A Good Year

A Good Year: May 2013

Friday, 31 May 2013

Mother's Day Food & Wine Pairing


In order to fit all the moms, grandmoms, mom-in-laws and their schedules in we ended up with one of the Mother's Day celebrations being on the Friday night.  My sister-in-law came up with the brilliant idea of having a food & wine pairing.  Brilliant, I thought, until I received the e-mail listing 11 different pairings highlighting 5 of which were my responsibility!!  Never to back down from a cooking and wine challenge I researched all the recipes I needed, sent my other half to get those wines that we couldn't find on our rack, donned my apron and got stuck in under masterchef time restrictions (after traffic and the shops, to be ready by 7pm)!


Everything turned out very impressive, we even had individual plates/tiles to serve each canape on, the table was beautifully decorated, the food was all delicious and quite gourmet if I do say, the wines were most appropriately paired and the time seemed to just disappear before we realised it was well past 1am and we should probably get some shut eye.

No wine notes tonight (that would be rude), but a snippet of the pairing menu below and a few photos of the canapes we were most proud of.

1. Bruchetta with goats cheese and roasted aubergine paired with Windmeul Sauvignon Blanc.

2. Chicken Curry on a sweetcorn blini paired with Tulbagh Winery Colombard.

  3. Avocado Ritz on Choux Pastry paired with Creation Chardonnay.

4. Salmon roulade with potato crisps and apple mousse with Darling Reserve Chenin blanc.

5. Wild mushroom and pesto tart with Tulbagh Winery Pinotage/Shiraz.

6. Butternut soup with Barefoot Merlot.

  7. Thinly sliced beef with Balsamic reduction and beetrootmicroleaves with Windmeul Cabarnet Sauvignon

   8. Lamb Riblette with Tamato Chilli Jam and   Porcupine Ridge Syrah.

   9. Pear & Chocolate Cake dessert (Tart Belle Helene - http://tuis.co.za/nuus/bon-appetit/) with Windmeul white muscadel.

 10. Chocolate truffles and rose nougat with with Laborie Rose MCC.

11. and last but not least 15 year old KWV served with ginger nougat.

Honestly, the food was amazing and so well paired with each of the wines. It seemed like a bit of an effort, but what a fantastic idea and evening. We will definitely be doing this again,perhaps next time with not as many pairings.

Truffles and MCC

Chocolate and Pear Tart


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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Creation Wines


Deeper into the Hemel & Aarde (Heaven & Earth) Valley and 7km on a dirt road is the beautiful, and aptly named, Creation wine farm.  They are busy tarring the road to get there at the moment, but for now it is worth every kilometre of dirt road getting yourself there.  It is autumn at the moment and so all the vineyards are turning yellow and red, lining the drive into to the tasting room.  The tasting room is warm and friendly, they even have a kids playroom with chairs and paintings made from old barrels.  We had a little one with us and they were so accommodating bringing a mat and toys and juice next to our table. 

It was late afternoon and yet they were full of people either lingering on from lunch or enjoying the wine pairing.  The wine pairing looked absolutely delicious and had we not have just eaten lunch we would have definitely tucked in.  But now its all the more reason to go back again on our next weekend in Sandbaai.  If you go onto their website they actually have a really cool pairing section with recipes to do your own pairings at home - great idea!

The staff were just lovely, very knowledgeable and relaxed making you feel right at home.  The view is stunning looking over the dam and up a mountain where the sunsets behind, with a quaint little church up on one of the hills.  Although the decor setting appear to be smart and chic, the environment is relaxed and friendly.  Glass windows on the floor allow you to see down into the cellar when you walk in.  There is even a fire place in the middle for the colder winter days.

The winery makes use of Riedel wine glasses.  We enjoyed a Riedel tasting when we were still in the Cayman Islands.  A different shaped wine glass is made for every kind of wine.  They make you smell and taste the wine in one glass and then transfer your wine to the next glass to smell and taste the difference the glass makes, it is quite remarkable.  The glass really does make a different in terms of the scents you pick up on the nose and the flavours you experience on the tongue.  You will see below in the tasting notes how each glass compliments the particular wine served.  And so in your tasting at Creation, each wine is served in a different glass.

A lovely, lovely afternoon was had by all and we will definitely be back again!

My wine notes below...

This wine smells like apples and lemons, even a little peachy maybe.  A very nice Sav B, not as crisp and fresh as you would expect, but more on the fruity lemon and kiwi flavours.  Surprisingly heavy legs too.  Served in a tall glass with a narrow rim, this glass lands the wine in the middle of your tongue picking up the more acidic and bitter flavours expected in a Sav B.  The smaller top also enhances the nose when smelling.

Now this wine smells more floral, like rose petals and a sea breeze, very subtle though not a strong nose at all.  Our TRH noted how it has a similar affect as that of ginger with sushi, the way it is sharp and yet softly cleanses the palate.  He also recommended pairing it with Thai food or a curry because of its subtlety it compliments the stronger flavoured foods.  It has soft vanilla, peach and apricot flavours with a bit of spice on the finish but it goes down softly.
Its nice to know now what pairs well with a curry other than Riesling, we'll have to try that next time.

This was served in a much wider glass than the above two wines.  The wider glass puts the wine on the sides of your mouth where you will pick up more of the sweeter flavours.  With the strong nose on a Chardonnay this wide glass also softens these harsh tones.  This wine was a bit lighter than a rich Chard, with a caramel popcorn nose.  Still buttery and quite fruity.  With the wider glass you don't get as much of the strong wood flavours but more of the fruit flavours and tartness with a smooth caramel finish and after taste when you breathe out.

Everyone agreed this is definitely one of the nicest Chardonnays we have tasted, whether it be due to the glass or the actual wine, we won't know but my other half bought a bottle to take home (when do you buy Chardonnay to take home, not very often at all!?).  Luckily we have very wide big glasses at home to make sure we have the same experience.

This is a young wine, quite a light, brighter RED colour.  Our TRH noted that you could use it in place of Listerine in the mornings as it has that fresh taste when you breathe in afterwards.  There is a slight spice on the nose.  It is a very fruity, lovely flavoured wine.  Again, it may be the effect of the glass or Pinots may be growing on me.  The berry flavours were stronger than usual and I would definitely enjoy this as an easy drinking summer RED.  A lovely smooth finish and definitely one of the nicer Pinot Noirs I have tasted.

Perhaps the glass shape again but this Merlot was more spicy on the nose than you would usually expect.  It is quite earthy on the nose, like when it rains on a dirt road, with a hint of pepper (white powder pepper or green peppers).  It could probably rest for a year or two, which the TRH confirmed, but it would also be quite enjoyable now.  The flavours are very berry with an unusual hint of tobacco smokiness.  It is not so dark in colour, but has quite heavy legs.  It is not very tanniny, but has quite a dry almost peppery finish.  We thought it would pair well with a wild game meat.

BORDEAUX BLEND 2011 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot) 
This wine has a lovely rounded palette and as the TRH suggested it is certainly not to be wasted on vegetables... rather a nice fatty lamp chop!  It is also still quite young and will get better with age (3-5yrs), but still delicious.  Most of us preferred this blend to the Merlot above.  With quite heavy legs and strong nose, the flavours have a hint of spice but not as peppery as the Merlot more of a sweet spice.  A lovely blend of fruit and spice, very smooth and very nice - perfect for red meat.
Other than the great Chardonnay experience, this was the favourite at the Creation.

SYRAH 2011
They say this is a feminine Syrah, not that it is only for the ladies, but rather it is softer than other Syrahs.  While still spicy it has more of a Christmas mince pie spice nose to it with a hint of Turkish delight.  To me it smelt like berry compost, with definite spice.  TRH recommended pairing this wine with your richer foods like duck or oxtail.  This is quite a sweet Syrah, very fruity and spicy, it is definitely a softer, smoother wine with quite a dry finish.  Very enjoyable.

It really was a great tasting experience with all the pairing ideas learnt and the Riedel glass experiences as well as the stunning views and ambience.

On a side note, I tested Nigella's zuchini cake with home made lemon curd in the middle and cream cheese icing.  It came with for the weekend and went down a treat for afternoon tea before heading to Creation wines for some tastings!


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Monday, 27 May 2013

Wine with dinner - Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc

We had a few "Cupcake & Cocktail" evenings which were just an excuse for the girls to get together.  Having said this we actually managed to make some pretty impressive cocktails and as you can see, all kinds of creative talent came out in the cupcake decorating!

This wine was brought by one of the girls thinking the name was spot on, but we didn't actually get around to pairing it with one of the cupcakes it was rather enjoyed on another night of girls watching "So you think you can dance"

My wine notes...

WINE:  Cupcake Sauvignon Blanc
VINTAGE:  2011
PRODUCER:  Cupcake Vineyards, California, USA
REGION & COUNTRY: Marlborough Valley, New Zealand
GRAPE VARIETY:  Sauvignon Blanc
PLACE TASTED:  A friend's house while watching So you think you can Dance with the girls.

APPEARANCE:  A fresh yellow hue, enhanced somewhat by the yellow border on the label.
NOSE:  Fruity, like citrus fruits, your oranges and lemons.
TASTE:  Very crisp and almost creamy, like a lemon chiffon cake.  It would go excellently with a victoria sponge. 
FINISH:  A lovely smooth finish, not tart at all, quite light actually.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: A delicious, excellent Sauvignon Blanc.
OVERALL VALUE:  4 out of 5

Perhaps a lemon chiffon cupcake or a victoria sponge with peaches would go well with this Sav Blanc. 

See one of my previous posts for more information about Cupcake Vineyards - Wine with dinner Cupcake Red Velvet.

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Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Newton Johnson


This farm was the last stop  (3rd) on our little valley wine tour.  Unsurprisingly we saw some familiar faces from the previous farms, and yes the noise levels were higher.  This farm has a more modern tasting room, almost like an outdoor bar and balcony overlooking the valley and down towards the ocean.  Huge glass windows allow you to look into the cellar with the steel tanks and some very cool artwork lines the walls.  There is also a relaxed Brassiere style restaurant called Heaven adjacent to the tasting room.  The tasting room was quite busy and social, not really lending itself to discussions or details on the wine, rather just the tasting and enjoying of it.  A great atmosphere, stunning views and perfect weather.  A great end to a great day in the Hemel & Aarde winelands before heading to the Hermanus harbour for some fresh calamari and chips - yum!

My tasting notes below...

As mentioned above, the conditions were not exactly condusive to taking notes and too avoid being rude on my phone, my notes again are short and to the point.

This wine smells like grape juice.  Delicious tasting!  4* in the John Platter guide.

This wine has much more of a caramel flavour, I don't think I would have more than one glass as it is quite rich.  It is still very good though.

Very light in colour, the nose on this wine reminded me of a hairdresser, the shampoo and ammonia blend of smells.  It does have 5* from John Platter.  I found it to be the typical watery flavour I associate with Pinot Noirs, having said that it does have a subtle spicy berry flavour in the somewhere.  It reminds me of a less sugary, sweet rose.  I suppose it would classify as a light RED wine, in which case it was quite enjoyable.  (I'm still not sold on the Pinot Noirs - can you tell?)

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Monday, 20 May 2013

Wine with dinner - Juno's Pizza & Wine Special


Juno's wine bar and art gallery is in Paarl.  Even though it is on the Main Street, you somehow feel like you are in the courtyard of the Manor house at a wine farm.  With a short hedge closing in the gravel garden, wooden tables, chairs and barrels under big outdoor umbrellas it really has an awesome vibe. 

The owner is an artist and her work is on display as well as seen in all the Juno branding.  There are lovely aprons, canvases, magnets and all sorts portraying the "Juno Ladies", which are available for purchase.  Being a deli too, there are fresh artisan breads and pastries available all day.

Open all day for wine tastings or simply a glass of wine or beer.  They have their own brand of Juno wines available and Craft beers as well as a great breakfast and lunch menu.  They are usually don't stay open very late in the evenings except on Tuesday when they have their pizza & wine special.  The pizzas are served on wooden squares and are delicious!  The toppings change each from week to week and there are only two different pizzas to choose from.  We are there more often than not and most definitely recommend getting one of each and going halvies...  The combination of flavours is always delicious and there is such a great atmosphere.
Definitely a local favourite, we have spent many a Tuesday pizza evening, Friday evening and even Saturday morning (amongst the cyclists) for breakfast at Juno's!

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Thursday, 16 May 2013

Van Loveren


Upon returning from a weekend in George we decided to break up the journey by stopping for lunch in Robertson.  Coming from Bonnievale side, Van Loveren was the first farm (that we recognised) to pop up right there on the main road.  What a lovely farm!

The tasting room is very simply decorated with a wooden deck outside under the trees.  A short stroll through the garden will bring you to Christina's bistro which is just lovely.  I think we managed to find the last small unbooked table available as the restaurant was buzzing with families and friends enjoying the good food and the one man band. 

With a very simple menu of salads, burgers, pizzas and a daily special, the restaurant has a relaxed country atmosphere.  The pizzas were fantastic, thin crusted and DE-licious!  We had the ASB (Avo, salami & brie) topped with rocket and the Hawaiian (which is made with pork belly and roasted pineapple).  With a bottle of the Van Loveren Sauvignon Blanc to compliment, it was a great Sunday lunch!

We'll definitely come back.

After lunch we decided to share one of the tastings.  There are a number of different tastings you can choose from, chocolate, nougat or cheese pairings, a Four Cousins fan tasting, there is even a kiddies tasting which features a non-alcoholic white & red paired with a little bowl of sweets, just so they don't feel left out. 

We had the Christina tasting which is 5 of the Christina Van Loveren wines with palette cleansers in the form of bread, olive oil and dukka.  It was actually a very nice combination and variety of the different wines.

The white wines were considerably nicer than the REDS and we were wondering what varietals the Robertson valley are better known for. After some research I found out that Robertson is in fact considered white wine territory, traditionally known for it's Chardonnays. So then it was a good thing that we preferred the WHITES to the REDS.

My wine notes below...

A fantastic MCC, honestly delicious.  Not too dry with almost a rose sort of taste.  A delicious soft (on the palate and the bubbles), sweetish MCC.  We gave it a 5 out of 5 and saved the rest for the end of the tasting.  Very very enjoyable!

This wine definitely has a strong green pepper smell, definitely!  A little bit lemony as well.  It is soft on the tongue with a lovely smooth finish, not tart at all, a little like apple juice actually.  A very nice Sauv B. 
We had a bottle of the Van Loveren Sauvignon Blanc with our pizzas at lunch actually preferred it slightly to this one, it had a fuller flavour.  But both were very good.

The nose on this wine is a very strong butter and butterscotch smell (almost burns the nose hairs).  Having said that the flavour is not nearly as harsh as the nose, and while it has quite heavy legs, it doesn't coat your mouth like some other honey like Chardonnays.  It has a slightly zingy tart finish taste that almost makes you cluck your tongue.  A well rounded Chardonnay with the citrus zing and buttery notes.  John platter gave it 4 stars, but I think 3 was more in line with our personal preference.

With a dark rich colour this wine smelt like your typical dark berries and earth.  It had quite hectic legs and was somewhat tanniny.  The wine notes did not give an indication of a year, but perhaps it would be smoother if given a little more time in the bottle, I'm not sure.  It has quite a harsh, not very smooth finish.  It was pleasant enough to drink, but it is the type of wine I would expect to see as a house RED at a family restaurant.

This shiraz has a peppery nose, it actually smells a bit like raw meat or blood - it doesn't sound so nice, but an accurate description.  It has good solid legs on it and a more ruby red colour than the darker wines.  It definitely has a light pepper taste amongst the berry flavours with a subtle nutmeg, clove hint.  Again it was not that smooth and doesn't quite compare with other Shiraz's, but I would say it is an easy drinking, braai time RED.

I am glad I now know that REDS are not the valley's forte and I therefore don't feel too bad about not loving the REDS.

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Monday, 13 May 2013

Wine with dinner - Cono Sur, Alamos, Catena

From time to time I get a friend to fill out the tasting details of a wine in my Little Black Book just to get some interesting descriptions and opinions going, and of course be a reminder of the times spent with them. 

A bunch of us organised a cheese and wine evening so we could sit down together and watch the Olympic Games opening ceremony (replayed obviously with the Caribbean time difference).  What an amazing spread of cheese and preserves we ended up having, with some homemade rosemary flatbread (Nigella's Domestic Goddess cookbook fail proof recipe!).  A lovely evening!

Some friends' wine notes below...


WINE:  Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc (Organic)
PRODUCER:  Vino Cono Sur S.A
REGION & COUNTRY:  Santiago, Chile
PLACE BOUGHT:  Premier, Cayman
PLACE TASTED:  Grapetree Cheese & Wine evening

APPEARANCE:  Nice bottle & label, plain and stylish.  A greenish tinge to the wine.
NOSE:  Citric
TASTE: Easy drinking
FINISH:  Defined taste with a light finish.
OVERALL IMPRESSION:  Fan-tas-tic!  Great evening!  The wine went very well with the Brie Cheese!
OVERALL VALUE:  5 out of 5


WINE:  Alamos Pinot Noir
PRICE:  KYD$ 12.15
REGION & COUNTRY:  Mendoza, Argentina
PLACE BOUGHT:  Blackbeards
PLACE TASTED:  Grapetree.  Watching the London 2012 open ceremony with the girls
APPEARANCE:  Light red, bordering on pink
NOSE:  Sweet, coffee
TASTE:  Delicious, light, smooth
FINISH:  Coffee, light red wine, easy drinking
OVERALL IMPRESSION:  Easy drinking.  So much fun watching the Olympics with great red wine and cheese! 
OVERALL VALUE:  4 out of 5


WINE:  Catena Cabernet Sauvignon
PRICE:  Can't remember
PRODUCER:  Bodega Catena Zapata
REGION & COUNTRY: Mendoza, Argentina
PLACE BOUGHT:  Cayman Islands
PLACE TASTED:  Cheese & wine evening at my house

APPEARANCE:  Red, sign of brilliance
NOSE:  Currant
TASTE:  Lovely and smooth (for a non SA wine)
FINISH:  Aromatic
OVERALL IMPRESSION:  Mixed with great company, what else but lovely! 
OVERALL VALUE: 4 out of 5

Everyone seemed to have an awesome evening!  I think its time to organise another one of these evenings...

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Thursday, 9 May 2013

Grande Provence


Instead of the usual after work drinks on a Friday we decided to go for a nice wine tasting.  Unfortunately so many of the farms close at 5pm and that makes it tricky finding one that is open after work.  Grande Provence tasting room is open until 6pm (7pm in the summer I think) and so we headed there to start the weekend.

The entrance on the main road as you head into Franschhoek makes you expect a large parking lot and grand old Cape Dutch house as soon as you are through the gates.  But instead you drive over the railway line and along the dirt road on a slow meander through the vineyards completely forgetting about any of the bad drivers you encountered on the main road.  The final stretch of the driveway is beautifully manicured and comes out right at the tasting room. 

We sat inside around the bar counter for our tasting.  It was a bit chilly as the sun was going down, but next time I would like to sit outside in the courtyard and gardens.  We didn't wander much further than the tasting room, but it is a really beautiful estate and I can only imagine the restaurant, luxury accommodation and art gallery are fantastic.

We were in no rush, enjoying the stunning scenery and lovely evening, so we opted for the full tasting of eight different wines.

My wine notes below...

DELICIOUS!  This wine smells like apples, like fresh sweet grass.  It does not have the sharpness of lemon or peppers.  The grapes are brought in from Durbanville, an area renowned for its Sauv Bs.  You can definitely taste the pear flavours and a soft zesty finish, this wine is not acidic or tart at all it is really a cut above the rest.  The best wine we tasted here at Grande Provence and definitely a favourite.  We took a bottle with us to the birthday celebrations which followed.

This blend has a sweet, buttery sort of smell with an apricot ice-cream/sorbet flavour.  It definitely has yeasty notes and a cream finish as mentioned in the winery notes.  It has a very smooth after taste, almost a milky taste, its weird.  It tastes cold (like the flavour not the temperature) if that is possible.  An interesting wine, I'm not 100% sold.

With a light golden hue this wine has a lovely light butterscotch smell with a toastiness to it.  The wine seems to roll over your tongue almost like it doesn't even touch, so soft.  A very distinct butterscotch flavour with a smooth vanilla and soft wood finish.  A very enjoyable chardonnay.

According to the TRH the skin of a pinot noir grape is much thinner hence the lighter colour and flavour of the wine.  That explains why they often look a bit watery when compared to other REDS.  This Pinot has quite a sharp nose and smells a bit like dirty soil.  It has quite sharp berry flavours, still light but very berry, more flavour than other Pinots.  It has quite a dry, tanniny finish.  All in all though quite a pleasant wine.

Apparently these vines grow next to Eucalyptus trees on the South facing slopes which gives the wine a hint of minty flavours from the trees (and my understanding is they would have less harsh sunlight being South facing).  This wine has a spicy cedar wood smell, almost a little metallic smelling also.  It has lovely juicy berry flavours, like a mulberry when it bursts in your mouth.  I agree with the strawberry compote description, that syrupy lighter berry flavour.  It has a slight spice with soft aniseed (maybe?) flavours.  With a dry finish and limited tannins this is a very smooth wine, very nice!  The soft, velvety mouthfeel and elegant, lingering finish description is quite apt.

To me this wine smelt like evergreen trees, like the smell on the top of a mountain when you're skiing.  While the wine has quite hectic legs, the spice and white pepper flavours are more subtle.  It has quite a rich berry flavour with a smooth easy finish that just slides down.  It is rated as one of the top 6 Shiraz in South Africa.  I think it is exactly what you would expect from a good Shiraz, nothing out of this world, but a very good Shiraz.

THE GRANDE PROVENCE 2009 (Cabernet & Merlot blend)
This wine can only be purchased from the estate with a mere 3,000 bottles being produced.  With quite a floral nose this wine smells almost like lavender and pot pouri.   It is definitely a full bodied wine with full fruit and rich berry flavours.  It has a slight spice to it and a hint of mint from the previously mentioned eucalyptus.  With a lovely vanilla finish it would be great with a rich steak dinner.  A very enjoyable blend that gets better with each sip.

This fortified dessert wine has a lovely sweet elderflower and Turkish delight smell, it just smells delicious, like fruity flowers.  It smells like a dark strong red rose.  It has very strong grape flavours, obviously, but almost as strong as raisins.  It is actually a lovely dessert wine.  While it is very sweet and sugary it is not like some others that have a syrup feel to them, it is actually quite light on the palate and the overall finish.  I really enjoyed this Muscat.

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Monday, 6 May 2013

Wine with dinner - Groot Eiland

I have an array of cookbooks at home and decided I should start putting some of them to use.  So I started with Jamie's 30 minute meals and whipped up the Beef Hash, Baked Potatoes, Butter beans & Bacon and goddess salad.  All of which I am glad to say come out pretty darn well, with not too much effort and not much longer than 30 minutes - delicious wholesome food!!
Because the evening marked a special occasion we opened a bottle of RED to celebrate and compliment our delicious dinner.

My wine notes below...

WINE:  Groot Eiland
PRICE:  This bottle we received as a gift
REGION & COUNTRY:  Breedekloof, South Africa
GRAPE VARIETY:  Cabernet Sauvignon
RECOMMENDED BY:   My other half received this wine as a gift at a rugby tournament
PLACE TASTED:  At Home.  Having a quiet celebration.

APPEARANCE:  Dark red, almost dark purple colour
NOSE: Earthy, with a limited dark berry smell.  Quite a tart smell that tingles the nose.
TASTE:  Definitely medium bodied.  Quite earthy, slightly wooded and a good mix of dark fruit flavours.  Definitely warms the throat on a cold night.
FINISH:  Very smooth.  A dry finish, but somehow fruity as well.
OVERALL IMPRESSION: An above average Cab Sauv, very very nice!  Very nice balance of fruit and tannins.   Lovely wine, we'll have to look out for other wines from this farm.

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