Best Napa Tastings/Tours

Tasting notes, varietals, grapes - anything related to wine
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N. Justl
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#1 Post by N. Justl » November 6th, 2015, 9:17 am

My fiance and I are headed to Napa Valley as part of our Honeymoon at the beginning of December. While I have already scheduled a few tastings at special places, I was curious as to feedback to the best tasting and/or tour experiences in the valley? Any and all suggestions are welcome. We are very excited to visit the area in a few weeks! champagne.gif

Also, some restaurant recs in the valley would be greatly appreciated!

I know there have been threads about similar topics in the past, so I apologize in advance for digging up an ongoing topic.
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#2 Post by Jack White » November 6th, 2015, 9:54 am

I enthusiastically recommend the following Napa winery tours to all my friends:

Shafer
Hall (Rutherford location)
Dancing Hares
Schramsberg
St. Supery
Ladera

For food (other than The French Laundry):

Press
Redd
Mustard's
Gott's Roadside (burgers)
Dean & DeLuca (sandwiches/picnic foods)

Enjoy! [cheers.gif]

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#3 Post by Scott E. Wade » November 6th, 2015, 10:26 am

The tour at Pride really is nice.

I somehow always end up at Plumpjack. I like it.

By the way, the last time I was out there were tasting fees almost everywhere, but I ended up not paying any because I bought wine and they applied it as a credit to the purchase.

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#4 Post by Bdklein » November 6th, 2015, 11:00 am

Jack White wrote:I enthusiastically recommend the following Napa winery tours to all my friends:

Shafer
Hall (Rutherford location)
Dancing Hares
Schramsberg
St. Supery
Ladera

For food (other than The French Laundry):

Press
Redd
Mustard's
Gott's Roadside (burgers)
Dean & DeLuca (sandwiches/picnic foods)

Enjoy! [cheers.gif]
+1 on Schramsberg and Gott's Roadside. Somewhat different than other wineries and food places in Napa.
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#5 Post by Gary Ahearn » November 6th, 2015, 12:19 pm

We were there last month. For tours, I'd recommend Pride and Chappellet--for the overall experience--i.e. not only the wine tour, but also the drive and scenery.

Restaurants we were at:
Bistro Jeanty. My wife said it was the best meal she's ever. An epiphany. Don't miss.
Mustard's Grill: Perhaps the best burger I have ever eaten. The rabbit--pretty good.
Glen Ellen Star: I ordered the special, duck confit and sausage. Everything I had that night was 10/10. My wife, 8/10.
Yeti (Glen Ellen): Dismal.
Glen Ellen Market: Incredible sandwich selection. 10/10. Can't believe this market is in such a small town. By comparison, the sandwiches we had at Dean & Deluca were very disappointing. 4/10. But they have an excellent wine selection.

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#6 Post by Alan Rath » November 6th, 2015, 12:25 pm

Congrats on the upcoming wedding, you've picked a great place to celebrate, IMO.

The Yountville area is a really nice place to hang out for an afternoon or a day. Several cool restaurants like Ad Hoc, Bouchon (which would be my choice), Redd, Redd Wood, Bouchon Bakery (for pastries and light sandwiches), Bottega. There are plenty of shops to wander if you want that, and a couple of very nice spas if either of you are into that. My favorite restaurant in the Valley is probably Press, though all of the recs above are good as well.

For wineries, I agree with Pride as a very cool place to visit (make an appointment, but that's not problem to get in advance). Shafer would be a great visit if you can arrange it (use the honeymoon card wherever you go, of course).

In addition to food and wine, if you're at all interested in fine art photography, be sure to go to Mumm Napa and walk through their beautiful photography gallery. There is always a rotating exhibit of some kind, and usually some Ansel Adams on display as well. Speaking of which, Turnbull winery has a very nice photog exhibit in their tasting room. That would make a nice stop for tasting and viewing. They are supposed to change over to an all Ansel Adams display in December, though I'm not sure exactly when.

Have fun, don't plan too much, relax and enjoy!
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#7 Post by Howard Cooper » November 6th, 2015, 1:26 pm

I really enjoyed Stony Hill.
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#8 Post by Benjamin Hand » November 6th, 2015, 1:31 pm

If you know anyone who can wrangle you a Dominus tour, it's tremendously interesting.

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#9 Post by Bruce Rudman » November 6th, 2015, 1:42 pm

I would add for dinner restaurants, Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen. As for wineries, something out of the norm, I really liked the people and tasting at Porter Family (near Atlas Peak). Depending if you are on their lists there are Myriad and Realm Cellars. While near Shafer, I would consider visits to Failla and Boswell. And, even if not for the wine, a beautiful place to visit is Chateau Montelena.
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#10 Post by ericskitei » November 6th, 2015, 2:08 pm

[quote="Gary Ahearn"]We were there last month. For tours, I'd recommend Pride and Chappellet--for the overall experience--i.e. not only the wine tour, but also the drive and scenery.

Restaurants we were at:
Bistro Jeanty. My wife said it was the best meal she's ever. An epiphany. Don't miss.
Mustard's Grill: Perhaps the best burger I have ever eaten. The rabbit--pretty good.
Glen Ellen Star: I ordered the special, duck confit and sausage. Everything I had that night was 10/10. My wife, 8/10.
Yeti (Glen Ellen): Dismal.
Glen Ellen Market: Incredible sandwich selection. 10/10. Can't believe this market is in such a small town. By comparison, the sandwiches we had at Dean & Deluca were very disappointing. 4/10. But they have an excellent wine selection.[/q

The owner and Chef at Glen Ellen Star is an old friend of mine, Ari Weiswasser. Rising star in the culinary world and the restaurant is doing some great things. I would highly recommend making a stop there if you can

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#11 Post by Chad Richardson » November 6th, 2015, 8:18 pm

+ 1 on Glen Ellen Star. I think tastings/tours is impossible to answer without more info on what kind of experience and wine you're looking for.
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#12 Post by Randy Bowman » November 6th, 2015, 8:38 pm

Since I don't know what you like in wine I'll just mention Herb Lamb, Lagier Meredith and Anderson Conn Valley because the people can be so much fun and the quality of wine.


Don't want fu fu food: Too much food is available at Cole's Chop House and Ristorante Allegria. Real food the locals flock to so reservations are a must. Don Perico's if you want too much Mexican food. All within one block.
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#13 Post by H Wallace Jr » November 6th, 2015, 8:42 pm

What part of the valley are you staying in? (It will help with food recs.)
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#14 Post by Joe S. » November 6th, 2015, 9:00 pm

Have fun - you cannot go too far wrong....

Wineries we like:
- 10 am sparklers on the patio at Gloria Ferrer or Domaine Carneros (Carneros, not Napa)
- Pride, Chappellet, Realm, Favia, Mike Smith at Carter, Morlet
- Failla for a nice wine change-up (pinot instead of cab) and
- there are lots of fine wineries around which we have never been to
- don't rule out a day in Sonoma either for some beautiful scenery and some great pinots.

Restaurants:
- Been to Morimotos, ZuZu, Oenitri in Downtown Napa. All are good but I like the wine and tapas at ZuZu.
- Bottega in Yountville is great - SH and I always eat at the bar there.
- We love sipping wine and nashing pizza with a great expansive view of Napa Valley from the patio at Auberge du Soleil. Get a couple massage if you got the benjamins.
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#15 Post by David H. » November 6th, 2015, 10:22 pm

Del Dotto Caves is fun, be prepared to barrel sample a ton. I am sitting in SFO now heading back from our trip and we had a tour at Storybook that was fun, interesting, and informative.

If you get over to the Sonoma side, we did a tour at Ridge this morning and that was great. Really informative, took close to two hours and the wines were singing. I'll come back with the vintages but we tasted the Carignana, Pagani Ranch Zin, Lytton Springs Zin, Estate Merlot, and 2012 Monte Bello.

Press is an excellent recommendation, we've dined there three times out of four visits. If you enjoy bacon, definitely get the sampler as an app or with drinks before dinner.

We also dined at Bottega and really enjoyed the meal there. I'd certainly go back.
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#16 Post by Kirk.Grant » November 7th, 2015, 4:18 am

Howard Cooper wrote:I really enjoyed Stony Hill.
+1 Very cool people. Sarah Sandbeck of Sommelier on Wheels introduced me to them. I had some amazing whites from the 80's & 90's while visiting in 2007 & 2011.
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#17 Post by Greg Ballington » November 7th, 2015, 4:23 am

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#18 Post by Andrew Demaree » November 7th, 2015, 6:05 am

Fisher is a great visit with a beautiful property, terrific wines, and a very friendly staff (including several Fisher family members). Their Cabs, Merlot/blends, Syrah, and Chardonnay are all excellent.

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#19 Post by Karen Troisi » November 7th, 2015, 6:06 am

Celadon, Torc and La Toque are all very good restaurants in downtown. Oneotri and Ca'Momi are also good (casual).

We would love to host you - please PM me if you would like to set up a tasting with us - our new Napa tasting room should be ready by December. We share space with pureCru wines and are located in the courtyard across from Oneotri.

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#20 Post by T. Schaffler » November 7th, 2015, 6:15 am

One of the things I enjoyed to do was to concentrate tastings and tours into a specific area versus running all over the place. We also liked to stop at the oakville grocer to get some provisions for the day like bread, cheese, water, etc to have a nibble as you went from place to place.

For example, if going to pride up spring mountain, which is a beautiful drive, I would also consider tours/tastings at Sherwin family, Barnett vineyards, etc. Spottswoode is another place to work into one of the ends of this road trip is at the base of spring mountain road.

Howell mountain is another area to explore but is on the opposite side of the valley. Many places to explore.

The carneros area is another. South and west of the city of Napa. The rec for domaine Carneros is spot on especially for a days starter on a sunny day. Had a great time at etude. The outdoor space was fun and they had a band the day we were there.
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#21 Post by Brian Tuite » November 7th, 2015, 6:32 am

Gary Ahearn wrote:We were there last month. For tours, I'd recommend Pride and Chappellet--for the overall experience--i.e. not only the wine tour, but also the drive and scenery.

Restaurants we were at:
Bistro Jeanty. My wife said it was the best meal she's ever. An epiphany. Don't miss.
Mustard's Grill: Perhaps the best burger I have ever eaten. The rabbit--pretty good.
Glen Ellen Star: I ordered the special, duck confit and sausage. Everything I had that night was 10/10. My wife, 8/10.
Yeti (Glen Ellen): Dismal.
Glen Ellen Market: Incredible sandwich selection. 10/10. Can't believe this market is in such a small town. By comparison, the sandwiches we had at Dean & Deluca were very disappointing. 4/10. But they have an excellent wine selection.
You ate three times in Glen Ellen and didn't go to the Fig Cafe? [smileyvault-ban.gif]
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#22 Post by Brian Tuite » November 7th, 2015, 6:35 am

David H. wrote:Del Blotto Caves is fun, be prepared to get drunk.
FIFY!
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#23 Post by N. Justl » November 9th, 2015, 9:15 am

Thank you everyone for the feedback! Much appreciated!

For some reference, we are staying in Yountville and currently have dinner reservations at Bouchon and Bistro Jeanty.

As for wine, some of our California favorites include: Rivers-Marie, Chappellet, Bedrock, Carlisle

We are planning on heading up to Chappellet, but am curious as which tasting/tour is recommended and how long it takes to get up there? I want to allot enough time without being rushed.

Have scheduled:
Schramsberg
MacDonald
Bedrock

Some other wineries we are considering:
Shafer
Hall
Pride (based on this thread)

Please keep the info coming! We are very excited to celebrate soon!
Nick

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#24 Post by John Davis » November 9th, 2015, 9:54 am

N. Justl wrote:Thank you everyone for the feedback! Much appreciated!

For some reference, we are staying in Yountville and currently have dinner reservations at Bouchon and Bistro Jeanty.

As for wine, some of our California favorites include: Rivers-Marie, Chappellet, Bedrock, Carlisle

We are planning on heading up to Chappellet, but am curious as which tasting/tour is recommended and how long it takes to get up there? I want to allot enough time without being rushed.
I don't know what tour we did with Chappellet. I'd do some sort of search to see how long it takes to get there from wherever you are up to Chappellet. I remember we just barely made it. We went on the tour (set up by their distributor in Indiana) where they took you up on the hill and got some great views. They poured a bunch of wines and opened up some other things by request of some of the other guests. Who, by the end of the tour were thankful they hired a driver. Anyway, its a great view and, to a person, we have found everyone associated with the winery to be very, very nice. They are a bit pushy about getting people to sign up for one of their mailing lists. We very much enjoy their Chenin Blanc.

Big fans of Bistro Jeanty, too, enjoy!

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#25 Post by Alan Rath » November 9th, 2015, 10:22 am

Google maps says about 20 minutes to Chappellet from Yountville, which seems about right. About 30 minutes to Pride, which also seems about right (barring bad traffic up 29, which you shouldn't have on a weekday). Always a good idea to pad the times a bit.

If you haven't done a lot of this, be very careful tasting and driving. If you're driving yourself, you can do it, but you must spit (don't be embarrassed in the least to do this), and be very cautious about drinking, particularly at any place where they pour a bunch of wine.
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#26 Post by N. Justl » November 9th, 2015, 11:12 am

Any particular car services I should look into for driving us around the valley?
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#27 Post by Joe Chanley » November 9th, 2015, 12:05 pm

i'll second lagier Meredith and add corison

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#28 Post by jhemming » November 9th, 2015, 5:23 pm

N. Justl wrote:Any particular car services I should look into for driving us around the valley?
4 years ago we used Ona Marks' service Designated Driver. She'll often set up appointments for you as well.
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#29 Post by Gary Ahearn » November 9th, 2015, 5:36 pm

Glad to hear Bistro Jeanty is on your list. You won't be disappointed. My wife ordered the Epaule de Porc (slow roasted pork shoulder) followed by the prunes soaked in armagnac with vanilla ice cream--says it's the best meal she's ever had at a restaurant. The waitress recommended the dessert, said it was the chef's favorite and rare to find it on a menu.
We did the hour and a half tour a Chappellet--not cheap, $45 apiece . . . but worth the splurge.

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#30 Post by Monte Mast » November 9th, 2015, 6:16 pm

N. Justl wrote:Thank you everyone for the feedback! Much appreciated!

For some reference, we are staying in Yountville and currently have dinner reservations at Bouchon and Bistro Jeanty.

As for wine, some of our California favorites include: Rivers-Marie, Chappellet, Bedrock, Carlisle

We are planning on heading up to Chappellet, but am curious as which tasting/tour is recommended and how long it takes to get up there? I want to allot enough time without being rushed.

Have scheduled:
Schramsberg
MacDonald
Bedrock

Some other wineries we are considering:
Shafer
Hall
Pride (based on this thread)

Please keep the info coming! We are very excited to celebrate soon!
Congrats from a fellow Houstonian - or at least up here in Tomball.

I've been to many of the places you are considering.

Rivers-Marie - Will does great tastings. There isn't anything "new" but you get to taste the stuff you bought. Outpost might be another TRB site to taste as well.

Chappellet - Went here on our last trip. One of the better formal tastings we have been to. Great views. Very personalized

Schramsberg - Not really into bubbles but still one of the very best tastings. The history and the process are amazing.

Bedrock - I have yet to do a tasting but certainly buy enough wine from Morgan.

Conn Creek - The Blending Experience is absolutely worth it. Not cheap but you get a bottle that you have blended. It might be cool to open when you eat that year old cake on your anniversary. Do heed their warning about eating before you go.

Other tastings we have enjoyed ate Lamborn, O'Shaughnessy, Robert Biale. Venge is our epiphany winery but I'm not sure they are doing visits much beyond their mailing list. Turnbull is beautiful if you are into photography.

You won't go wrong anyplace in Yountville to eat. You might want to try to get into Tra Vigne before it shutters. If you do the tasting menu at Redd, each person will get a different dish for each course.

Enjoy.
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#31 Post by H Wallace Jr » November 9th, 2015, 10:01 pm

For food

If you are heading to Bedrock, you have to go to the Fremont Diner. (breakfast, lunch, early dinner)

Yountville-
Redd Wood

St. Helena
Model Bakery
Farmstead ($5 corkage)
Gott's

For additional wineries-
Di Costanzo http://www.mdcwines.com
Failla
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#32 Post by ERPark » November 9th, 2015, 10:38 pm

I've been blessed to have been able to tour/taste at the following (all have magnificent architecture, well-regarded portfolios and friendly hosts):

Harlan
Dana Estates
Continuum

If you're lucky enough to get a chance to visit any of these, I'd highly recommend you do so.
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#33 Post by P Soals » November 10th, 2015, 9:53 am

Is it possible to get into Harlan without arriving by Helicopter???

Another winery to consider, Joseph Phelps just completely renovated their visitor center, and it's pretty spectacular now.

Second votes for Pride, Domain Carneros, and Shafer.
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#34 Post by ERPark » November 10th, 2015, 10:06 am

P Soals wrote:Is it possible to get into Harlan without arriving by Helicopter???
Guess I was lucky to be able to drive there....... newhere
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#35 Post by N. Justl » November 10th, 2015, 10:39 am

Is Shafer worth the cost to be able to taste Hillside? I guess the same may go with Phelps and Insignia?

Corison and Failla do look like great options to explore further!

What are the overall thoughts around larger operations like Hall, Frog's Leap, Cakebread, etc.? Worth the time and cost, or should we focus on smaller operations?

Also, what is the ideal number of tastings to shoot for in a day? 3? 4?

Thanks!
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#36 Post by Alan Rath » November 10th, 2015, 11:10 am

Nick, Given that it's your honeymoon, I would strongly advise taking it easy, not planning more than 2-3 tastings in any day (particularly if they require some driving in between). Take it easy, relax, enjoy the surroundings and your time together. Those memories will be much more important in the future than squeezing in another wine tasting. Personally, I much prefer the smaller places, where you're likely to get more personalized attention. Failla is an excellent choice, you would enjoy tasting there. As far as evaluating cost, you have to decide for yourself what wines you like, and what might be worth spending some $$ to do. I would stay away from the main Hwy 29 places that charge, and focus more on more private and personalized service. I'll add Montelena to the list, not sure that I've seen it in this thread.
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#37 Post by Bud Carey » November 10th, 2015, 11:13 am

Solid advice!!
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#38 Post by Bdklein » November 10th, 2015, 1:32 pm

Go for a couples mud bath at Golden Haven.
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#39 Post by N. Justl » November 10th, 2015, 1:58 pm

Alan, thank you very much for the advice. That is the information I was looking for on how many tasting to schedule per day without feeling rushed. Also the part about about personal service is spot on. I will focus my attention towards identifying and scheduling smaller places.
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Best Napa Tastings/Tours

#40 Post by F.Daner » November 11th, 2015, 4:33 am

Nick- we just got back from a few days last week for our anniv trip. We did 2 visits a day with lunch in between. You could squeeze an occasional 3rd visit in but Alan is spot on.

Robert Craig and or Lamborn at the top of Howell Mountain are great visits. Lamborn doesn't charge and RC might waive if you purchase wine and or join their club. Smaller producers won't charge but the goal is to have you become a customer if you like the wine.

Several folks were raving about this place as one of the best new restaurants. We didn't get a chance to try it. No reservations so you show up and wait a bit but it sounded like it's well worth it.

http://www.ciccionapavalley.com/about

Congrats !
Fred

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Andrew Demaree
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Best Napa Tastings/Tours

#41 Post by Andrew Demaree » November 11th, 2015, 5:19 am

By the way, if you're looking for a break from cab while you're out there, Chase Cellars (owners of Hayne Vineyard) offers a nice private tasting in a beautiful setting. The wines are very good - mostly zins, a petite sirah, and a rosé. They do also make a cab, but in limited quantity, so they weren't pouring it when I visited in June. The wines are now made by Russell Bevan.

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Best Napa Tastings/Tours

#42 Post by J. Migone » November 11th, 2015, 5:34 am

Keep us posted on your trip. I'm going out the in January with some friends and need to decide what places to hit up.

Last time I went with the wife and two visits a day plus a random hit and run tasting worked well. As always Auberge de Soleil is really nice and romantic, though pricey.
The one and only Obi Juan Migone

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Joe S.
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Best Napa Tastings/Tours

#43 Post by Joe S. » November 11th, 2015, 6:13 am

J. Migone wrote: As always Auberge de Soleil is really nice and romantic, though pricey.
+1. And even if you do not stay there, you can relax with a beautiful view from their patio with a nice glass of wine and some appetizers/salads.
-- J. 'eS-eye-dee-dee-ay-eL-eL-
BornToRhone (CT)

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