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Top QPR Kosher wine winners of 2017

In my state of kosher wine industry post – I lamented at the lack of QPR (Quality to Price Ratio) options in the kosher wine world. Now that is not to say that the options do not exist, as you can see by the number of QPR options on my top wines for Passover last year. Still, given the sheer number of wines in a kosher wine store (many hundreds) and the number of kosher wines on the open market (many thousands), we are left with a very small minority – sadly.

So, I thought I would list the most recent QPR wines I have enjoyed over the past year. I wanted to catch up with wines I only had recently and with ones that are finally here in the USA.

My hope is that people will enjoy the wines and demand more of them. For instance, the lack of many of the QPR wines from Elvi Wines on the open market. I can find them on Royal’s website and on Elvi’s website, but sadly until recently, they were not available on the internet. Thankfully, has gotten the Elvi wines back, but Netofa wines are still not available here in the USA.

This list is not a list of wines that are meant for cellaring, though many can withstand a few years. The idea here is to enjoy these wines now while you let the long-term wines cellar and age. We all have that interest to drink interesting wines and while I agree with that, that is NO excuse to raid the cellar when u have a hunkering for a complex nose or flavor. Many of these wines will scratch the itch while the beasts’ lie and settle.

Sadly, the main wines I have yet to taste and those that I think belong on this list, based upon what I hear of them, are the 2016 Capcousto wines, but I cannot find them online.

Finally, some of these wines are hard to find and they may have different siblings – but they are worth the effort. The wine notes follow below – the explanation of my “scores” can be found here:

QPR KING of 2017

2016 Chateau Des Riganes – Score: 90  (mevushal)
This is the third vintage from the winery and the best one by far! The 2015 vintage was boring and the 2014 vintage was not as good. I tried writing the notes for this wine a few times and then I threw them all out, only because it keeps changing – the core stays the same but the issues I had, hollow notes, mad fruitiness, go away with time/air. So, to start – leave this wine open for two hours before enjoying it and that removes two rounds to three rounds of evolution from my notes.
After it has opened for a couple of hours, now the wine is ready to enjoy. The nose opens to rich loam, earth, gone are the fruit bomb notes, with lovely mushroom, foliage galore, with classic bramble, dark cherry, currant, and hints of raspberry. With time the wine opens to a fuller mouth than first perceived, gone is the hollow notes, with a nice fruit focus, good tannin structure, gone is the country style wine, now the wine is richer, and fuller, with a lovely green foliage focus, followed by dark red forest berry, cherry, hints of black fruit, great saline, earth, mushroom, and lovely spice. The finish is long and spicy, with more green notes, an almost lush forest with good spice, and pith. Nice! Drink till 2021.

QPR top 10 Winners (in no particular order)

2016 Domaine Netofa White – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
Nothing new here, other than the label. The wine continues to impress, throw in the fantastic joy of Chenin Blanc, and the price and we have another winner from Netofa!
Lovely floral nose still closed, but lovely with straw, hay, rich green apple, quince, and lovely bright fruit. What can I say, this medium-bodied wine is another acid homerun, showing lovely bright and fresh fruit, that gives way to a great acid core, with mineral, mad citrus, grapefruit, with lovely dried white currant, herb, and more floral notes. The finish is a long and fruity acid trip, with rich mineral, followed by lovely lemon curd, more citrus, with bright fruit. Bravo! Drink by 2020. (Available only in Israel, for now anyway) 

2015 Capcanes Peraj Petita – Score: A- (Crazy QPR)
This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache, 20% Merlot, 15% Tempranillo, and 15%Syrah. This wine is much akin to the 2014 vintage, in that it is immediately accessible, but I like the 2015 vintage more. Really nice nose, with rich toast, smoke, followed by rich tar, asphalt, with lovely black fruit, tobacco, and more mineral. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is really fun, layered and concentrated with dark fruit, blackberry, hints of blue fruit, with ribbons of scrapping mineral, graphite, followed by nice Kirsch cherry, with great earth and dirt. The finish is long and earthy, with great dirt, mineral, green notes, and hints of mushroom and black tea. Bravo!!! Drink by 2021.

2014 Herzog Cabernet SauvignonSpecial Reserve, Alexander Valley – Score: 92 to 93 (QPR Superstar) (mevushal)
Lovely nose, impressive elegant and old world nose, peaking with a blackcurrant showing blackberry and lovely smoke and tar. The mouth is old world, wow, give me a break, in ways the wine is crazy better than the Warneke (Special Edition), but with years the Warneke will pass it. The mouth on this medium body, is great layered and rich, green, spicy, and rich with concentration, with sweet oak and sweet dill galore, with green notes, loads of foliage, showing dried strawberry, ripe raspberry, black forest berry, all wrapped in mouth coating and drying tannin, with earth and spice. The finish is long, and richly green, with nice spicy notes, leather and scraping mineral, showing bright and ripe fruit that is impressive, elegant, rich, and layered, with licorice, graphite, and forest floor that lingers long. Bravo!! Drink from 2020 till 2030.

2013 Terra di Seta Chianti Classico – Score: A- (QPR)
Wild nose of rich mushroom, dirty diaper, crazy mineral, rich loam, and lovely black and red fruit. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is ripping with rich acid, mineral, and saline, and lovely mouth draping tannin, with gripping tannin, showing blackberry, dark cherry, currant, with coffee grinds, and mineral. The finish is long and pith-laden, with espresso, and rich graphite, and scraping mineral that lingers long. Bravo!!! Drink till 2020.

2014 Carmel Riesling, Kayoumi – Score: A- (QPR)
This wine screams dry Alsace Riesling!! The nose is crazy, pure funk, petrol, flint, mineral, WOW! Cannot find much fruit on the nose to start but with time peach shows, but who cares! Sadly, this bottle was tainted with some sort of reduction or Sulfur, it is not clear what the issue was, to be honest, it smelled like actual “trash can”. The mouth on this full bodied wine is insane! Layered and complex with rich acidity, dried fruit, dried apple, lychee, floral notes abound, with rich elegance, followed by nectarines, orange, orange zest, bravo! The finish goes on forever, and I mean not stopping with crazy petrol and floral notes lasting all along – WOW!!! This wine was clearly off to start, but with time it came around and was very close to its old self, sadly the reduction lingered in ways. Drink by 2020.

2016 Shirah Vintage Whites – Score: A- (QPR)
This wine is a blend of 70% Grenache Blanc and 30% Viognier. The nose on this wine is screaming Viognier and far less Grenache Blanc, with epic peaches and creme, showing rich notes of honeysuckle, honeyed notes of fruit, a truly perfumed nose that is a joy to smell. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is layered and rich, with great acid, lovely fruit pith, that is both unctuous and yet lithe at the same time, with nice summer fruit focus, showing apricot and hints of the Grenache Blanc with green apple, and lovely mineral. The finish is rich and lovely with joyous fruit pith, lovely spices, and lingering green tea. Bravo!!! Drink by 2021.

2016 Shirah Rose – Score: A- (QPR)
This wine needs to be aerated to open up its nose and to remove some of the lingering chemical notes, but do not let this deter you from enjoying this lovely wine! This wine reminds me so much of the 2013 rose, epic and screaming acid based. The nose on this wine is classic Cali rose, with ripe strawberry, raspberry, with rich peach, and lovely floral notes. The mouth on this wine has a lovely body, with a great acid punch, with rich fruit red berry focus, followed by lovely citrus, grapefruit, and nectarines. The finish is long and red berry, with more acid, lovely fruit pith that lingers long, followed by light tannin, sweet hints of pineapple, and lovely acid lingering long. BRAVO!! This is a top 3 non-Provence style rose for 2017. Drink by Summer 2018.

2015 Herzog Chardonnay, Reserve, Russian River – Score: A- (mevushal) (QPR)
This wine is ripe, no denying that but by far the most balanced of many years with a far better control on the “Oak Monster”. The nose on this wine is under control, with great buttery notes, sweet apple, pear, hints of guava, and nice quince, but balanced well with herb and spice. The mouth on this wine is nice and full bodied, but it needs time, with nice saline, mineral notes that are unique for this wine, well balanced with screaming acid, nice butter, showing a creamy and almost oily texture, nectarines and orange, with sweet quinine and white chocolate. Nice and elegant with grapefruit and citrus and oak. Drink by 2024. Read the rest of this entry


2017 Bokobsa Wine Tasting in Paris

mbokobsa-tasting-in-parisWell, if you read my previously posted notes of my one day at Sommelier in Israel, you may be wondering why I am posting about Paris France? The apropos answer to that question can be summed up with this beautiful pasuk from Psalms “Shomer petaim Hashem,” literally “God protects the foolish,”.

So, let’s start from the beginning. As I posted here, about the coming wine events of 2017, there were many options for you to get out and taste great wines almost across the globe. Well, this year I finally wanted to put more focus on France, so I was in Bordeaux later last year, and now I wanted to get to Paris again to taste through the new 2014 wines. My desire was to get to one day at Sommelier, and the Bokobsa wine tasting in Paris, but skip the epic Zur wine tasting this year, the first time since its inception 😦

Thankfully the plans worked out, and for that I thank God and my wife. Last year I was in Israel a total of 6 times, including a stop over in Bordeaux, where I tasted some of the best wines from the 2015/2016 vintage, thanks to Royal Europe. So, this year, we had to keep the number of round trips to Israel to a more reasonable number, and staying home a bit more was also on the table. That meant doing crazy things to get an elephant of activity, squeezed into a thimble sized amount of time. A total of five days, including travel both ways, to squeeze in a trip to Israel, a Monday in Israel for Sommelier, then a day trip to paris for the Bokobsa tasting (Tuesday), returning at 4AM on Wednesday back to Israel. Then going north to visit 5 wineries (Kishor, Matar, Adir, Lueria, and then Netofa part 1 of 2017). Then return back to sleep (preferably not in the car while driving). Get up Thursday, drive to a bris, then to my beloved sister (GREAT hanging with her), then to Tzora, Flam, and then flying home. So yeah, I have lots of posts coming soon, but for now, this is about Paris and France’s wines!

It started Saturday night, with a dash out the door to catch the 8PM direct flight to Israel. Thank God the plane was not packed and I arrived in time. We landed in Israel, and found my way to the hotel, where I would stay for two days. The next day was Sommelier, then dinner with friends, and then a half attempted night’s sleep. Then Tuesday, go to the airport and take the El Al flight to paris France for the Bokobsa tasting at the Intercontinental Hotel. By the way, charging 8 Euro at the hotel bar, for a cup of coffee is crazy, just an aside! Read the rest of this entry

2015 and 2016 – are Royal years indeed in Bordeaux

Bordeaux, the cradle of the modern wine revolution, for both the kosher and nonkosher worlds, is a beautiful realization of the past and present coming together to build a fabulous future. The world of true kosher wine, started before Hagafen, before Herzog, though maybe not before Carmel, who made a beautiful kosher wine in 1901 and then again in 1976, one that I tasted, but one that is now a shadow of its former self. Still, before Carmel’s rebirth, there were kosher wines being made in the 1970s, and those were the first kosher wines, that were not sacramental wines. Koenig was making kosher wines in the 1960s, and there were kosher Bordeaux wines being made in the 1970s as well.

The story of Carmel starts with a wonderful man, whose philanthropic desires led to the largest outside investment into the former Palestine in the 19th century, and his history is deeply intertwined in the world of kosher wine, since the 80s. Winemaking in Israel had enjoyed a long and successful run in biblical times. Wine presses used thousands of years ago are still visible today. However, during the Roman conquest of Judea in 70 A.C., many vineyards were destroyed, and the remaining vines were destroyed during the period of Muslim rule that began in 636 C.E. The Muslim rule led to a 1,200-year halt in local wine production. Wine production returned to Israel in 1882, when Baron Edmond de Rothschild funded the creation of vineyards and a few wineries – one of which we know today as Carmel. However, after the massive success of Carmel’s Cabernet Rishon (#1) (where it won a Gold Medal) at the Paris World Fair of 1900, Carmel winery went into a long and deep slumber. It re-awoke for a brief moment in 1976, and then again in 1979 when the Carmel Special Reserve wines again made history.  The shocking fact is that the Baron spent less money in France to buy Lafite (4.4 Million Francs), than he invested in Israel, a shocking 11 Million Francs. His shocking generosity was not lost, even if Carmel did fade for almost a century, it was his rallying cry to not forget our brethren, who threw caution to the wind to rebuild Israel, that helped bring focus to their need and was the first true power behind the future land of Israel! In many ways, he was one of the founding father’s of present day Israel.

Kosher Wine

Seeing how close Bordeaux touches the life of all kosher wine drinkers, one has to stop and ponder what if? What if Baron Edmond (Benjamin) de Rothschild had simply made Lafite kosher instead of investing in Carmel? Does that question offend you? I hope it does! If you track the sheer amount of money that has been invested into Carmel, it is staggering! Mind blowing! Is this post about Carmel? Of course not! What I am offering is a clear reminder that kosher wine, is a three-legged stool of complexity. Please look at my post about the myriad and complex web of kosher winemaking requirements to refresh yourself. But as a reminder, the main three-legged stool, is Religious Jews touching the wine, kosher for Passover ingredients, and the hardest one of them all, the one that should be clear, but one that is often forgotten, these two restrictions, and all of the other ones, start from the very beginning. Meaning that if you walk up to a winery and taste their wine and like it – that means the EARLIEST you can make a kosher version of that wine is next year (unless you taste an earlier vintage and it is still before harvest).

I have spoken about this subject before, really, when talking about Flam, and others that have moved from the non-kosher market to the kosher market in Israel. The issue here is that it is a minimum of a three-year investment for good reds before you see the money. If it involves vineyards, then that is a minimum investment of 6 years for good reds in Israel! You could make them inside of four years, outside of Israel, but really? Who would want wine from a two-year-old vine? Not many! Throughout my time in Bordeaux, the terroir was a common theme, an obvious one of course, but one that shows itself more in wine than in the conversations. Why? Well, most people already know that the land of Bordeaux is hallowed ground for great wines. People make yearly pilgrimages to the storied En Primeur, where the likes of Robert Parker used to cast his shadow, and where Neal Martin till does, along with many of the top Negociants who come to set up shop for the three-day event.

Kosher Bordeaux Wine – the state of affairs

A side topic about the state of kosher Bordeaux wine. People often wonder why there is not a kosher vintage of the most famous chateau every year? Why did we miss out on the famous 2009 Leoville Poyferre? Why is there no 2009 Malartic? Sadly, the answer is that as much as French kosher wine is growing in popularity, it is not that popular.

The issue lies around the cost to make these wines, the knowledge that people have of them, along with the fact that they are well, old world! Also, there is the supply and demand vector that I will keep throwing in along the way.

So let’s start with the last and go backward, old world wines are what I crave, and many of the wine nuts I know. However, it is NOT what the wine drinkers crave in the kosher wine market. OK, cue broken record, ok it is on, the kosher red wine palate is punch drunk on sweet overripe wines, wines that I abhor. Look at the average kosher wine tasting event, one that has french wines, and you will see that the table fills up quickly, and then is empty as the night progresses. Why? Because French wines are a curiosity to the kosher wine palate, and not much more. Now that is a gross oversimplification, yes I agree. Still, it is far closer to the truth than many are making it out to be. Read the rest of this entry


Two fun Rothschild wines and a great dinner out

This past week saw us invited to our friend’s house and the first week where I could taste wine!  Yes, I could not taste wine for three weeks – AHH!!!  Crazy stuff.  But, I picked up a wicked cold and needed some heavy-duty anti-biotic to rid myself of a nasty sinus infection.  Anyway, I am back and I really enjoyed the wines we tasted this past week.

Our friends invited us to their house and as usual the food was awesome!  The dinner started with Moroccan fish that was paired nicely with a fresh green salad, a winter green salad, and humus.  Dinner was some awesome roasted chicken and potatoes, gonde and beans, Chicken/prune/Quince stew (Khoresh-E Morgh-O Alu).  The food was clearly Persian and was absolutely fantastic.

We brought a bottle of Haut Medoc and our hosts had one as well.  It was fun to compare them for a couple of reasons.  The host opened the two bottles at the same time, but they did not air out at the same time because they were different vintages, different varietals, and because the second wine was not poured till later in the evening.  Wine will air out faster when the bottle is emptied just a bit, so that the wine level reaches below the bottle’s shoulder.  This creates the largest possible surface area for wine within a bottle.

The wine paired quite nicely with the main course.  The wine notes follow below.  Many thanks to my friends for a lovely dinner and wonderful company.

2003 Barons Edmond Benjamin de Rothschild, Haut-Medoc – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is popping with blackberry, raspberry, cranberry, and oak. The mouth on this, 60% Cabernet / 40% Merlot, full bodied wine is plush with fat tannins that mellow over time along with raspberry, blackberry, and oak. The mid palate starts off very acidic but calms down quickly and melds with oak and integrating tannins. The finish is long with more tannins, spicy oak, acidity, and a touch of leather.

2002 Chateau Malmaison Baronne Nadine de Rothschild, Moulis-en-Medoc Cru – Score: B+
The nose on this ruby colored wine is heavy with cherry, plum, oak, and minerals.  The mouth starts off over tannic, but it smooths out over time, to an almost mouth coating consistency.  It is followed by rich plum and cherry flavors.  The mid palate starts off very acidic, almost astringent,  but the acidity clams down, into a rich and balanced mid palate.  The finish is long with more red fruit, spicy notes, and slight mineral/earthy finish.


Baked Gefilte Fish Loaf, Stuffed Vegetables, Château Malmaison Baronne Nadine, Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon, Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon

We had our family over for the last part of Passover, and so we had a few dinners and lunches with guests and some alone, which were really nice.  Anyway, we served the baked fish, which is described here, along with our now famous stuffed vegetables.  This started a long time ago, when we had a group of people coming for a Passover meal, and we had no idea what to serve them.  We were sick of roast or brisket, and did not want chicken or fish.  We thought about the rudimentary meat loaf and such stuff.  But, that got us thinking about stuffed vegetables that my sister once served us.  They were crazy good, but man they sounded like a ton of work.  So, unfazed by the potential madness that faced us, we pushed on unfazed, and found out that the work is just maddening.  So here is the rough sketch of the recipe, but you can find out for yourself if it is worth the effort.

Meat Stuffed Vegetables Recipe
5 or more really large onions cored
3 large eggplant scooped until just the skin and a bit of flesh is left
3 large sweet yellow or red peppers
2 large green peppers
1 large can of tomato sauce
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 pounds of ground meat
3 tbsp Parsley
5 cloves of garlic – chopped
2 tbsp of sugar (or until it does not taste bitter)

Core the onions, which are crazy hard, with a large and strong spoon.  Cut the top of the onion off, and then with a large spoon start digging into the onion from the top.  Keep digging until you start to peel the onion from the inside out.  Do not worry if you cut all the way through the bottom of the onion, I do that all the time, but I put a small thin sliver in the bottom to cover the hole, and it bingo – it is like nothing happened.  Once you are done with the onions, move on to the eggplant by slicing them length wise, and coring them until there is just a drop of flesh and the skin left.  Do not puncture this one – it is far more difficult to remedy!  Drop the cored remnants and whole eggplants into a bucket of cold water to slow down their oxidation, which causes them to turn brown.  Then core the sweet peppers by cutting the tops off and removing the ribs.  Leave the peppers whole.  Now take a deep roasting pan and place 1 inch of water at the bottom of the pan.  Place the peppers and onions standing up in bottom of the roasting pan, along with eggplant lying skin down.  As a heads up, the eggplant dos not cook too well, unless you spray the eggplant ahead of time with some olive oil.

OK, so now you have a bunch of vegetable remnants, which should be in separate buckets.  So we now move on to cooking the meat and vegetable mixture that will be going into the vegetables to bake.  Start off by taking all the remnants and chopping them up finely.  Start off by placing 2 tablespoons of oil into a large Dutch oven and heating the oil until it shimmers. Next place the chopped onions into the Dutch oven and sauté the onions until golden brown.  Once golden, add the rest of the chopped remnants and sauté them until nice and soft.  Now add the chopped meat into the pot and cook the meat until it is browned.  Now add in the tomato sauce and spices and simmer for 20 minutes.  Now place the cooked mixture into the cored vegetables and put the roasting pan into a 350 degree oven for one hour.

With served an assortment of wines with the cooked vegetables.  The wine notes follow below:

2002 Château Malmaison Baronne Nadine – Score: B
The nose on this garnet colored wine has blackberry, cassis, mounds of dirt, mineral, and graphite.  The mouth on this soft but terroir harsh wine is really packed with earth, black fruit and oak.  The wine is simple enough, but still gets your attention with mounds of earth that melds with acidity and oak.  The finish is long and spicy along with more dark fruit.  It should have been a better wine, but the wine was out of balance and too aggressive in its mineral notes.

2006 Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B+
The nose on this purple colored wine with brown halos is hot out of the bottle, but calms down with oak, cranberry, dark plum, and roasted herbs.  The mouth of this medium bodied wine follows the nose with cranberry and plum.  The mid palate is packed with acid, spice, oak, and nice tantalizing tannins. The finish is long and spicy with more fruit and herbs.

2004 Gamla Cabernet Sauvignon – Score: B+
The nose on this garnet colored wine is classically Cabernet with dark cassis, blackberry, oak, and anise.  The mouth on this medium to full bodied wine follows the nose with black fruit and a semi complex mixture of spice, oak, and integrating tannins.  The finish is long with more cassis, spicy wood, and chocolate.


Where have I been :-) !!!

Well it has been a bit of time since I last posted.  Passover and a few things that I had to get done around the house kept me away.  Now that I have a few more minutes to breathe – I will get to posting again.

Did you all see the headings on many of the online kosher marts – they were touting the number of days till Passover and shipping guaranties.  Kind of sounds alot like the holiday monikers you see out in December.  Anyway, the numbers looked brisk all around.  No matter who I was buying from – they all seemed busy this year.  Which is a nice thing to see.  As always, please remember to support your local wine shop, and when they do not have the specialty items you wish – look at the large online shops to backfill.

I have been away from the keyboard but not from the bottles 😉

Here are my tasting notes from the past few bottles and have a wonderful rest of Passover:

Well the Passover was quite nice. I did not go overboard on the wines. First night we ate out and the menu was a nice vegetable bisque. Followed by fish rolls (matzo soaked and then rolled around some lovely salmon) with asparagus and roasted mushrooms as side dishes.

The wines I had for the 4 cups was the 2006 Bartenura Valpolicella.  A very nice soft and lightly tannic wine. Perfect for the cups. It turns out that the wine also goes quite nicely with soft cheeses (hard cheeses ran all over it). For the dinner we paired the food with a Four Gates Chardonnay 2000.  The Chardonnay is still kicking down doors. This is a very fruit forward and heady wine. Tons of fruit on the nose – peach, apricots, and some custard. The body is full and oaky – but not velvety, which is fine with me. The acid and fruit balance very well into a satisfying finish.

The second meal was at home and we had the Valpolicella for the four cups. For dinner we had gifilte fish baked in a tomato and balsamic vinegar mixture, and covered with lemon slices. For the main course we had my favorite – brisket. The brisket is marinated in wine for a day and then baked slow and low for many ours. Then let stand over night. Next morning it is sliced and then rebraised in the wine, cranberry sauce, and brown sugar for a few more hours. Paired with was two wines:

2002 Tabor Meshcha: A-
I really liked this bottle, but it was not a hit on the table filled with French people. The nose is filled with coffee, chocolate, and cassis. The mouth on the full bodied wine is very fruit forward and the tannins have nicely integrated with the fruit and oak and the outcome is a wine that goes great with the meat and the next morning we had it with some Asiago and other hard cheeses and it was a great match.

2001 Château Malmaison Baronne Nadine : B+
I really like this one and the rest of the table agreed. This one is a little lighter than I would have liked but still complex enough to keep your attention. It goes well with the brisket, but could not really keep up with the hard cheeses.

On Erev Pesach (Shabbos) we opened a:
2002 Baron Herzog Cabernet/Zinfandel/Syrah Special Reserve: A-
It was quite a nice wine. This melange is constantly changing in your glass, which is really nice. It starts with a heady Zinfandel nose and slowly migrates to the Cabernet nose. The mouth on the full bodied wine shows nice tar and pepper notes from the Syrah, while balancing it with tobacco notes from the Cab and great fruit from who knows where 🙂 .  This is a real hit for Baron Herzog and I am kind of sad that this was my last bottle. That said, it is at the peak so more would be a mistake. I am hoping the 2005 vintage can keep up.

Happy Passover everyone!!!

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