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Wine & Spirits

Dry Creek Vineyard Awarded U.S. Patent for Wine Cork Closures with Sustainable Sourcing Information

Dry Creek Vineyard announced the issuance of U.S. Patent No. D779,938, related to the design of printed sustainable sourcing information on its wine cork closures. This is the first patent issued to Dry Creek Vineyard, which is celebrating 45 years of family winemaking in Sonoma County, California.

The innovative closure is laser printed with ornamental and detailed information about the source of cork material, including the age of the cork forest, the harvest date of the trees and the sustainable habitat these remarkable forests provide to the Iberian Lynx and Spanish Imperial Hawk.

This revolutionary concept was introduced with the release of Dry Creek Vineyard 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel. President Kim Stare Wallace developed the idea in an effort to provide transparency and authenticity of the winery’s extensive portfolio.

“I wanted to provide valuable knowledge to consumers about our sustainability efforts and the benefits of cork closures,” said Stare Wallace. “Dry Creek Vineyard is one of the last truly private, family-owned, iconic wineries, and it is important to communicate our ‘no compromises’ philosophy on every aspect of our packaging.”

“We make wines with integrity and soul,” continued Stare Wallace. “No detail is overlooked, including when and from where our corks are harvested.”

Founded in 1972, Dry Creek Vineyard is 100 percent certified sustainable and a leader in the sustainability movement in the Dry Creek Valley American Viticultural Area (AVA) and the wine industry as a whole.

Top Producers Promise to Restore World-Class Status of California Brandy

A group of leaders in the American spirits industry gathered this week for the first-ever California Brandy Summit and pledged to restore the perception of California brandy as ranking alongside the world’s most acclaimed spirits.

Top tier brandy producers, mixologists, and national influencers met for two days of discussions, seminars and tastings aimed at assessing the current perception of California brandy and at steering the future of the spirit.

The result was the pledge, formalized in a “Declaration to Raise the Status of California Brandy,” that said, in part, “We are committed to heralding the exceptional brandy crafted by California producers. We are committed to restoring the perception of California brandy as ranking alongside the world’s most acclaimed spirits.”

“We do need to raise awareness of the world-class quality of California brandy,” said Dan Farber, Founder and Distiller of Osocalis Distillery. “And that takes all of us. We producers have to keep putting the quality product in the glass, and we need the community to get the word out about what our DNA really is, and about how outstanding California brandy can be.”

The Brandy Summit featured discussions facilitated by F. Paul Pacult, Editor and Publisher of Spirits Journal and one of America’s foremost spirits authorities, with premium California brandy producers on the art and science of brandy making.

The group examined the best practices in brandy making, including distillation techniques, maturation and blending, and discussed whether there is a need for more production guidelines in California brandy.

Elite mixologists and summit participants demonstrated California brandy’s versatility by creating brandy cocktails ranging from new takes on modern classics to bright, refreshing spring and summer-style drinks. The group also got a preview tasting of the new premium Argonaut Brandy, which has four expressions ranging from a cocktail-oriented blend to sipping brandies to a collector’s brandy blended from rare, aged brandy lots.

“Because it’s made from wine, California brandy has completely unique flavor notes and qualities,” said Rita Hansen, Head Distiller for Argonaut Brandy. “A few decades ago, the world learned about the outstanding wines in California. We all think it’s time people also learned about the high quality and craftsmanship in California brandy.”

La Crema Promotes Craig McAllister to Head Winemaker

Artisan winery La Crema has promoted Craig McAllister to the position of Head Winemaker. McAllister, who first joined the winery as the harvest enologist in 2007, has been a passionate steward of La Crema’s Monterey program and played a vital role in elevating the winery’s Sonoma Coast portfolio throughout his tenure. In addition, he has helped to further develop the winery’s collection of single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. In his new role, McAllister, who has most recently served as associate winemaker, will gain increased responsibility for the oversight of all winemaking operations.

“Craig’s long tenure with La Crema and passion for cool-climate winemaking make him a natural fit,” said Mitch Davis, Senior Vice President of Production for Jackson Family Wines. “In particular, his expertise on the Central Coast, in the Monterey appellation, a region in which we see tremendous potential for La Crema, coupled with his skill, experience and passion, will continue to enhance the strength of the La Crema winemaking team.”

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to hand the helm of La Crema over to Craig,” said Elizabeth Grant-Douglas, the company’s most recent winemaker. “He has been my partner and right hand at La Crema for so many years and has the passion and commitment to take La Crema to the next level,” she added.

A New Zealand native, McAllister earned a bachelor’s degree in viticulture and enology from Lincoln University in Christchurch, New Zealand. His deep passion for winemaking has taken him all over the world, from New Zealand to Australia, Chile and Cyprus. Since moving to California, McAllister has also made wine for Wild Ridge, crafting elegant Pinot Noir from vineyards on the rugged Sonoma Coast. In his expanded role, McAllister will continue to build La Crema’s portfolio, ranging from coastal regions as far north as the Willamette Valley, Oregon to as far south as Arroyo Seco, California, with a particular focus on raising the profile of the winery’s Monterey series, which includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and a soon-to-be-released Rosé of Pinot Noir. Previously only producing small batches of Rosé, La Crema will be releasing its first nationally-distributed bottling this spring.

“This is a dream job for a winemaker who enjoys the challenges and rewards of producing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from cool-climate regions,” said McAllister. “I am thrilled to be a part of this this special team and look forward to carrying on the legacy that has been entrusted to me by continuing to produce the stylistically elegant wines for which La Crema is known, while elevating the winery to new levels of success.”

For more information regarding La Crema, visit www.lacrema.com.

Sugarlands Distilling Co. Introduces Mark and Digger’s Hazelnut Rum

Sugarlands Distilling Company has announced Hazelnut Rum as the newest addition to its award-winning line of spirits. The east Tennessee distillery partnered with distilling legends Mark Ramsey and Digger Manes from the hit series “Moonshiners” to develop the spirit.

Hazelnut Rum meets the nose with sweet aromas of toasted hazelnut and brown sugar. It is a smooth, full bodied spirit that blends the tastes of vanilla, cinnamon and honey. At 80 proof, this brown spirit finishes with a sweet, oaky kick.

“Our Hazelnut rum really became a labor of love, mainly because our wives became the first big fans of it,” said Manes. “Because of them, we were determined to make it better than any other homemade liquor that anyone had ever tasted.”

Mark and Digger created hazelnut rum while filming for the Discovery Channel program. The duo combined real hazelnuts and rum in their backwoods still to create a one-of-a-kind flavored spirit.

“In the words of our mentor Popcorn Sutton, ‘this is some of the finest liquors that’s ever been,'” said Ramsey. “Now it is our pleasure to share it with the rest of the world. We’re really humbled that folks are eager to try it.”

Henry’s Hard Soda Launches New Hard Cherry Cola Flavor

Following a strong launch at the beginning of the year, MillerCoors is expanding its Henry’s Hard Soda offerings to include Henry’s Hard Cherry Cola. Now available on shelves nationwide, Henry’s Hard Cherry Cola joins the rest of the Henry’s family of flavors, Henry’s Hard Ginger Ale and Henry’s Hard Orange Soda.

At 4.2 percent alcohol by volume, Henry’s Hard Cherry Cola is made with real cane sugar and delivers a refreshing cherry cola flavor with a subtle hint of almond taste, giving it a distinctive twist from Henry’s other two flavor offerings.

“We are thrilled to see such strong excitement for Henry’s Hard Soda. Consumers are raving about both Hard Ginger Ale and Hard Orange flavors,” said Bryan Ferschinger, MillerCoors senior director of innovation. “We believe our Hard Cherry Cola hits that perfect balance of familiarity and appeal, and we can’t wait for people to try it.”

Since launching in January 2016, Henry’s Hard Soda has become the No.1 hard soda. Henry’s Hard Ginger Ale is the top-performing ginger ale in the category and Henry’s Hard Orange is the fastest-turning product in hard sodas.1

Henry’s Hard Soda offers a fun and exciting way to put an unexpected, adult spin on familiar flavors. The brand is supported with a national, Gen-X targeted marketing campaign that kicked off in January 2016 and features adults who have grown up, but have not grown old. The campaign includes TV, digital media, social media, billboards and point-of-sale marketing.

“Our focus remains on the Gen-X audience because we believe this is a group that continues to be overlooked,” said Ferschinger. “We know Gen-Xers have stuff to do tomorrow, which is why we created Henry’s Hard Soda. Henry’s provides just the right amount of fun, helping people embrace their ‘Live Hard-ish’ lifestyle.”

Division Winemaking Announces 2016 Releases

Well known for production of lesser-known wine varietals, Division Winemaking Company’s (DWC) founders Kate Norris and Tom Monroe celebrate summer with their sixth vintage release, offering carefully selected wines prime for the season. The 2016 summer releases include two distinct variations of Gamine Grenache Rosé Pétillant & Pétillant Naturel, a personal expression of Norris under her Gamine label, as well as DWC Chardonnay “Trois” the first single chardonnay release from this vineyard, Pinot Noir “Deux” and Pinot Noir “Trois.”

Norris launched the Gamine label at DWC in fall of 2015 inspired by her love for the Rhone Valley region of France. DWC new releases are currently available online, are distributed to 17 states, Canada and France, and available at the SE Wine Collective. Recently DWC launched a brand new way to experience Oregon wines through their two-tiered membership-based wine club featuring all DWC wines. The club serves as a great way to taste your way through new wines, learn about unique varietals, and experience the next wave of Oregon and Washington winemaking with select wines sent to your door or available for pick up at the winery twice a year. Featuring the “Undivided” collection with six wines shipped twice a year and the “Divide and Conquer” with a customer choice of 12 wines, also released twice per year.

Norris and Monroe arrived in Oregon in early 2010 with youthful energy and armed with the wealth of experience and knowledge that they learned in France. Not being taught the more traditional New World winemaking methodologies most commonly seen on the West Coast, provided the opportunity to start their own winery uninfluenced by the New World norms. The wine company has become an ambassador for the new generation of Portland produced wines and serves as a guide to the hottest upcoming varietals and wines such as Gamay Noir, Chenin Blanc, and Old World-style rosés. Determined to make approachable and balanced wines though minimal manipulation, they have a passion to work with well farmed terroir expressive vineyards, many of which are organic and/or Biodynamic®, celebrating the varietals they as winemakers love to drink. Now in their sixth vintage, Norris and Monroe represent a new generation of winemakers that are looking beyond the status quo to create unique styles of wine, with a purpose, a story and without traditional barriers.

2016 Summer Wine Releases

2015 Gamine Grenache Rosé Pétillant & Pétillant Naturel
The bubbles are back and in two fun and distinct expressions! This is the second vintage of sparkling wine made under Norris’ personal project, Gamine Wines, which started with the idea to create a lovely, fresh and approachable ap ro style bubble with a richer grape varietal picked early to preserve acidity and liveliness. The 2015 vintage in Oregon had record heat units. Tom and Kate both love the Quady North Mae’s Vineyard in the Applegate Valley AVA in southern Oregon and had worked with the grapes as the sole component of their Loire clones dominated based Division Cabernet Franc, and Kate’s Gamine Syrah. Herb Quady has become one, if not, the best growers in the region, grew up in the family of the famed Quady Winery in California’s Central Valley, later became the vineyard manager for Randall Graham’s Bonny Doon wine empire before first coming north to southern Oregon with his sights on applying organic farming techniques to a region with mostly undiscovered vineyard potential. His Mae’s Vineyard block slopes southeast into the Applegate Valley in what can only be said as one the prettiest spots we’ve seen in the state. Loamy/clay and marine sediment overlay sits on top of a large granite slab (yes granite!), which makes this a truly distinctive site to work with. picked our Grenache very early to preserve acidity and the fresher vibrant flavors and weight.

2014 Division Chardonnay “Trois”
The Willamette Valley is typically one of the coolest and wettest major wine growing regions in the U.S, which clearly favors the delicate, but seemingly boundless potential of the Pinot Noir grape that seems to show its best on the fringes of suitable farming. While 2014 was not a cool and wet year, it was one of those extremely rare vintages where we experienced enough warmth throughout the season, as well as harvest time dry weather to bring in really amazing high quality grapes at the optimal moment! We have been very fortunate to work with some of the best Chardonnay sites in the Willamette Valley and again are ecstatic with the old vine Biodynamic Davis 108 at Cooper Mountain Vineyards’ Old Vines site (1978 planting). The Gross family has created one of Oregon’s greatest stories dedicated to truly sustainable farming and wines made very naturally, so we feel very akin the Gross’s and their winemaker, Giles de Domingo.

The wine is light and airy, but still full and rich. The aromatics begin with a slight amount of well integrated reduction that shouts graphite and flint. The palate has great presence and begins with well structured white peach skins, to some lemon crème and ends with a distinct calcium/lime minerality. The 2014 Division Chardonnay “Trois” brings a very classic Old World character to it that will lend itself to extended ageing. If you’re going to drink now, a bit of decanting is helpful and will help coax out the complex expression.

2014 Division Pinot Noir “Deux”
The Willamette Valley is typically one of the coolest and wettest major wine growing regions in the U.S, which clearly favors the delicate, but seemingly boundless potential of the Pinot Noir grape that seems to show its best on the fringes of suitable farming. While 2014 was not a cool and wet year, it was one of those extremely rare vintages where we experienced enough warmth throughout the season, as well as harvest time dry weather to bring in really amazing high quality grapes at the optimal moment! Vista Hills is a 42-acre vineyard that sits high atop the Dundee Hills AVA, reaching heights of nearly 900 feet, which is quite high for the Willamette. The slow ripening conditions and well-draining Jory soil are ideal for Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and the site is farmed LIVE certified sustainable and Salmon Safe, producing premium fruit without taking a toll on the special environment it’s nestled in.

The wine is red fruit dominated with amazing palate width that exemplifies the ferrous Jory soils. The palate is all cherry and strawberry with iron like mineral tones and is texturally well developed. This wine is purely high quality classic Oregon Pinot Noir that is drinking exceptionally well at the time of release and will likely age well.

2014 Division Pinot Noir “Trois”
The Willamette Valley is typically one of the coolest and wettest major wine growing regions in the U.S, which clearly favors the delicate, but seemingly boundless potential of the Pinot Noir grape that seems to show its best on the fringes of suitable grape farming climates. While 2014 was not a cool and wet year, it was one of those extremely rare vintages where we experienced enough warmth throughout the season, as well as harvest time dry weather to bring in really amazing high quality grapes at the optimal moment!

First planted in 1980 on what is believed to be the remnants of an active volcano, this certified organic vineyard is situated between 660 and 860 feet in elevation on Nekia, Jory and Rittner soils. The elevation aspect lead to warm and sunny days and very cool evenings, which helps the Pinot Noir from Temperance retain its legendary acidity while still demonstrating intensity and complete phenolic ripeness. Temperance Hill is farmed by Dai Crisp, one of the best viticulturists in Oregon, or in the U.S. for that matter, with impeccable care and dedication.

This ruby colored wine is all cherry and intense mineral on the palate that has soft coating tannins that fit perfectly with the textual components. The initial aromatics are pure Pinot Noir traits with deep black cherries and fresh dried tobacco leaves.

Upgrading the Whiskey Sour

By Micah Cheek

Bittermilk: The name is made up, but the quality isn’t. “We wanted to evoke a more southern feeling. We wanted to do another avenue of business. The idea is, the labor is in the bottle; just add booze,” says Owner MariElena Raya.

Bittermilk, purveyors of cocktail mixers, has won a sofi Award in the Cold Beverage category for its No. 3 Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour. The mix, made with bitter orange peel, lemon and honey smoked over barrel staves, is made for mixing with bourbon for a whiskey sour, or tequila for a smoked honey margarita. The company, based in Charleston, South Carolina, was inspired by the experiences of owners MariElena and Joe Raya as they operated their Charleston bar, The Gin Joint, after their house-made mixers began receiving lots of attention. “We got a lot of people asking for the recipe, but coming back and saying they had trouble finding the ingredients or it didn’t taste the same.” says Raya. “People often refer to them as bitters – they have bittering agents in them. We use organic juices; we use some interesting culinary techniques like barrel aging.”

Bittermilk’s first big break, an award from Garden & Gun magazine, gave an unexpected boost to the small company. “We won as a finalist in the beverage category, for the No.1 Old Fashioned. We went to selling 10,000 bottles in December. And we’re hand bottling and capping them. We had a small warehouse that we used a lot for our bar, and then it just went nuts. That was an amazing award to win,” Raya says.

Soon after, Bittermilk products became finalists in both the Good Food Awards and sofi Awards. “The acceptance of the product has been wonderful. We spent a great deal on branding. It really paid off,” says Raya. “A lot of people want to stock the product. They love the look and it fits into their store. Customers say they bought it because it looked neat, and they come back and say it’s like they’re addicted to it.”

With a gold sofi for the shelf, Raya is hoping to increase Bittermilk’s footprint. “Buyers can recognize the award and know it’s important. We’re not sure what to expect, but we’re really excited to branch out,” says Raya. “We haven’t delved into the Northeast that much and the Midwest. California’s been a great area for us, and all of the Southeast. The Northeast is still untapped.”

Bittermilk’s strongest sales have been during the holiday season, and Raya is preparing for it with some new options. Gift sets and new packaging have been in the works, as well as seasonal flavors. “We’ve done a lot with the No.7 – we’re doing it as a seasonal mixer. Last year, we did a Gingerbread Old Fashioned. This year, we’re coming out with a Yuletide Old Fashioned with sour cherry,” says Raya.

Raya has also released a line of bar syrups under the name Tippleman’s. “The Tippleman’s line is geared more to the restaurant industry, and people who want to explore more with cocktails,” she says. “We’re selling just the maple syrup that we cook over oak staves, and the burnt sugar – you can make a really great tiki drink with that.”

Champagne Shipments to U.S. Increase for Third Consecutive Year

The Champagne Bureau, USA announced today that 20,508,784 million bottles of Champagne were shipped to the United States in 2015, an increase of 6.61 percent from 2014. This marks the third consecutive year of growth in Champagne shipments to the United States.

“It is wonderful to see U.S. consumers buying Champagne at record numbers. The strong growth represents the real excitement consumers have for Champagne and highlights the important role Champagne plays in the growing U.S. wine market,” said Sam Heitner, Director of the Champagne Bureau, USA. “As more Americans drink wine, they are placing more value on wines that come from unique places. This desire to understand where their wines come from is a key to building long-term connections with consumers and why we like to remind all that Champagne only comes from Champagne, France.”

The United States is the second largest export market for Champagne, trailing the United Kingdom, which imported 34,153,662 bottles in 2015. Worldwide, Champagne shipments totaled 312,531,444 bottles, an increase of nearly 2 percent over last year.

More than merely a type of wine, Champagne is a unique winemaking region with a long history of winemaking expertise. In fact, its historic hillsides, houses and cellars were recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Therefore, to earn the right to label their bottles with the “Champagne” name, the growers and producers of the Champagne region adhere to strict grape growing, harvesting and winemaking regulations. In recent years, the region has also been lauded for its environmental leadership, launching a comprehensive carbon reduction effort that has already reduced the region’s carbon footprint and establishing a new environmental certification for wine growers and producers to quantify their environmental sustainability and advances.

Mead with Love

 

By Richard Thompson

 

Breweries like Sky River Meadery and Moonlight Meadery are offering new delicious flavors – such as raspberry, blackberry, and even strawberry rhubarb – along with traditional honeyed staples in their dry, sweet and semi-sweet mead lines.

“It’s coming back as a beverage of choice,” says Michael Fairbrother, Founder and Head Mead Maker at Moonlight Meadery and President of American Mead Maker Association.

Moonlight Meadery, which opened in 2010 and is based in Londonderry, New Hampshire, offers a line of 70 different products and has seen interest in mead explode over the last year. “Production in the first two years was about 24,000 bottles (2000 cases), but we have done close to seven times as much in the last year alone,” says Fairbrother.

Kurt’s ApplePie, the meadery’s top seller, won the gold metal at the 2013 Mazer Cup International and is made with Sunny Crest Farm apple cider with Madagascar-bourbon vanilla and Vietnamese cinnamon. Its sweetness is balanced by the tartness from the added cinnamon, and the vanilla lightens it up, says Fairbrother.

Desire, a sweet mead made with blueberries, black cherries and blackcurrants, is the company’s flagship mead and won first place in the New England Regional Homebrew Competition back in 2009. Fling is made with strawberry rhubarb and orange blossom honey and has a light tartness that balances the sweet with strawberry notes. “I suggest to customers to try it with a goat cheese salad,” says Fairbrother.

Coffee in Bed, a dessert-style mead with a rich, robust honey-note, was another award winner at the International Mazer Competition that goes well with dark chocolates, tiramisu and German Chocolate cake.

Sky River Meadery, a Washington-based meadery found in the Woodinville Winery District, has been open since 1997 and specializes in traditional meads and honey wines. “We only make mead,” says Denice Ingalls, President and Wine Maker at Sky River, “We keep it simple and approachable.”

SOLAS, the meadery’s flagship mead, is a tribute to Old World meads, says Ingalls. Using saturated, smokey whiskey barrels from Dry Fly[TM] Distillery, SOLAS is a very sweet mead that combines honey and wheat whiskey flavors and is definitely an indulgence that should be sipped.

The company’s 10 different meads – with nine currently available – range from a traditional Brochet mead that has a darker, richer quality – due to the honey being caramelized before fermentation – to the Ginger mead that has a sassy ginger note with a spicy finish. “Our Rose mead is the ‘boudoir’ wine, luscious and indulgent, and pairs beautifully with meals where there are a lot of pistachios, like Persian and Middle Eastern foods,” says Ingalls.

 

 

American Born Moonshine Celebrates Second Anniversary

American Born Moonshine celebrated its two-year anniversary with a nod to the past and a push to the future. Founded in 2013 by Patrick Dillingham and Sean Koffel as the lead product of Windy Hill Spirits, American Born Moonshine has expanded its reach to 24 states, while also staking its claim as the fastest growing moonshine brand in the United States, doubling its sales volume over the past year.

“2015 has been an incredible growth year for American Born Moonshine,” says Co-founder Sean Koffel. “We are now available in 25 states across the nation and we have expanded our reach with national marketing campaigns in music and racing as well as local bartender campaigns to help give people the best moonshine experience. We are looking forward to a great rest of the year with more growth on the way for 2016.”

In the past year, Windy Hill Spirits’ first brand has achieved overwhelming success. American Born Moonshine is identified by many as the most authentic and best tasting in the category and is poised to be the category leader. Earlier this year, Windy Hill Spirits kicked off a number of partnerships with large national retail and grocery chains including Kroger’s, Walmart, Safeway, and Albertson’s and expects this to be a significant area of future growth for the brand. In addition, American Born Moonshine has grown geographically and organically over the past 12 months, doubling sales volume and depletions in the same time frame.

“We have seen tremendous positive feedback on American Born Moonshine since we rolled this out in Florida earlier this year,” said Eric G. Pfeil, Vice President of Sales, Premier Beverage Company. “The volume has surpassed our initial expectations and projections. Additionally, the folks from ABM have been very responsive with the market needs, and have provided excellent resources. We are looking forward to continued success with the brand and with Windy Hill Spirits as a whole.”

To celebrate its incredible growth over the past two years, American Born Moonshine will be unveiling a new program called #sharetheshine, which will honor the bartenders, retailers and bootleggers who serve the company’s moonshine this fall and winter. American Born Moonshine will be utilizing the hashtag #sharetheshine to track pictures of bartenders serving these participants and will select the most creative image as a winner every two weeks. The winner will be contacted and will receive an American Born Moonshine crate filled with the best “ABM Moonshine Bootlegger gear.” To participate, people just need to like or follow @AmericanBornMoonshine on Instagram and post their most creative image embodying #sharetheshine. Participants can tag a friend or two they’d like to share the shine with and then hashtag #sharetheshine. Winners will be chosen randomly.

There are three different types of American Born Moonshine – Original, Apple Pie and Dixie:

  • American Born Moonshine Original “White Lighting” is a 103-proof, unaged corn whiskey made from a blend of corn, sugar and water. The recipe is high in corn content yet still embraces the sugar to allow for a smooth finish and remarkable mixability.
  • American Born Moonshine Apple Pie is 83 proof made from a 100 percent corn base with natural apple and cinnamon flavors.
  • American Born Moonshine Dixie is an 83-proof sweet tea-flavored moonshine. Dixie is made from a corn base combined with natural tea flavors.
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