Coming Soon: The New Online Wine Lines Blog!

With the retirement of Glen Frederiksen from wine reviewing, the time seems right to transform one of America’s longest running sources of wine education — Wine Lines — from a website into a more user-friendly blog.

The new Online Wine Lines blog will launch soon — check back here for the exact date.

Meanwhile, we invite you to “Like” the new Online Wine Lines page on Facebook. It will alert you each time a new blog is posted, and also will be the place to go for new wine reviews.


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Wakefield Estate Takes the Worry Out of Serving Wine

By Glen Frederiksen

Wakefield Estates back label

Wakefield Estates back label

Those of us in the world of wine know that many factors can influence the taste and appreciation of a fine Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. Are the grapes picked early or late? Is there residual sugar left in the finished wine? Did the wine undergo a secondary fermentation? Was it barrel aged? Is the wine flawed?

These, and many other factors, are addressed in the vineyard and in the process of vinifying grapes into wine by the winemaker.

Once it arrives in the marketplace, additional factors can affect the way a wine smells and tastes. Food pairings bring out and/or emphasize different aromas and flavors in wine. The glassware used to serve that wine can alter our perception of it.

Lastly, the temperature a wine is served at can make a big difference. Too cold, and wines close down the fruit components and over-emphasize wood treatments and natural acidity. Too warm, and a wine can become “blowsy,” with the alcohol in the wine becoming too prominent.

So, what is the right temperature? Restaurants would have you believe that all whites and sparkling wine bottles should be doused in a bucket of ice water, while all reds should be served at room temperature.

It really isn’t that easy. Buttery, oaked Chardonnays need more warmth than Champagne or steel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc. Rosés could use a bit of a chill. And full-bodied reds tend to be best at a cool room temperature of around 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit – try finding that in a restaurant in America.

So, what is the answer? Wakefield Estate winery of Clare Valley in Australia has devised a full-proof way of knowing when a wine is at its peak temperature for serving. Besides prominently displaying a tag listing the correct temperature on each bottle (many wineries do this), they have gone the extra mile and included a temperature-sensitive strip that shows when a bottle of wine has reached its optimal temperature for serving. It is on the back of every bottle they now produce, and is a handy way of knowing when to pop the cork (or unscrew the cap) and pour a glass.

Wakefield Estate wines are available in the wine marketplace world-wide. To see our reviews of the latest bottlings, click the link here.

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These Snakes Won’t Bite: The Return of Diamondback Vineyards

By Bob Johnson

Diamondback is back.

John Quinones introduced Diamondback with the 1999 vintage, and kept the label going for three additional vintages. Being a full-time winemaker left little time for his own project, however, so Quinones retired the label.

But as with the Eagles (remember the “Hell Freezes Over Tour”?) and Brett Favre (remember his stints with the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings?), “retirement” did not mean “forever” when it came to the Diamondback label. It’s now back with two outstanding wines from the 2012 harvest and two from the 2014 harvest.

“My goal for Diamondback Vineyards is to utilize the diverse experience I’ve gained as a winemaker over the last 30 years, and focus on sourcing special vineyard sites that have the ideal climate, soil type and exposure to bring out the best in a specific varietal,” explains Quinones.

“The wines will be handcrafted in small lots, with careful attention paid to every detail,” he adds. “The focus will be on showcasing the unique fruit characteristics of each specific site. The winemaking techniques will be designed to maximize site expression, and will vary accordingly.”



Above: John Quinones (left) with bowling legend Marshall Holman, who will lead Diamondback’s sales and marketing efforts. (Photo by Michelle Johnson)


Why Diamondback for the label’s name?

“I had been doing a lot of consulting,” Quinones says. “Wherever the best [Cabernet Sauvignon] grew — hot, dry, mountainous — there were rattlesnakes.”

The consulting gigs came about because of the sterling reputation Quinones had developed, first with Lyeth Estate Winery, and later with Clos Pegase Winery.

Quinones joined Lyeth, a Bordeaux specialist in Sonoma County, fresh out of college. A fellow student at U.C. Davis got a job at the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley at the same time, and they’d often compare notes.

“Lyeth and Mondavi were the top places at the time,” Quinones recalls, “yet they were making wine in an entirely different way. At Lyeth, we’d cold-soak, sometimes for six or seven days. And we’d minimize pumpovers, trying to retain as much of the natural flavor as possible, and to avoid the harsh, gritty tannins.”

Quinones adds that eight to 10 years later he’d taste the Lyeth and Mondavi wines side by side, “and the Mondavi tannins never went away.”

Interestingly, the Lyeth wines he made “didn’t do great in California, but they sold like gangbusters on the East Coast because they were more Bordeaux-like.” Mondavi wines remain among the most popular in the marketplace.

From Lyeth, Quinones went to Napa Valley’s Clos Pegase, where landing a wine among Wine Spectator’s “Top 100” one year cemented his reputation as a skilled vintner, and opened the door to numerous consulting opportunities.

But unlike some vintners, Quinones did not enjoy the limelight. What gave him the greatest satisfaction was simply making great wine. So, he decided to escape the “glare” of the Napa Valley and re-locate to the peace and tranquility of southern Oregon, where he’s the winemaker for RoxyAnn Winery. There, he can focus on what he enjoys: crafting “world-class wines with complexity and varietal expression that capture the essence of southern Oregon.”

There are four wines currently available from Diamondback, two from the 2012 vintage, and two from 2014.

There are four wines currently available from Diamondback, two from the 2012 vintage, and two from 2014. The Port comes in a 500-ml. bottle.

He has a nearly identical goal for Diamondback, although the fruit sourcing figures to be a bit more widespread.

For instance, one current release is the 2014 “Manchester Ridge” Pinot Noir from California’s Mendocino Ridge growing area. The 13-acre vineyard is perched on a hill, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, some 2,000 feet above sea level. It’s a site with which Quinones has worked in the past.

A bit austere at the time we tasted it in June, the wine has everything it takes to be rich, full and mouthfilling. Quinones calls it “the ultimate swing wine” as a food companion. “It doesn’t stand up to steak,” he says, “but it’s a great burger wine.”

The other release from the 2014 vintage is the “Oregon” Chardonnay, made entirely from grapes grown in the RoxyAnn Vineyard in the Rogue Valley.

“There wasn’t a lot of Chardonnay in southern Oregon when I got here, and this vineyard had a lot of Dijon clones,” Quinones says. “We brought in some different clones that are better suited for the vineyard. The wine spent 14 months on the lees — almost twice as long as I’ve ever done — to get that rich, creamy mouthfeel without sugar. Eighty percent of the oak was new; I use oak not for wood flavors, but for wood sugars.”

The wine is Burgundian in style, but you can almost feel in “thickening” in the mouth as it opens up. I’d suspect “prime time” for this wine would be right around Christmas 2016.

It isn’t “fashionable” to get excited about Merlot these days, but the 2014 Diamondback “Rogue Valley” Merlot is a wine that could help change that. As Quinones notes, the Rogue Valley experiences the same number of growing days as the Carneros region that straddles southern Napa and Sonoma counties, and Carneros is noted for producing expressive Merlot. “With the season the way it is here, the Merlot is actually bigger than the Cabernet,” Quinones says. “In Napa and Sonoma and most other places where the varieties are grown, Cabernet is used in blends to boost Merlot. Here, Merlot is used to boost Cabernet.”

Diamondback’s other current release is the 2012 “Bella Forte,” a Port-style dessert wine that is among the best I’ve ever tasted. That John Quinones would craft such an incredibly flavorful wine of this type should come as no surprise. Earlier in his career, through relationships with barrel manufacturers, he was able to visit three of the great Port houses: Warre’s, Graham’s and Sandeman.

“The people there took me in, and basically showed me the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of Port-making,” Quinones says. As a result, RoxyAnn presently has a “Port project” underway — a one-acre portion of the estate vineyard devoted exclusively to Port varietals. The 2012 vintage is 53% Touriga Nacional and 47% Tinta Cao, resulting in a sweet (but not at all cloying) wine that’s brimming with berry flavors.

“This is the best port I’ve ever made, and I’ve made them every year for 30 years,” Quinones enthuses.

So, how does one go about obtaining Diamondback wines? Well, there is no website (although a Google search could take you to the site of Diamondback’s first iteration, which has been long dormant). There also is no wine club. But there is this new-fangled invention called a telephone, and Quinones would welcome a call to his office at 541-500-8287. You also are welcome to call his partner in the “new” Diamondback venture, Marshall Holman, at 541-261-6704. In fact, Holman is in charge of sales and marketing.

If the name Marshall Holman sounds familiar, you could be a bowler… or a bowling fan. Holman is one of the greatest players in the history of the Professional Bowlers Association Tour, known for his pin-splitting power and fiery demeanor. As one of only two “wine and bowling writers” on the planet — the other being Wine Lines Online’s own Glen Frederiksen — I can tell you that Holman has always been passionate about everything he does.

“I’m a passion-driven guy,” Holman says. “That’s a key ingredient for me to be successful in anything. That’s what killed my bowling game; I burned real hot, then I lost my love for the competition. At 61, it’s fun to have passion for something new. It’s a pretty cool thing.”

You can read more about Holman’s involvement in the project in the just-out issue (August 2016) of Bowlers Journal International magazine.

As for the return of Diamondback, Quinones sees it as an opportunity to stretch his skills without risking someone else’s capital.

“With these wines, I kind of pushed the envelope,” he explains. “But I’ve never had a great wine that some people wouldn’t like. If everyone likes it, it’s not a standout.”

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A Unique Wine-Tasting Experience in Sin City

As wine bars go, few in the world could compare with Bin 702 in downtown Las Vegas, which gets the numerical part of its name from Sin City’s area code.


Bin 702 is located at a unique shopping destination known as Container Park, where a praying mantis greets guests at the entrance.


Shops, restaurants and the wine bar at the park are housed in large metal shipping containers that have been repurposed.


Two containers were used to “build out” Bin 702, and then a wooden deck was added outside to provide more seating.


The handwritten sign at the entryway summarizes the “non-attitude” vibe of the bar; this is not a place for wine snobs.


Rather, as the table reservation cards suggest, it’s a place for people who simply want to enjoy a glass (or two or three) of wine.


We grabbed a table at the side of the bar and adjacent to the kitchen — perfect for watching the food prep and people watching.


We ordered glasses of wine and a plate of montaditos, mini sandwiches filled with all kinds of tasty ingredients (meats, cheeses and various accompaniments).

All in all, it was a fun way to spend some time… and drink some wine… in Las Vegas. Bin 702 may not exude the glitz of The Strip, but it also doesn’t charge Strip prices. Our tab for two good glasses of wine and six mondaditos: about $33.

— Bob Johnson (photos by Michelle Johnson)







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2016 Marche Bacchus Lunch Series has Auspicious Debut

By Glen Frederiksen

For several years, we at Wine Lines Online have touted the quality and value of the Marche Bacchus wine events – Saturday tastings at the bar, winery dinners, and wine sampling luncheons.

Still, you never know whether the new year will bring changes to restaurant interests. Many Las Vegas restaurants that had been famous for their wine lists and wine events are now gone, or have discontinued their wine-themed events.

Happily, I can report that the wine luncheon program at Marche Bacchus is even better than in the past. A packed house was on hand Saturday, February 27 for the inaugural wine lunch of 2016. A tasty three-course lunch was served, the price remained at a very reasonable $37.99 – but the wine portion has, in our opinion, been made stronger.

In the past, the wine luncheons often served 10 or even 12 wines. The pours were a miniscule sipful, and staff were running ragged to serve the wines. This time, the wines were kept to a reasonable six. All were wines of class and breeding, and the pour was closer to 1.5 to 2 ounces.

As my notes below reflect, these are world-class wines well suited to a fine dining experience, or just for sipping enjoyment at a party or moment of contemplation.

Below are my on-the-fly impressions of the wines served, with Marche Bacchus prices noted.

N/V Piper Heidsieck Brut Rose, Champagne
We are seeing more rose Champagne in the marketplace recently, and this is a prime example of why. Attractive in the glass, it is a brilliant pink salmon color with a fine, persistent bead. In the nose, citrus perfume mixes with sweet, lightly candied strawberries and cherries. On first sip, it explodes across the palate, showing zesty citrus, light notes of toast and yeast, followed quickly by apple, cherry, and strawberry. This is a party in a glass!
Marche Bacchus Price: $63.50 (February 2016)
Wine Lines rating: 93

2012 Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, Italy
Clear in the glass – a pale straw color. The perfumed nose delivers sharp notes of citrus, green apple, and honeydew. There’s a clean palate presence, with a sense of roundness. Eminently gulpable, it shows why Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio is the #1 seller around the world.
Marche Bacchus Price: $26.95 (February 2016)
Wine Lines rating: 88

2012 Ferrari-Carano ‘Tre Terre’ Chardonnay, Russian River Valley
Viscous, with a deep straw color. Lavish butter and oak aromas lead to light vanilla and baking spices and, finally, to ripe flavors of peach, apple, and melon. Expansive and mouth-coating, the wine shines brightest at the finish, full of lush, buttery fruit. It is hard to find this richness at a pricepoint under $30.
Marche Bacchus Price: $26.99 (February 2016)
Wine Lines rating: 91

2014 Belle Glos ‘Meiomi’ Pinot Noir, California
A muscular Pinot Noir, dense and opaque, with a black violet hue. Dark flowers, orange zest, clove, and boysenberry fruit aromas burst from the glass. For those who prefer big, meaty reds, this wine will win you over. This 2014 bottling may be the finest vintage ever.
Marche Bacchus Price: $31.90 (February 2016)
Wine Lines rating: 90

2013 Elouan Pinot Noir, Oregon
Translucent light garnet in color. Lightly perfumed notes of orange blossoms and fresh cherry pick up some tea and earthy impressions in the mouth. Medium in body, with a mild grip. A consummate food wine, this red is ideally suited for picnics, brunch, and bistro fare. A value vino.
Marche Bacchus Price: $19.99 (February 2016)
Wine Lines rating: 89

2012 Justin Isosceles Cabernet blend, Paso Robles
This bottling, now in its fourth decade of production, utilizes three of the Bordeaux red varietals, with just enough Cabernet Sauvignon to qualify as a varietal wine. Isosceles was the first wine to bring world attention to the Paso Robles wine appellation, and over the years has won a bushel full of gold medals and several Best of Shows in international wine competitions. Nearly opaque deep garnet color in the glass. Enticing scents of oak spice and vanilla mingle with herb-laced black currant and blackberry fruit. It’s medium-full in the mouth, showing loads of upfront fruit that continued through to the medium finish. A pretty wine, drinkable now, but capable of aging gracefully for another 15 years.
Marche Bacchus Price: $81.99 (February 2016)
Wine Lines rating: 92

Marche Bacchus restaurant and wine store
2620 Regatta Drive, Suite #106
Las Vegas, Nevada 89128
(702) 804-8008

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Avant: Tasty Alternatives While ‘Big’ Wines Age

Not every wine requires pontification on the part of those who consume it. In fact, we’re of the opinion that far too many people take wine far too seriously. While there’s certainly a place for big, rich, expressive wines, there also is a place for smooth, easy-drinking wines — such as those that comprise the Avant line from Kendall-Jackson.

Here are capsule reviews of three Avant wines we recently had an opportunity to sample, each carrying a California appellation on the label because of multiple-region grape sourcing…

  • 2014 Sauvignon Blanc — Notes of lime and lemongrass define this refreshing wine, which would pair nicely with sushi or seared scallops. MSRP (December 2015): $13. Wine Lines rating: 85.
  • 2014 Chardonnay — This is far from a big oaky monster. Rather, it’s a fruitful wine that offers notes of pineapple, citrus and green apple. The next time you bring home Original Recipe KFC, open up this wine. MSRP (December 2015): $17. Wine Lines rating: 86.
  • 2013 Red Blend — Merlot comprises half of the cuvee, joined by a healthy dose of Syrah. Other varieties utilized include Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petite Sirah and Carignan. Ripe plum and raspberry are the primary flavors, joined by a hint of mocha. Perfect with pizza or burgers. MSRP (December 2015): $17. Wine Lines rating: 86.

While you’re waiting for other, more tannic (and more expensive) wines to develop in your cellar or on your wine rack, Avant wines offer plenty of pure drinking pleasure.

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Weather Got You Down? Remembering Spring at Ferrari-Carano

Ferrari-Carano has been delighting wine drinkers for decades now, with an ever evolving roster of world-class bottlings from Sonoma County and beyond. It has come a long way since we first visited the facility on the day it opened — from a spartan tasting room to a magnificent estate with five acres of spectacular gardens.

You can enjoy the beauty of the gardens throughout the year, but they truly shine during the spring and summer months. The gardens are “Italian/French parterre in style, with classic, geometric shapes,” as the winery’s website notes. You can read more about the gardens here.

Here are a few pictures we shot at Ferrari-Carano last year to help you get through the cool autumn and cold winter months ahead.

— Bob Johnson



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A Special Dinner at Remedy’s Tavern

By Mary Frederiksen

On September 16, 2015 we attended the second annual R.E.D. Loyalty “Destination Dinner” at Remedy’s Tavern in Henderson, Nevada. R.E.D. stands for Remedy’s, Elixir, and Distill, a chain of sports pubs that also have a dedicated smoke-free dining room.

The five-course meal was hand crafted by Executive Chef, Roy Angeles.

The price to the public was $55 but, as loyalty members, we received a
special discount of $25 for having previously spent at least $500 in any of the R.E.D. locations. That made our price for this event $30/person, including tax!

What a wonderful deal! The menu was New American Fusion and included two drinks per person (wine, beer, or cocktail) off of the restaurant’s drink list. Two glasses of a delicious Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough in New Zealand was nearly the cost of the dinner!

But make no mistake, the five courses were not your typical pub grub.

The first course was seared ahi carpaccio with mixed greens, dressed with a vinaigrette. It was topped with jalapeño tempura matchsticks and a drizzle of mango sauce. We refrained from licking the plates (barely) and gave the appetizer an A+.

The next offering was called “Mediterranean Salad Goes American”. It consisted of fresh mixed salad greens tossed with a variety of gourmet olives, small cubed feta cheese, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, and fresh garlic. The dressing was a lovely vinaigrette . The salad items were cut to a perfect bite size and we greatly appreciated the lack of pits in the deli-style olives. Another solid A.

Course three was four sweet and spicy chicken wing “lollipops” served over a bed of mashed red potatoes. I enjoyed the less crispy skin and the milder use of spice, while my hubby would have liked a more crispy skin and more spice. You say “to-may-to,” I say “to-mah-to.” The potatoes were seasoned well and complemented the wings. This was more traditional pub food, but a solid B.

The fourth course consisted of a 6-oz filet of beef done “Oscar” style with bearnaise sauce, topped with shredded crab meat, served with grilled asparagus spears and roasted sliced fingerling potatoes delightfully seasoned with rosemary/Italian spices. A hearty dish to be sure, but the meat wasn’t up to the quality found in the other dishes. B-

The dessert course was perhaps one of the finest desserts I have ever had the pleasure of putting in my mouth. It was a Tiramisu Cheesecake that the Chef created. The crust was nicely made, the cheesecake filling divine, and the rich cream topping was perfect. It had all the flavors of traditional tiramisu and we DID lick our plates clean. A+!

Our server was Alexis and she did a wonderful job making sure we had all that we needed.

My sincere thanks to Chef Roy for an excellent dinner! Several of the dishes were worthy of the finest restaurants on the Las Vegas Strip.

I invite you try this dining spot the next time you are in the area. And be sure to join their RED loyalty program!

They are located at: 3265 St. Rose Parkway in Henderson, Nevada 89052. Phone: 702-982-3026

They are open 7 days a week, 24 hours a day!

Check out their website for more information:

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A Fun Way to Get from the 5 to the 101

When traveling between Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, three main routes are available: 99 to the east, 5 in the middle and 101 to the west.

There also are numerous east-west routes that will get you from one north-south route to another.

But one of our favorites is 152, between Interstate-5 and Interstate-101. Once one of the more dangerous highways in California, known for head-on crashes late at night, the road is now ultra-modern and safe.

Which makes a planning a visit to Casa de Fruta all the more worthwhile.

Originally nothing more than a cherry stand founded by Italian immigrants in 1908, Casa de Fruta today is a major attraction of the Pacheco Pass.

There’s hearty food — including Kobe burgers served around the clock, and prime rib offered daily beginning at 2 — at Casa de Restaurant and Bakery. Don’t forget to have a slice of marionberry pie for dessert.

At Casa de Sweets and Café, you can select from fresh-baked pastries, ice cream, fudge and candy apples. That’s also the place to go for espresso drinks.

Just opened over the summer was Casa de Burrito — whose name pretty much speaks for itself.

Casa de Carousel is a double-decker merry-go-round crafted in a classic Venetian style, while Casa de Choo-choo is a scale model train that takes guests on a 15-minute tour of the grounds.

Casa de Fruta is now also home to a special events park, music hall and conference center, so both the 300-space R.V. Orchard Resort and the Casa de Inn come in handy for those wishing to stay overnight. There’s also a 24-hour Chevron station on the grounds.

CasaDeFrutaRoaming the aisles of the Casa de Fruit Stand and the Casa de Wine and Deli should be a part of every visitor’s itinerary. Wine sampling is available, and for something completely different, try the Casa de Fruta Pomegranate wine. Also be on the look-out for two-for-one wine sales.

Casa de Fruta has come a long way since its cherry stand days. Today, you could spend an hour or the better part of a day. Either way, you’re in for a fun break away from the congestion of the 5 and 101 freeways.

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Aventine Glen Ellen Unveils Fall Menu Additions

Earlier this year, Wine Lines featured a review of the one of the hot restaurants in Sonoma County, Aventine Glen Ellen. You can read it here.

Now, with fall approaching, the restaurant has unveiled changes and additions to its menu, effective the second week in October:


COZZE E VONGOLE — steamed Mediterranean mussels and clams, celery leaves, roasted fennel, saffron white wine butter broth, grilled house made focaccia ($18).


INSALATA DI MALE E CACHI — pink lady apples, fufu persimmons, watercress, roasted hazelnuts, fat bottom girl cheese, lemon dressing ($14).

GRILLED EGGPLANT PARMESAN CAPRESE — buffalo mozzarella, grilled marinated eggplant, tomato jam, balsamic reduction, micro basil ($15).

INSALATA DE MARE — marinated mussels, calamari, shrimp, bay scallops, grilled octopus, baby yellow frisee, red potatoes, celery, carrots, citrus dressing, basil oil ($18).


RAVIOLI ROSSO — burrata cheese stuffed, red beet pasta, cream sauce, peas, black truffle shavings, parsley oil ($17).

AGNOLOTTI VERDI — spinach infused pasta, stuffed short ribs, rice, Swiss chard, fried carrot ribbons, Chianti-cream sauce ($19).

FETTUCCINE NERO — squid ink fettuccine, rock shrimp, grilled squid, Mediterranean mussels, roasted pear tomatoes, red bell pepper sauce, spicy Calabrian chili ($22).


POLLO — pan-seared Mary’s chicken half chicken, rosemary purple potato carpaccio, sautéed brussel sprouts, lemon-caper sauce ($24).

BRANZINO — seared Mediterranean sea bass, roasted parsnip puree, sautéed rapini, fried leeks, oregano-citrus vinaigrette ($36).

PETTO D’ANATRA AFFUMICATO — smoked duck breast, butternut squash gnocchi, porcini mushroom sauce, fresh cranberry sauce ($29).

We’re getting hungry already. And don’t forget, bottles of wine may be purchased for half price on Wednesday nights.

For updates on one of our favorite wine country restaurants, connect with Aventine Glen Ellen on Facebook.

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