very happy and I hope they are able to share with friends (or wine writers). The wine is floral but in a subtle, pretty way. There are hibiscus, peach blossom, marzipan and mineral on the nose and palate. Medium-plus body with satiny texture and a lengthy finish make it elegant yet satisfying in the mouth. $35, Highly Recommended+

My "rosé of the day award" goes to the 2012 Cornerstone Corallina Syrah Rosé Napa Valley, Stepping Stone. It’s flat out delicious. The generous aromas and flavors include guava, peach, strawberry and melon. It has medium-plus body and a silky glycerine feel in the mouth that literally made me come back for more. $20, Highly Recommended.

The red wine which most tempted me to feign temporary amnesia while whipping out a credit card was the 2007 Ridge Petite Sirah Dynamite Hill, Spring Mountain. Though a 2007, this is a current release for Ridge because... Petite Sirah. And, though a Spring Mountain Petite Sirah, it has ample acidity and just 13.7% alcohol because... Ridge. It was dark ruby in my glass with powerful aromas of black cherry, spice, tobacco and cedar. Whole berry fermentation and a few years of bottle age have resulted in moderate tannins with a lightly chalky texture and a Petite Sirah that can be enjoyed with our without food. $32, Highly Recommended.

Wineries to Watch

Kale Wines is the personal project of winemaker Kale Anderson and his wife, Ranko. Kale’s main gig is director of winemaking at Pahlmeyer Winery. Previously he worked at Cliff Lede and Terra Valentine and he interned at Colgin Estate. Ranko poured two wines on Tuesday. The 2009 and 2010 (just released) Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard, Spirit Rock. Both were very nice with excellent intensity and cool-climate Syrah typicity. [BTW, Kale is a Hawaiian moniker (Ka-le). He wasn’t named for the leafy green, so lettuce not hear any jokes about that.]

Petrichor is a great word. It refers to that aroma created by the first rain after a long dry spell. I love that smell and I was fond of the Petrichor Vineyards wines as well. They are small production (173 cases in 2010, 250 in 2011) blends of Syrah and Grenache made by Duncan Meyers of Arnot Roberts winery. The fruit comes from the Jim and Margaret Foley's estate vineyard, north of Santa Rosa. I tasted three vintages on Tuesday, each was unique and all were very good—balanced and attractively savory.

Highly Recommended Wines (and Recommended+), alphabetically by producer

2011 Cornerstone Cellars Napa Valley Syrah, Stepping Stone, $35
Flavors and aromas of black cherry, leather, black pepper, dry herb, cocoa and earth. Engaging and complex with moderate fine-grained tannins and the ability to improve for 5+ years in bottle.

2012 Cornerstone Cellars Corallina Syrah Rosé Napa Valley, Stepping Stone - see Wines to Covet above.

2010 Donelan Syrah Kobler Family Vineyard, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, $45
Lean but satisfying with savory complexity: black pepper, dark flowers, dried herb and blackberry. Medium-plus body and tannins of fine powder and chalk but—refreshingly—just 12.8% alcohol.

2010 Donelan Syrah Walker Vine Hill, Russian River Valley, $45
Yin to the Donelan Kobler Family’s yang. Ripe cherry richness, brown spice and leather reined in by moderate tannins of fine powder.

2009 Kale Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard-Spirit Rock, Mendocino County, $40
Loads of black fruit, especially black cherry, on the nose along with a grind of black pepper. Black cherry, pepper and cocoa nib on the palate of medium-plus body. Concentrated and lengthy.

2010 Kale Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard Spirit Rock, Mendocino County, $45
Cooler than 2009, the 2010 vintage tends to emphasize savory over sweet. The 2010 Kale Syrah leads with earth, leather and black pepper but there’s a backdrop of black fruit and spice. Just released this month, the wine rates Recommended+ now but a little time in bottle should bring even more goodness.

2009 Meyer Family Cellars Syrah Yorkville Highlands, $28
Game meat, sweet herb, red plum, red rope and oak are the aromas and flavors in this full-bodied wine with moderate alcohol (13.70%). Good length.

2009 Meyer Family Cellars Syrah Reserve “High Ground,” $40
The deluxe edition of Meyer’s Syrah is both darker and more savory. Earth, leather, black pepper and ripe dark fruit are mated with moderate tannins of fine powder.

2009 Petrichor Estate Les Trois Sonoma, $48
Okay, “Les Trois” is mildly confusing as this is a blend of just two grapes, Syrah and Grenache. Perhaps it refers to the triad of flavor, acidity and texture, because this wine’s got that covered. Petrichor’s inaugural release is juicy and medium-plus in body with tangy dark fruit, dry herb and spice. The tannins are moderate with the mouthfeel of fine powder and talc.

2010 Petrichor Estate Les Trois Sonoma, $48
Earthy dark fruit, spice, licorice and dry herb. Medium-plus, light-grained tannins suggest this wine has room to grow. Give it a year or two.

2011 Petrichor Estate Les Trois Sonoma, $TBD
There was some hesitation in pouring this fine for me as it’s at least eight months from release. They need not have worried though. It’s quite good, full of earthiness, spice, garrigue and black pepper. Something to look forward to.

2007 Ridge Petite Sirah Dynamite Hill Spring Mountain, $32 — see Wines to Covet above

2009 Ridge Syrah Grenache Dry Creek Valley, $32
A 50-50 blend with flavors of cherry, plum, oak and spice. Moderate tannins of light grain and talc. Try it with some tender, meaty ribs. (Recommended+)

2011 Stark Grenache Blanc Santa Ynez AVA (Saarloos Vineyard)
Some people buy Stark wines because they’re fans of the (rapdily dwindling) clan on Game of Thrones, or of Ironman. That’s cute, but the wines can stand on their own. Gentle aromas of pear, lime and white flowers. Medium+ body and a little juicy. (Recommended+)

2012 Two Shepherds Grenache Blanc Saarloos Vineyard, Santa Ynez, $35
Grenache Blanc essentially launched this brand and William Allen continues to set the bar for that variety. Focused notes of white flowers, tangy stonefruit and spice lead into a juicy palate with medium-plus body. There’s a light texture, fine and powdery, plus persistent saline minerality.

2012 Two Shepherds Marsanne Russian River Valley, $32 — see Wines to Covet above

2011 Two Shepherds Syrah Saralee’s Vineyard, Russian River Valley, $35
Syrah from the cool side: black pepper, dark cherries and garrigue. Body and tannins are medium to medium-plus with a fine, powdery texture.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2013 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Rhone

California Wineries Pursue Clean Energy

I don’t know if wineries are disproportionately responsible or if it just seems that way to me since I spend so much time with them. Either way, there is certainly an big focus on producing their own energy at California wineries these days.

We all need to do our part in reducing dependence on non-sustainable and often dirty energy sources. The planet, and our own bodies, will benefit from that. And, as makers of an agricultural product which, at its best, is very reflective of the land from which it comes, wine growers and wineries may be more attuned to living harmoniously with Earth than are some other businesses.

For wineries, generating their own energy can also be very important from a long-term cost standpoint. They are often big consumers of energy. Commercial power bills can be extremely high for them. They have huge barrel rooms to keep cool. They also need to chill massive fermentation tanks. Unlike the stuff in your refrigerator, fermenting wine generates a lot of heat which makes cooling it that much more energy-intensive. Then there’s the rest of the equipment such as de-stemmers, vibrating sorting tables, conveyor belts, bottling lines and, of course, the lights, computers, etc. With that much power being consumed, large investments in electricity generation start to make sense.

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