We hope everyone is ready to leave winter behind and leap into spring as there is a lot to celebrate! With March Madness, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and much more, March offers a little something for everyone. Just as spring is all about new life and new growth, we’ve got 10 new wine country locales for you to explore this month. Whether you’re gathering with friends, looking for an escape, or finding the perfect red to compliment your birdie on the 17th hole– we’ve got you covered.
Heitz Wine Cellars (Napa Valley)
Heitz Wine Cellars is a pleasant and peaceful wine country experience. The tasting room is housed in a grey, stone building off the St. Helena Highway. Inside, the simple but spacious tasting room features a stone fireplace and couches for guests to enjoy their world-class wines. Outside, set against lush flower beds, the shady vine-covered patio offers expansive vineyard views. The impeccable wines, knowledgeable staff and beautiful grounds combine for a tasting experience reminiscent of the older days of Napa. Visit Heitz Wine Cellars for a fun, informative tasting in a splendid setting.
Fountaingrove Hotel & Conference Center (Sonoma County)
Located in historic Santa Rosa in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country, the Fountaingrove Inn Hotel & Conference Center combines hospitable luxury with the relaxed, genuine Sonoma County atmosphere. The Steakhouse @ Equus offers premium meats with a modern twist – perfect for food-lovers. Whether you’re enjoying the hotel’s restaurant and amenities, visiting one of the many nearby wineries or exploring the boutiques in downtown Santa Rosa, the Fountaingrove Inn is the perfect home away from home in Sonoma Wine Country.
Silverado Resort and Spa (Napa Valley)
Whether you’re looking for an active getaway or a calm escape, the captivating Silverado Resort & Spa has it all. Blending history and modernity, the plantation-style mansion serves as an icon for the property that was built in the 1870s by Civil War General John Franklin Miller. Besides the PGA Tournament golf courses, tennis courts, swimming pool, bocce and bicycle rentals, there are hiking trails and Napa Valley’s 400- plus wineries nearby. Or perhaps you’re looking to treat yourself at The Spa at Silverado which offers a menu of massage, skin care, and body treatments.
Pine Ridge Vineyards (Napa Valley)
Named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s 75 Best Wineries to Visit in California, Pine Ridge Vineyards is a pleasure for foodies and wine-lovers alike. The educational tours end with a seated, hosted wine and cheese pairing in the Cabernet Caves. Or choose to experience the 5×5 tasting including five estate wines paired with chef prepared delicacies are both incredible experiences, especially for those visiting the Napa Valley. Whether you’re in the caves or the comfortable patio overlooking the gardens, Pine Ridge Vineyards is a scenic tasting experience that will delight all of your senses this spring.
Hope Family Wines (Paso Robles)
With a newly-renovated lounge-style tasting room that feels bold yet comfortable, Hope Family Wines embodies the spirit of Austin Hope’s fearless innovation. The Treana Tasting Cellar features Treana wines as well as Austin’s Rhone style wines bottled under the Austin Hope label. The unique tasting room, diverse wines, and impressive scenery are excellent for those who want to start their spring with a new wine experience.
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards (Sonoma Valley)
Nothing says “spring” quite like sparkling wine! This year, wine enthusiasts around the globe are raising their glasses to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Carneros’ first Sparkling wine house. With 335 acres under vine, Gloria Ferrer’s two estate vineyards produce some of the world’s finest Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. On the Vista Terrace guests can enjoy table service and picturesque views of the Sonoma Valley landscape where flowers bloom year round.
Bennett Lane Winery (Napa Valley)
Only 13-years-old, Bennett Lane Winery is already known for producing top-tier Cabernet Sauvignon and an incredible 36 90+ point wines. What makes Bennett Lane truly stand out is their reputation as one of the friendliest, most welcoming wineries in the Napa Valley. Sit out on the lawn as the weather warms up and enjoy the spectacular views of Mount St. Helena. Or if you’re looking for a new adventure this March, take one of their hot air balloon tours and see the Napa Valley from above!
Madrone Vineyards Estate (Sonoma County)
Set two miles west of downtown Sonoma, Madrone Vineyards Estate mixes rustic warmth with modern style. The stone tasting room set in the middle of the vineyards features large wooden doors and a comfortable back patio perfect for sitting out with one of their exceptional small-lot, single-vineyard wines. Wine and cheese pairings prepared by local artisan purveyors are available daily in the tasting room. In addition, Winery Chef, Stephanie Gagne, prepares small bites of seasonal dishes paired with wines for the winery’s Sonoma Small Bites program, offered Thursday through Saturday afternoons. This family-friendly property is stunning any time of the year, but we especially like it in spring when the grounds are a rich green.
Oak Farm Vineyards (Lodi)
Named for a 400-year-old oak tree, Oak Farm Vineyards resides on one of the oldest properties in the Central Valley. But while the property itself is historic, Oak Farm Vineyards is a breath of fresh air. The new tasting room features floor-to-ceiling windows and brick fireplace, and a cozy terrace where you can sip wines while enjoying the stunning Lodi scenery. This vision of the Panella family is a place for those who truly appreciate the celebration of family, friends, and great wine! Their passion shines through every bottle – bring a picnic and spend a spring afternoon getting to know their balanced, delightful wines.
Moshin Vineyards (Sonoma County)
Known for outstanding customer service and fun yet informative tastings, Moshin Vineyards is a Russian River appellation standout. Pinot Noir is their flagship wine, but they also have Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Merlot, Petite Sirah and something for your sweet tooth as well! Winery events range from dinners to art shows and movie nights, making each visit a unique and enjoyable experience.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
We hope you have had a great start to the New Year. Are you sticking to your New Year’s resolutions? We are keeping up on our resolution to bring you even more incredible wine country locales. After the holidays it seems like everyone begins to look forward to Spring, but we are bringing you 10 new ways to love these winter months when the tasting rooms are less crowded and the low winter sun brings out the warm colors of wine country landscapes. Since Valentine’s Day is coming up and February is the month of love, these venues are hand-selected to help inspire love throughout the month — be it with friends, family, romantic partners, or yourself!
Grgich Hills Estate
Located on Napa’s historic St. Helena Highway, Grgich Hills Estate is a stunning combination of lush grounds and balanced, elegant wines. Since starting Grgich Hills, Mike Grgich has continued receiving international awards for his estate grown wines, and he has been recognized for being a leader in natural winegrowing and sustainability. As Mike Grgich often says, “From our vineyard to your glass, naturally!” Take one of the captivating walking tours or enjoy a seated tasting.
Materra | Cunat Family Vineyards
In Latin, the name Materra is a rough translation for Mother Earth. It’s quite a fitting name for wines from the 50-acre vineyard in Napa’s esteemed Oak Knoll district. Each Materra wine is a perfect expression of the land, the grapes, and the passion the Cunat family has invested in each bottle. With a commitment to treat every guest like family, tastings are a warm and personal experience.
Michael David Winery
Recently named Winery of the Year at the 2016 Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, Michael David Winery has been producing premium quality wines for 6 generations from the heart of the Lodi region. Built in 1972 around the family’s original roadside fruit stand, the winery building features a cafe serving farm-style breakfasts and lunch, a bakery with famous pies and gourmet cookies, and a tasting room where Michael David wines are proudly poured. Plus, the pet-friendly grounds ensure that no friends get left out this Valentine’s Day.
Wine & Roses
Set on a 7-acre estate with towering trees, flowers, and herb gardens, Wine & Roses is a breath-taking escape located in the famous Lodi wine region. Whether you’re treating yourself or your partner, Wine & Roses is a relaxing retreat like no other. Beat the winter blues by sipping wine and spending the day at the award-winning spa. The restaurant serves locally-inspired flavors and features live music throughout the week. Special “Romance Month” packages are offered throughout February for the couple looking for a romantic escape.
Formerly the McMinnville Power Generation Building, this genuine wine cellar has a great industrial feel and large, spacious tasting room. Founded just two years ago, and already known for their friendly and knowledgeable staff and outstanding Pinot, Elizabeth Chambers Cellars is a welcome addition to the McMinnville wine district of Oregon. With the winery and cellars in the same building, guests can watch the winemaker at work while they sample the flavors. Try a flight and sip the elegant wines out on the delightful patio, weather permitting.
Traverse City, MI
Set at the edge of Lake Michigan’s beautiful Grand Traverse Bay, Traverse City is known for its miles of sandy beaches and the Caribbean color of its waters. Traverse City is perfect for adventurous vacationers who enjoy hiking, skiing, or snowmobiling. For the more laid-back wanderer, spas offer massages with warmed Lake Michigan stones. The tasting rooms are less busy during the winter months and, if Mother Nature cooperates, you might catch a glimpse of winemakers pressing grapes for ice wine – a high-end dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine.
Wente Winemakers Studio
Why not create your own special blend during the month of love? From the nation’s oldest continuously-operated family winery comes the engaging Winemaker’s Studio, a hands-on tasting experience. Blend, bottle, cork, and label you own wine. Learn how to identify specific aromas or simply discover your perfect wine and cheese pairing! With an experience that “changes as often as the vines,” each visit promises to be completely unique.
Bodega Bay Lodge
Just a short walk from Doran Beach, Bodega Bay Lodge in Sonoma is perfect for a beach getaway. Each room has a king-size bed, wood-burning fire place, and a private balcony with scenic views of the Sonoma Coast. Morning fog creates a surreal atmosphere before burning off to reveal the striking coast line. At dusk you can watch the sunset from the infinity-edge spa or the heated pool. The cozy fireside bar and Duck Club restaurant serve dishes made with ingredients from local family farms that are sure to delight. Taste the local wines and explore outdoor activities during the day and retreat to the calm, quiet coast by night.
One of the most beautiful and iconic wineries in Napa, for the past 30 years, Peju has been blending art and industry as beautifully as they blend their wines. Wander through the gardens and enjoy the sculptures, koi pond, and towering sycamore trees. Tastings are held in the famous Peju tower – one of the tallest, most unique buildings in Napa. Peju offers a wine experience unlike any other as guests sample current release wines in a presentation-style setting.
From snow-packed mountains to relaxing hot springs, Southwest Idaho is a wonderful winter escape. For the adventurous, the snow-packed peaks are perfect for everything from skiing to tubing and snowshoeing. At the end of an invigorating outdoor adventure it’s easy to stop into a tasting room or two. Wine touring can be a great all-day adventure of its own. With 35 wineries set against spectacular Southwest Idaho scenery, this region has it all!
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
When looking back on 2015 it is clear we have shared some great wineries offering unique flavors, sought after views, and incredible architecture. We hope that you were able to enjoy some of these great venues and the many high-quality products they offer. The new year presents a great opportunity to step into a world of excitement and explore some award- winning wine destinations. Below we have listed 10 noteworthy establishments we know you will love. Enjoy!
Patz & Hall
Patz & Hall is defined by its excellent Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs that have drawn national attention and even earned the winery the title as one of the top 100 wineries in the world according to by a major wine publication. In 2014, the doors opened to the new home for Patz & Hall – Sonoma House at Patz & Hall in the heart of Sonoma County wine country. The stunning building is set on an idyllic property surrounded by vineyards and mountains. Inside, there are numerous inviting spots for intimate tasting experiences, while outside, a gorgeous patio awaits.
In 1875 the Palace Hotel opened its doors in San Francisco for the first time with a luxurious ambiance that has continued to impress thousands of guests for over a century. Today, The Palace Hotel continues to maintain its luxurious standard by highlighting the original architecture and authentic elements while pairing them with classically inspired, modern décor. Recent renovations capture stunning city views and provide guests elegant accommodations. Hotel services and amenities include: three different on-site restaurants, a beautiful indoor heated pool with a view, state of the art fitness center, and much more!
Heathman Kirkland Resort
One of the main reasons that guests are so drawn into the Heathman Hotel is the fact that it is merely steps away from the azure waters of Lake Washington. It’s a peaceful oasis amid the bustle of suburban Kirkland on the outskirts of Seattle. The upscale boutique hotel exudes elegance and warmth, pampering guests with special services and amenities. After a day out on the town, guests can return for dinner at the hotel’s renowned restaurant, Trellis, a wine country inspired eatery that features true farm-to-table cuisine on its seasonal menu prepared by executive Chef, Brian Scheehser.
Founded in 1968, Napa Cellars crafts wine that expresses the characteristics that have become widely recognized as the classic, Napa Valley style: ripe, rich, and balanced. The inviting tasting room sits alongside St. Helena Highway, surrounded by picturesque Oakville vineyards and is open daily to all. Many guests bring along a picnic lunch to enjoy on the patio after their tasting. Guests are also encouraged to stay awhile so they can thoroughly absorb the friendly vibe and the very special sense of place that’s the heart and soul of the Napa Valley.
Skillful craftsmanship and distinct microclimates are two important reasons that Nottingham Cellars is a name that is synonymous with premium quality, Livermore Valley wine. Vintage after vintage, Nottingham Cellars wines receive top awards, high acclaim, and many 90-plus scores from the world’s top critics. It’s evident that this passionate family-owned and-operated winery will be decisive in writing the next chapter in the history of Livermore Valley wine. So don’t miss the opportunity to visit the tasting room and experience it for yourself!
In 1984 Jim and Suzie Gullet purchased their first vineyard parcel with a unique idea that turned a lot of heads from many of the neighboring wineries. In an area that was essentially a sea of zinfandel, the Gullet’s decided their property was a perfect environment for the Sangiovese grape. Today, Vino Noceto is a renowned Sangiovese specialist, producing eight different premium Sangiovese wines as well as an array of Italian and foothill varietals, including Pinot Grigio, Barbera, Zinfandel, and Moscato. Visitors can enjoy a variety of tasting options from the country inspired tasting room in the vineyard’s picturesque big red barn.
Icicle Village Resort
Because of its ideal proximity to the Cascade Mountains and the Bavarian village of Leavenworth, WA, Icicle Village Resort is the perfect all-season destination for guests seeking quality family time, outdoor adventure, romance, or a bit of everything! Regardless of the season, there are many amenities to enjoy including: a seasonal outdoor sport court and a sports bar with a 75-inch television screen that can be enjoyed all-year-round. The onsite activity center can schedule fun activities for its youngest guests so that the adults can enjoy some of the luxurious spa and salon services at the Alpine Spa including: facials, therapeutic massages, body treatments, manicures and pedicures, and much more.
At Beringer Vineyards there is 130 years of rich history for visitors to explore. As Napa’s oldest functioning winery, it’s no surprise that Beringer is the only winery to win Wine Spectator’s Wine of the Year for both a red and a white wine. Beringer hosts several tasting experiences including the Cave Legacy tour; wine and food pairings, an exclusive tasting of the Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from different vintages, and tastings in many unique spots like the Old Winery: the mansion’s ornate reserve tasting bar, and the wraparound porch of the Rhine House. Beringer is truly a one-of-a-kind destination that you must experience for yourself.
Mettler Family Vineyards
Throughout eight generations in the grape growing industry, Mettler Family Vineyards has cultivated an unrivaled kinship with the earth. The Mettlers have chosen to run their farm as both sustainable and Certified Organic. Their wines stand up in both domestic and international competitions and the tasting room is a “must-see” nestled in the middle of 25 acres of vineyards.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine.
Cheers – Ken
As we approach New Year’s Eve we always like to share our favorite Sparkling Wines and Champagnes that we discovered this fall. Below is a list of the winners that Nicolay (Chief Bubblehead), our Tasting Panel, and I found this fall. That said, we will start with my two favorite sparklers that I came across.
The 2011 Schramsberg “Blanc de Noirs” for $41 seems to excel each year. The 2011 opens with lots of small bubbles and a mild pear bouquet with a hint of orange and bread dough. Our mini-tasting group found it to be light bodied, fresh and elegant. We loved its mineral infused lemon flavors with hints of bread dough and faint strawberry. It is very food friendly and we suggested serving it with grilled swordfish skewers.
Another terrific discovery that I found this summer at the Blogger’s conference in the Finger Lakes was the 2009 Hermann Wiemer “Blanc de Blanc” for $45. This 92 point gem is light bodied, slightly acidic and fresh. I really liked its tasty apple flavors with notes of lemon and gentle minerality. This sparkler would pair perfectly with oysters. Note: This bubbly is only available via the website or at the winery and they didn’t make much of it. So hurry up an place an order.
Our last 92 pointer and our top Champagne is the non-vintage Besserat de Bellefon “Cuvee des Moines Brut Blanc de Blancs” for $70. It is always one of Nicolay’s favorites and it is as classic as Champagne can get. It displays exciting notes of brioche, roasted cashews, and creme brulee on the palate. It finishes with bright acidity and long lasting flavors. Another gem to consider with oysters.
Our first two 91 pointers are values when compared to the other high scoring offerings. The first is the non-vintage Ferrari “Brut” for $25. Nicolay fell this if there was ever a true substitute for Champagne, this offering is as close as it gets in terms of style. It displays fruits like Golden Delicious, Asian pear, and Bartlett pear along with deeper tones like creme brulee and caramel as well. Its finish is long, yeasty and bright!
Our second very good value is the non-vintage Schramsberg “Mirabelle Brut Rose.” Nicolay thought this one was as good as the “Estate Brut Rose” that the Panel recommended. (See below) The main difference is this offering is $29 while the “Estate Brut Rose” is $44. The Mirabelle’s flavor profile is huckleberry, cassis, pomegranate, and dragon fruit along with hints of mint, ginger, and toast towards the end. Nicolay gave it an A+, especially at this price point. That said, the 2012 Schramsberg “Brut Rose” is no slouch. I challenge readers to try these two side by side and tell us which one you liked better. In both cases, you clearly will not be disappointed. According to the panel, the big brother is full bodied, pleasantly acidity, and approachable. We all liked its tasty mild red raspberry and strawberry flavors with notes of minerality and hints of plum, watermelon and toast. As you can see both of these Rose’s from Schramsburg are quite complex. The panel suggested pairing this one with fresh sliced salmon or a lobster casserole.
We close our 91 pointers with two Champagnes. The first is the very consistent non-vintage Charles Heidsieck “Brut Reserve” for $65. This sparkler always finishes near the top of our tastings. The current blend is light bodied, elegant and smooth. The panel really enjoyed its mild mineral infused green apple flavors with hints of lemon verbena, pineapple and toasty oak. This bubbly finishes dry and fades away nicely. You can pair it with smoked Gouda.
Next up is the non-vintage Besserat de Bellefon “Cuvee des Moines Brut Rose” Champagne for $65. This most Pinot Meunier blend is full bodied, slightly acidic, round and totally fills your mouth. The panel was impressed with its mineral infused mild pink grapefruit flavors with notes of watermelon, tangerine and cranberry. This beauty shows nice length as it fades away. This panel suggested pairing this food friendly Champagne with dried fruit stuffed game bird or Stuart’s cranberry apple crisp.
Our next cluster of recommendations is our 90 point wines. There are ten of these. We will start with a great value Cava that Nicolay discovered. It is a non-vintage Cava from Finca Hispana. Their “Brut Imperial Reserva” for $15 is an extraordinary value. It delivers upfront notes of apples, peaches, and Bartlett pears. The mid-palate is rounded out by tropical flavors like pineapples, mangos, and papaya while the finish has the standard brioche found in well-made sparklers. The finish was one of the longest Nicolay covered.
Our next few 90 pointers is a block of three from Gloria Ferrer. Nicolay feels the Gloria Ferrer portfolio is an unsung hero in the domestic sparkling wine scene. They regularly produce high-class wines for half the price of the big boys out of Champagne. These three all cost $22 per bottle. So each one is a very good value. The non-vintage “Sonoma Brut” is made mostly from Pinot Noir. It displays plenty of upfront fruit. You will find caramel, white peaches, wet stone, pear flavors along with hints of toasted bread. The non-vintage “Blanc de Blancs” opens up with notes of blood orange, kumquats, pink guavas, honeyed citrus fruit, and hints of lychee fruit. From the front of the palate to the finish, this sparkler leaves nothing at the table. It finishes medium to long, while displaying ripe citrus fruits. The last one was Nicolay’s favorite of these three. The non-vintage “Blanc de Noirs” has a nose that reminded him of a fresh summer fruit salad. Watermelon, honeydew melon, fresh cut strawberries, and raspberries that jump from the glass. On the palate, you will find raspberry creme brulee flavors on the mid-palate and it finishes with a Meyer lemon. Try them all this New Year’s Eve and vote for your favorite.
Dr. Konstantin Frank 2008 “Chateau Frank Brut” (Finger Lakes, NY) $25 (90)
This Sparkler from the Finger Lakes won over the Tasting Panel. It is medium bodied with a nice blend of acidity and fruit. They enjoyed its mild mineral infused gentle tart lemon flavors with notes of tangerine and a hint of Pink Lady apples. The panel suggested pairing this with steamed mussels.
Schramsberg NV “Mirabelle Brut” (California) $27 (90)
Although this isn’t quite the same as the Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, Rose, and Blanc de Noirs it is a very good substitute. It has notes of toasted bread with butter and fig jam. In addition, there are notes of dried grapes, candied dates, and the slightest hint of aged cheddar.
Huguet 2008 “Gran Reserva Cava” (Cataluna, Spain) $29 (90)
This nice sparkler was a crowd pleaser with the Panel. It displays tiny bubbles and a fragrant bread dough, green apple, and wet stone bouquet. The panel found it to be creamy and approachable. They really liked its tasty mineral infused green apple with hints of lime, strawberry, saline, and ginger. The suggested pairing spring rolls and sushi.
Schramsberg 2012 “Blanc de Blanc” (North Coast, CA) $39 (90)
This Schramsberg sparkler once again performed very well for the tasting panel. It is medium bodied, easy going and fresh. The flavor profile is lemon with notes of mild minerality and green apple. We also detected hints of bread dough and strawberry. The panel suggested pairing this very good sparkler with grilled lime shrimp or a baked scallop casserole.
Gloria Ferrar 2007 “Royal Cuvee” (Carneros, California) $40 (90)
This Sparkler from Carneros opens with an appealing Granny Smith apple, Anjou pear and wet stone bouquet with a hint of wild rose. The panel found it to be medium bodied, slightly acidic, and brisk with mineral infused mild lemon flavors. They also picked up some hints of caramel, tangerine and almond. The panel’s pairing this sparkler with Coquille St. Jacques or grilled tuna.
Mumm Napa 2008 “DVX” (Napa Valley, California) $60 (90)
This sparkler displayed very fine bubbles along with a mild lemon and wet stone bouquet with hints of bread toast and faint grapefruit. It was more full bodied than most. It was also pleasantly acidic, elegant and fresh. Its mineral infused tangerine flavors with notes of bread dough with hints of grapefruit, Granny Smith apples, and lime were well received. It was food friendly received several food suggestions, like broiled scallops, cherrystones, or lobster bisque.
Lucien Albrecht NV “Cremant d’Alsace Rose” (Alsace, FR) $17 (89)
A nice sun kissed pink color, this Rose opens with pink guava, watermelon, fresh raspberry, and hints of mint. The palate is fresh and vibrant, displaying notes of eucalyptus, hints of cinnamon, Asian apples, and washed strawberries. The finish is medium in length, but very clean.
Chateau Frank NV “Celebre Cremant” (Finger Lakes, NY) $21 (89)
This sparkler is made from 100% Riesling. It is light bodied, balanced and fresh. I liked its tasty lemon flavors with hints of nicely integrated minerality. I would serve this good value sparkler as an opening aperitif with quiche Lorraine appetizers.
Chateau Frank 2009 “Blanc de Blancs” (Finger Lakes, NY) $30 (89)
This is another great example of what Dr. Konstantin Frank has been able to do with his vineyards on the Finger Lakes. Airing on the lighter side, this sparkler open ups with lime zest, pears, granny smith apples, and cantaloupe. Its flavors are granny smith apple, watermelon, and strawberries with bright acidity and a hint of toast on the finish.
Chateau Frank 2009 “Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut” (Finger Lakes) $35 (89)
This sparkler from the Finger Lakes is relaxed and mellowed allowing the wine to show through. Medium sized bubbles give this sparkler a needed boost in body but without compromising flavors. Ripe, pink guava, hints of lychee fruit, and fig jam on toast show through on the palate.
We hope you enjoy these Sparklers and Champagnes as much as we did. For a complete listing of all of our recommended Champagnes and Sparkers check out our website via this link. Happy New Year!! Cheers! Ken
Each fall we go thru our higher end red submission with the idea that we would post the winners before Christmas. Well this fall we got to all of the older vintages and most of the 2012’s. We will tackle the 2013 vintage in the early part of the New Year. Below you will find a comprehensive list of the wines that scored between 95 and 92 points. You will also find that there are several types of wines on the list. You will also be pleased to know that some of these wines are below our typical $50 and up price point for this list. So what were our winners?
This year, our top two wines were awarded 95 points. Both are top notch wines, but both cost a pretty penny. That said the 2012 Alpha Omega “ERA” Cabernet Sauvignon for $200 was the top scoring wine and clear winner in our big blind tasting. This beauty is full bodied, nicely balanced, rich, smooth and refined. The panel loved its very tasty black currant flavors with notes of oak and black cherry. We also detected some hints of minerality and blueberry in this complex blend. The panel suggested slowly sipping this gem with a filet mignon while enjoying a very special dinner.
Our second 95 point winner is the 2011 Shafer “Hillside Select” Cabernet Sauvignon for $250. It is an unbelievable wine given the vintage. It was by far the best 2011 California Cabernet that I covered. Bravo! It is medium bodied, balanced, and very smooth with some delicious blueberry and black cherry flavors. I also detected hints of black currant and nicely integrated gentle oak. This is a spectacular wine to try if you can afford it. It is a true masterpiece given the vintage.
This fall we came up with seven 94 point wines. In our system, 94 points is considered Excellent. We open the list with four grapes you might not predict. A Syrah, two Pinots and a Sangiovese. So our first 94 pointer is a Washington State Syrah. The 2012 Gramercy Cellars “The Deuce” for $52 is impressive. It is full bodied, balanced, and rich with delicious blackberry and blueberry flavors with notes of oak and black olive. Everyone that tried this wine a Del Frisco’s loved it.
The next 2 wines are two Excellent Pinot Noirs. We open with the 2012 Foretell “Fort Ross-Seaview” Pinot for $75. It is medium bodied, rich, and savory. I really liked its very tasty and complex plum and ripe black raspberry flavors with notes of nicely integrated gentle oak, minerality, blueberry and black pepper. It is a very food friendly Pinot and will be a huge hit with your friends. Another great Pinot is the 2012 Goldeneye “Gowen Creek” Pinot Noir for $82. It is full bodied, super smooth, and nicely coats your mouth. I loved its delicious gentle cherry-cola flavors with nicely integrated mild vanilla oak and hints of blueberry and spice. I would pair this gem with a filet mignon at an anniversary dinner.
It is not often, that I get to cover great Italian wines, but I did get the chance to cover the 2011 Isole e Olena “Cepparello” this year. It costs $90 per bottle and is worth every penny. I found it to be medium bodied, balanced, lush and fruit forward. It displays delicious ripe black cherry flavors with integrated old oak and minerality. This is a very refined red wine and would be perfect to cuddle up by the fireplace with sharp cheddar cheese this winter.
Our final three 94 pointers are big boys from the Napa Valley. We will start with the 2012 “Annum” Cabernet Sauvignon from Ramey for $100. This excellent Cab was very well received by our mini-group. It is full bodied, balanced and fruit forward. We really liked its complex blend of boysenberry and black raspberry flavors with notes spice, blueberry, black licorice, minerality, mocha and faint oak. It is very food friendly and would pair well with filet mignon.
This very dark ruby Merlot based blend from Blackbird is another Excellent wine. Their 2012 Illustration is made from 64% Merlot and 34% Cab Franc and & 2% Cab. The finished blend is a delicious black cherry and black currant flavored wine with beautifully integrated refined minerality, mild oak and a hint of black raspberry. This offering would be a perfect match with a dry-aged ribeye.
Our last Excellent 94 point wine is the 2012 Robert Mondavi “To Kalon Vineyard Reserve” Cabernet Sauvignon” for $155. This gem from Mondavi rocked the panel and finished in second place in our big blind tasting. It is full bodied, very well balanced, and smooth. The panel loved its terrific black cherry and black currant flavors with wonderfully integrated mild minerality, dark chocolate, and oak. It closes with dry and refined tannins that sail away and are very lengthy. The panel suggested pairing this beauty with Emeril’s Steak Diane.
As we get into of 93 and 92 point Very Good plus wines, we also get a chance to offer you some wines under the $50 mark. Our first grouping of these wines is our 93 pointers. We have eight of these very nice wines to suggest. We will give a quick teaser on these wines.
Zuccardi 2012 Bonarda “Emma” (Mendoza, Argentina) $38 (93)
This pitch black Bonarda is terrific. It is full bodied, balanced, rich and silky. I really loved its tasty blueberry and gentle oak blend with notes of mild blackberry. This big and rich wine is very hedonistic. Fan of this style of wine are going to love it. Perfect for the fireplace this winter.
Valentin Bianchi 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon “Enzo Bianchi” (Mendoza, Argentina) $55 (93)
This full bodied Cabernet from Argentina is impressive. Its flavor profile is a ripe blackberry and juicy blueberry blend with notes of nicely integrated minerality and hints of black plum and faint oak. It finishes with dry tannins and its flavors that stick around for a while. Perfect with a ribeye steak.
Dutton Goldfield 2013 Pinot Noir “Azaya Ranch” (Marin County, CA) $58 (93)
This Pinot Noir from Dutton Goldfield is fabulous. It is nicely balanced and really smooth. I loved its tasty mild red raspberry flavors with notes of plum and strawberry. Its flavors are nicely prolonged. An exceptionally food friendly Pinot. Pair it with pork tenderloin with plum chutney.
Talley 2013 Pinot Noir “Rincon” (Arroyo Grande, CA) $64 (93)
Talley made some terrific Pinot’s in the 2013 vintage! I found the Rincon to be refined and elegant. I loved its tasty mild strawberry flavors with hints of red plum and faint oak. It finishes with dry fine tannins and flavors that drift away nicely. Pair this finesse Pinot with wiener schnitzel.
Pax 2012 Syrah “Castelli-Knight Ranch” (Russian River, CA) $70 (93)
This Syrah from Pax really impressed our mini-tasting group. It definitely improves with a great deal with aeration. It is full bodied and smooth with concentrated blackberry and oak flavors. Also displays hints of dark chocolate, black currant, and espresso. Perfect fireplace wine.
E. Guigal 2011 “Cote Rotie Brune et Blonde” (France) $80 (93)
This Cote Rotie from Guigal is showing very well right now. It is medium bodied, balanced and very fruit forward. It displays ripe black raspberry flavors with a streak of minerality throughout. Some old oak and black plum as well. Pair with a New York strip steak
Caymus 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Special Selection” (Napa Valley, CA) $160 (93)
This Cabernet Sauvignon finished in 3rd place in our recent big blind tasting of High End Reds. It is full bodied, rich and smooth with concentrated black cherry and black raspberry flavors with notes of dark chocolate and hints of blueberry. Pair with roast duck by the fireplace.
Krupp Brothers 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “M5 Stagecoach Vineyard” (Napa) $165 (93)
Another top Cab from the recent blind tasting. It finished in 4th place. It’s full bodied, well balanced, and fruit forward. The panel loved its delicious cherry and cassis flavors with nicely integrated fine minerality and gentle vanilla oak. Dry moderate dusty tannins build up and linger.
We close with a very respectable list of twenty 92 points winners. Some of our best values are in the first few wines listed below.
Talley Vineyards 2013 Pinot Noir “Estate” (Arroyo Grande, CA) $36 (92)
A great value Pinot. Balanced and juicy. Tasty mild red plum flavors with notes of cherry-cola, blueberry and gentle vanilla oak. A very food friendly wine. Pair with pork tenderloin.
Robert Foley 2013 US Red “The Griffin” (CA) $38 (92)
A perfect winter fruit bomb. It displays tasty concentrated black cherry and black currant flavors with nicely integrated minerality and oak along with hints of blueberry. Long finish.
John Duval 2013 “Plexus” (Barossa Valley, Australia) $40 (92)
Aussie blend of mostly Shiraz is full bodied, slightly acidic, juicy and fruit forward. It displays a tasty blend of blackberry, boysenberry and gentle oak. It’s a pretty complex wine.
Carol Shelton 2012 Petite Sirah “Rocky Reserve” (Rockpile, CA) $40 (92)
I love Petite Sirah. This is a very good one. Full bodied, balanced, juicy and rich. Tasty blueberry and plum flavors with hints of nicely integrated minerality and oak. Sticky tannins that linger.
Vincent Girardin 2011 Pinot Noir “Les Vieilles Vignes Volnay” (Burgundy, FR) $45 (92)
This Pinot Noir from Burgundy is very good. Nicely balanced, elegant and super smooth. Beautiful tasty mild red raspberry and plum flavors with nicely integrated subtle oak. Yum!
Quinta do Vallado 2010 “Touriga Nacional” (Douro, Portugal) $55 (92)
This Touriga Nacional from Portugal is showing very well now and it would pair perfectly with a filet mignon. Balanced and very smooth with delicious mild plum and mild mineral flavors.
Carol Shelton 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Rockpile Reserve” (Rockpile, CA) $50 (92)
Another gem from Carol Shelton. It is medium bodied and balanced. It is a very food friendly Cab. It improves with a little aeration. Decant it for a bit and serve it with a NY strip steak.
Spring Valley 2012 “Uriah” (Walla Walla, WA) $50 (92)
Mostly Merlot and Cabernet Franc. A Washington State winner every year. Medium bodied, balanced and approachable. Very elegant and food friendly. Pair this wine with a filet mignon.
E. Guigal 2010 Fr Rhone “Chateauneuf du Pape” (Rhone Valley, FR) $59 (92)
This CDP really coats your mouth and its tannins are present up front along with the fruit. This big boy is larger and life. Cellar or decant it for 2 hours and serve with a marbled cowboy ribeye.
Cenyth 2010 US Red “Sonoma County” (CA) $60 (92)
A very nice Merlot based wine. Full bodied, fruit forward and juicy. Displays tasty red plum flavors with mild red raspberry, minerality, old oak, red cherry and strawberry licorice.
Cakebread 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Napa Valley” (CA) $65 (92)
A very nice Napa Cab that is fairly priced. Full bodied, balanced, smooth and fruit forward. Tasty black raspberry flavors with notes of minerality and oak. Hints of black cherry and blueberry.
Mt. Brave 2012 Merlot “Mt. Veeder” (CA) $75 (92)
This is a big boy Merlot! Full bodied, rich and fruit forward. Shows off very tasty concentrated black cherry and dark chocolate flavors with hints of blueberry, vanilla oak, and coffee.
St. Supery 2012 US Red “Elu” (Napa Valley, CA) $75 (92)
Cabernet cased blend. Full bodied and fruit forward with extracted plum and black raspberry flavors. Nicely integrated minerality along with some oak. Pair with roast duck.
Shafer 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “One Point Five” (Stags Leap, CA) $80 (92)
Another impressive Shafer wine. Its medium bodied, balanced, and smooth. Flavor profile is a tasty mild black cherry with notes of cedar and gentle plum along with a hint of boysenberry.
Shafer 2012 Syrah “Relentless” (Napa Valley, CA) $85 (92)
Shafer’s Syrah based blend. It is full bodied and tamer than previous versions. It is smooth and easy going. Black raspberry and smoked meat flavors with notes of blackberry and oak.
PreVail 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Back Forty” (Alexander Valley, CA) $90 (92)
The panel found this Cab to be full bodied, balanced and smooth. They really like its black currant jam and black cherry flavors with hints of blackberry, chocolate and toasty oak.
Darioush 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Signature” (Napa Valley, CA) $95 (92)
Another winning Cab that the Panel discovered. It’s full bodied and smooth with very tasty blueberry and mild oak flavors. Hints of nicely integrated minerality, black cherry and menthol.
Blackbird Vineyards 2012 “Contrarian” (Napa Valley, CA) $125 (92)
This Cab Franc based blend is very good. It is rich and a little juicy. It displays extracted black cherry flavors with some black licorice, spice, and chocolate covered strawberries.
Rocca 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Tesorina” (Napa Valley, CA) $160 (92)
This complex Cab finished in 5th place in our recent big blind tasting. The panel loved its fruit forward ripe blueberry and black cherry flavors with nicely integrated minerality and vanilla oak.
Ramey 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon “Pedregal Vineyard” (Oakville, CA) $200 (92)
This Cab from Ramey is medium bodied, balanced, and smooth. Its flavor profile is mild strawberry and cherry blend with notes of mild minerality, chocolate and gentle oak.
We hope you can find one or two of these gems. I am certain you will enjoy these exquisite wines, as much as we did. Each and every one of them is a treat. They would make a perfect Christmas gift. I know I would love them. Merry Christmas to all!
Cheers – Ken
There’s something joyful about uncorking a new bottle of wine and pouring the first glass. The satisfaction of taking a sip and instantly knowing you’ve found a winner can seriously warm your heart, which is rather comforting considering the colder weather that’s been approaching. The good news is that with the cold weather comes the perfect excuse for winter comfort food and the opportunity to create some delicious wine pairings. The wineries we’ve selected below offer a wide selection of fuller bodied wines that are perfect for the holiday season.
Andis Wines | Plymouth, CA
In 2010 Andis Winery opened its doors with the intent to produce delicious and balanced wines with character and complexity. Judging by the numerous awards the winery has received in the last five years it’s safe to say that they have accomplished what they set out to do and only continue to improve as time goes on. It’s not just the award winning wine that keeps guests coming back for more though; the winery takes pride in presenting visitors with modern architecture and an innovative take on sustainability. Guests are always impressed by the contemporary design, gracious staff, and commitment to making superior wines.
Mount Aukum Winery | Somerset, CA
At Mount Aukum Winery, they say it’s all about the mountain, and after a visit to the tasting room, you’ll see why. The winery produces its various blends using grapes exclusively grown from mountain vineyards in order to maintain unique and satisfying flavors. Its high elevation on the mountainside offers guests crisp, clean air and stunning panorama views. In addition to the stellar location, the winery is well known for its small batches that are meticulously crafted to be served exclusively at their tasting room in Somerset, CA.
V. Sattui Winery | Napa, CA
Located on 38 acres of organically farmed vineyards, V. Sattui Winery pays meticulous attention to tradition while providing an exceptional experience to guests. Touted as one of the Napa Valley’s favorite places to picnic, two full acres are dedicated to enjoying food, wine, and friends under majestic oaks bordering the estate vineyards. The winery recently celebrated three distinguished awards: Winery of the Year from the Winemaker Challenge (for the fourth year in a row), Winemaker of the Year from the American Fine Wine Competition, and Wine of the Year from the Monterey Wine Competition for the 2012 V. Sattui Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon.
Las Positas Vineyards | Livermore, CA
Las Positas was founded in the year 2006 when Lisa and Lother Mair purchased their first 20 acres. Right away the Mairs decided that they wanted to create the best product that they possibly could, even if that meant starting from scratch. The old vineyard was torn out and the land was cultivated into the perfect environment for high quality grapes to be grown. Due to its great event space, the winery is a popular destination for weddings and other fun activities, and guests are welcome to enjoy a tasting in their beautiful tasting room.
Trione Vineyards | Geyserville, CA
The year 2015 has gone by all too quickly, but for Trione Vineyards it has been a very successful one. It marks their 10th anniversary as winemakers, their 40th anniversary as farmers and managers of some of Sonoma County’s finest premium vineyards, and the 80th anniversary of the tasting room in their stunning Old Stone Winery building. This wine destination is a hot spot for wine tourists eager to enjoy a taste of Sonoma County history and the wines that have earned the Trione name.
Foley Johnson | Napa, CA
At Foley Johnson each new season brings with it a new selection of wine, and wine lovers with discerning palates make a point to visit the recently remodeled tasting room each time they visit the Napa Valley. The winery uses only the finest selection of grapes from estate vineyards and has a variety of different tasting and touring options to partake in. No matter the tasting experience, guests at Foley Johnson are quick to appreciate the wines’ distinctive terroir, with the balanced fruit and gentle tannins for which the Napa Valley is known.
Maryhill Winery | Goldendale, WA
Maryhill Winery is the answer to an entrepreneurial dream shared by Owners Craig and Vicki Leuthold who saw great potential for a winery in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Since its founding in 2001, family-owned Maryhill Winery has won more than 2,500 awards. Depending on the weather, guests can be found snuggling around crackling fire pits on the terrace, standing at the tasting room’s original Brunswick Bar, or playing bocce on the tournament-quality Bocce courts.
Stags’ Leap Winery | Napa, CA
The majesty of Stag’s Leap Winery astonishes many of its first time visitors with its vast 240 acre presence and legendary reputation for elegant wines that express unique terroir. Winemaker and General Manager Christophe Paubert applies the winemaking philosophy he learned in his native France, (to showcase the fruit and not the winemaker’s hand,) but he also applies a technical understanding of the process. “I believe that wine should express the uniqueness of the land,” Christophe says, “and Stags’ Leap wines have always showcased one of the most distinctive regions in the Napa Valley.”
Artesa Vineyards and Winery | Napa, CA
The legacy began in 1951 when the Raventos family made history by creating the first ever methode champenoise sparkling wine outside of France. Today, the excitement continues in the Napa Valley where Artesa Winery rests on a beautiful hilltop speckled with breathtaking fountains and unique architecture that weaves throughout the hillside. Visitors of the winery will find that the bar is definitely raised at Artesa when it comes to wine tasting. Guests can enjoy their tasting menus at the artistic Main Salon, Barrel Room, courtyard, reflecting pool, or the scenic Vista Terrace.
Tamber Bey Vineyards | Napa, CA
It’s at Tamber Bey that wine country and horse country unite. The ranch is home to champion performance quarter horses and Arabians that graze in the white-fenced paddocks that line the lane. The wine company was founded by former high-tech executive and equestrian Barry Waitte, who named it after his first two Arabian horses, Tamborina and Bayamo. Guests can enjoy a tasting at the sleek tasting bar or wander outside to admire the courtyard surrounded by 16 impeccable horse stalls framed by fabulous views of Mount St. Helena and the Palisades.
Cheers – Ken
Fall festivities have come to a close which can only mean one thing- the holiday season has arrived! It’s a wonderful time for friends and family to come together and enjoy each other’s company, as well as all of the delicious treats that this season has to offer! There is no better way to embrace the holiday festivities than exploring some excellent new wineries in the company of those closest to you. Listed below are 10 award-winning wine destinations that are sure to impress, whether you’re visiting one of their breathtaking tasting rooms or sharing a toast from the comfort of your home.
Wente Vineyards | Livermore, CA
As the oldest family owned and operated vineyard in the United States, guests can trust they are in good hands at Wente Vineyards. Wente has set and maintained the highest standards of integrity in every aspect of the wine industry for the past 131 years, and their hard work has earned them the international notoriety that they are recognized for today. Guests can taste the elegant blends that have been brought to perfection in over a century’s time at any of the winery’s three tasting rooms, are welcome to participate in hands-on winemaking activities at the newly established Winemakers Studio.
Cache Creek Vineyards | Lake County, CA
It all started back in 1999, when Bill Van Pelt was greeted by a herd of tule elk as he approached the property of his new winery for the first time. His love for these local creatures inspired him to preserve the land by planting various grasses on and creating several ponds for the elk, in addition to the large vineyard that was originally planted. In 2014, Bill’s legacy was entrusted to his son, Don Van Pelt, who decided to open a beautiful tasting room for guests to enjoy his decadent wines. Visitors can indulge in the unique flavors of their many award-winning wines in their elegant tasting room, on their large outdoor patio, or enjoy a full day tour of their gorgeous property.
Wine & Roses | Lodi, CA
The holiday season can often have us feeling in need of a vacation. Wine & Roses is the perfect spot for visitors to leave their worries behind and enjoy a relaxing getaway. With premium guest rooms, an excellent restaurant with locally inspired flavors, and an award winning spa, Wine & Roses will help you forget the holiday stress. Making the choice to visit this relaxing retreat will give you plenty be thankful for this year.
Lava Cap Winery | Placerville, CA
Pristine views, refreshing mountain air, and artisanal crafted wines are just a few of the captivating luxuries that can be found at Lava Cap Winery. In 1981, when David and Jeanne Jones planted the first vines in the Sierra Foothills, they knew that they had started something special. As a family of geologists, it was no accident that they picked a location with prime volcanic soil that’s perfect for growing fine wine grapes. Each day the grapes are draped in a warm blanket of foothill sunshine and cooled in the evening by a peaceful Sierra breeze. With this unique climate and soil it’s not surprising that year after year the hand crafted wines continue to win awards across the nation.
Jamieson Ranch | Napa, CA
When the warm glow of sunshine touches down on the Jamieson Ranch Estate it’s a sight that truly captures the beauty of the Napa Valley. Jamieson Ranch is located in the southern gateway of the Napa Valley and offers visitors jaw dropping vista views that can be enjoyed from their Grand Western Mountain Lodge, featuring lofty ceilings, an inviting fireplace, and a wraparound veranda. The property offers several different food and wine pairing options that can be savored while admiring the majestic property and breathtaking surroundings that Jamieson Ranch has to offer.
Chacewater Winery & Olive Mill | Lake County, CA
When guests arrive at Chacewater Winery & Olive Mill they can expect to be greeted by majestic rolling hills blanketed with grapevines and olive trees. Producing wine and olive oil on the same property has proven to be an incredible talent of Chacewater founders Paul and Kellye Manuel. This up and coming new venture opened its doors less than five years ago, and quickly proved its excellence by earning the title of California State Fair Golden Winery of the Year in 2012. Since then, the notoriety has only continued to flourish with more and more awards piling up. Chacewater offers tastings of both olive oil and wine, making it an excellent choice for any group.
J. Lohr Winery | Paso Robles & San Jose, CA
Four decades ago Jerry Lohr was among the first to realize the vast, untapped potential of the now world-class wine growing region known as the California Central Coast. He and his family made a commitment to upwards of 1,300 acres of estate vineyards set in the cool climate of the Paso Robles region. On the property there are grapes spreading as far as the eye can see, yet the Lohr family manages to provide the same attention to detail as a small boutique winery. This is the perfect location to enjoy a tasting with family and friends, or celebrate a special occasion with a catered evening among the vineyards.
Twin Pine Casino & Hotel | Lake County, CA
If you love great hospitality, extensive wine lists, and trying your luck at the slots, Twin Pine Casino & Hotel is the perfect place for you. Its an excellent destination to celebrate something special or simply take a break from your daily routine. Twin Pine is known for its dedication to top of the line hospitality, which includes an exclusive nightly food and wine pairing menu prepared by the chefs of the hotel’s Manzanita restaurant. In addition, a local winery is chosen each month to be showcased at a “meet and greet” wine tasting and prix fixe wine pairing dinner. As the nation’s only wine-themed casino destination, guests can be sure that their experience at Twin Pine Casino & Hotel will be one of a kind.
Perry Creek Winery | Fair Play, CA
At Perry Creek Winery, every decision is made meticulously with the creation of distinctive flavor in mind. Grapes are sourced directly from the estate vineyard as well as a unique 30-acre vineyard that’s tucked away in the Sierra Foothills. Due to its location with a high elevation averaging at 2401 feet, the grapes are exposed to microclimates that give them exclusive flavors that easily attest to any national standard. In fact, since opening in 1989, the winery has received national recognition including scores exceeding 90 points.
Thorn Hill Vineyards | Lake County & St. Helena, CA
“Bringing people together through wine” has continued to be the philosphy of Amy and Jack Thorn who began producing had crafted artisan wines of exceptional quality many years ago. Thorn Hill Vineyards crafts all of its wines from small production, single vineyards, resulting in 100% single varietal wines. From there, Amy and Jack follow the meticulous practices of small lot, whole cluster pressing, de-stemming, cold soaking, extended maceration, barrel-to-barrel racking and bottling without filtration. This perfected process is noticeably tasted in their delicious portfolio of wines, and has earned them the title of Best in Class at the California State Fair California Commercial Wine Competition.
Cheers – Ken
Hello local readers. What are you doing after your kids Saturday soccer or lacrosse practice? Well take a break and treat yourself to some very nice wine offerings from Peter Merriam. Ken and Peter will be pouring a nice group of Peter’s recent releases. See the lineup below. We hope you can stop by between 3 pm and 6 pm on Saturday.
Insider scoop has it that Peter may also be bring a few special treats for KWG readers to try. Be sure to ask us for some!
Hope to see you there. Cheers! – Ken
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