YOUR greatest wine experience ever in a restaurant?

After the recent discussions on the worst wine experiences in restaurants people had, I figured we need to balance that out by sharing our greatest wine experiences in restaurants.

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I love the thread idea. So many to think of but I will start with this one. The Egon Müller collector dinner at Ko at the last Rieslingfeier where Dade Thieriot added several once in a lifetime bottles…a write up I did is below:

After a couple of unsanctioned events to welcome visiting winemakers (Nadine and Julian Haart and Julia and Klaus-Peter Keller at Robertas (remind me to tell you about the 2017 Keller Pettenthal Auction and 2018 Keller Scheurebe!!!) + Leo Alzinger and Andreas Hütwohl at Secchu Yokota) the official start of Rieslingfeier was upon me on cold crisp NYC night and I could not be more excited!

Apologies I really wish my notes were better however I really try to just listen to everything the winemaker has to say especially when its Egon Müller.

This first event was a small dinner for 12 guests at Momofuku Ko featuring Egon Müller. Mr Müller is an enthusiastic and staunch supporter of Rieslingfeier and has come almost every year (one year he had to be in Australia for harvest). Every year he and Stephen Bitterolf come up with a “geeky” wine theme and he digs deep in his cellar to make it happen. This year the theme was “off” and “on” vintages. The idea was to compare and discuss great vintages and not great vintages side-by-side. It is an absolute joy to discuss wine with Mr. Müller as he has an unbelieveble memory and is very open and honest.

The night began with our group being ushered into the kitchen to find a selection of American beers and snacks from the Momofuku Bar menu (I highly recommend eating at in the experiment Bar area) notably - Fried But Cold Chicken, Osetra caviar and Crepes and Pickle Sandwiches. As an attendee of many wine dinners I have to say this was so much better than the usual stand around waiting for all of the guests to arrive drinking some just ok welcome wine whilst knowing you really don’t want to waste any alcohol consumption capacity because of what is to come (usually particularly boring for me since I am always early)! More than half of the guests were from out of town including one person who flew in from Hong Kong - it is after all Rieslingfeier! The restaurant did a great job with the entire evening - food was excellent and paired extremely well and the wine service was outstanding. I highly recommend their private room for wine events.



Flight 1 - Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Kabinett

Fascinating flight that was a great way to highlight the theme.

87 - Brown in color. Egon said it was because he had to deacidify. He did note that 87 was the last year that he had to deacidify and that 87 was the bad vintage in Germany. Despite the color it was a lovely that paired well with the food. It tasted sweeter than the other Kabinetts most likely due to the deacidification. Drank much better than the color and vintage would have suggested and a quirky wine that paired well with the food.

88 - light crystal clear color. Beautiful demur nose. Savory with everything in balance.

89 - Ripest of the three and a beautiful overall wine with everything in balance. Definitely the best wine of the flight but the other two definitely had their own unique personalities.

Flight 2 - Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Spätlese

81 - This wine was a real stunner and was a great choice for this theme. I have not had many 81s and have always written the vintage off. This was light, fresh and minderal driven and simply a joy to drink.

83 - As expected a beautiful all around wine with everything in balance. Riveting.

Flight 3 - Le Gallais Wiltinger Braune Kupp Spätlese

I should start saying I don’t drink enough of the Le Gallais wines. This dinner helped me to understand the difference between this vineyard and Scharzhofberger. Interesting the soil is red slate. The vineyard is half owend by the Müller estate and they have a 99 year lease on the other half. Egon called these wines rich in comparison to Scharzhofberger I struggled a little bit to understand what he meant by this

14 - One of the best 14s that I have had. Lighter in style but still very juicy with lots of depth.

15 - Surprisingly open for a 2015 and an another perfect overall wine. Balance is always key to the greatness of Egon’s wine. And even though they might be ripe/sweet he has to have the correct amount of accompanying acid.

Flight 4 - Egon Müller Scharzhofberger Auslese

06 - Really tough year with lots of Botrytis. Another quirky wine that is enjoyable to drink but lacks acid for me. It will be interesting to follow this vintage over time.

07 Much more acid and enjoyable for me. Beautiful overfall wine.

And then things got absolutely nuts! An extremely generous and long-time collector added these bottles!!!

Finale Flight

Apologies the notes trail off here as I was simply engrossed in the wines.

71 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Auslese Goldkapsule - what an honor to taste this wine. Absolutely beautiful wine that I could have sat with all night. It was not as big as I thought it would be. It was a perfectly balanced wine that so many things going on it is impossible to describe.

71 Le Gallais Wiltinger Braune Kupp BA - Another moving experience. Gasoline, petrol nost then ripe brown fruit followed by Lapsang souchong and over time a patchouli aroma develops.

88 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger BA Auction - The highest level wine made in 88. The striking aspect of this wine is how dense and packed the flavors were but yet it was still light on its feet.

90 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger TBA Auction - There were only 24 750s sold at the Auction in I believe 98. Such an honor to drink this wine and with the person who made it! Dark, dark brown extremly viscous and packed with every flavorable imaginable. An emotional and moving wine…

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… was in the late 1990’s, at a restaurant in Santa Monica. I ordered a Cain Five Meritage from the early '90’s. It was a roll eyes wine. Even the non geeks knew they were drinking well. What a shame they didn’t have a second bottle. I would eventually get my hands on a couple of 375’s that the winery told me to drink on New Years eve 2000.

We have had some memorable ones, but the one that comes to mind right now is a wine dinner several years ago where Ponzi wines were featured. It was the first time we had tasted Oregon wines in over twenty years and we were stunned how good these wines were across the whole range. We were especially impressed with a Pinot Noir Reserve. This experience opened our minds to trying not only more Oregon wines, but other new-to-us wines in general.

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a Bipin Desai tasting long ago. Maybe 2009. Called the great nines. Tasted amazing wines from vintages ending in 9. Included Romanée Conti and Vogue Musigny from 1929. Beyond headspinning. At Soago BH, as I recall but not sure. Have notes on eBob . . .

One of the most fun winemaker dinners I had was with Adam Lee at L’etoile in Madison many years ago. The wines were great, food was ok, but just very fun event.

Most memorable was Liger Belair at EMP. Food was perfect. Wines were almost all out of large format and all were singing (if not a big young) and Louis Michel, as always, was an affable host. I wish I could do this dinner again.
88BB00C9-01C9-4C12-ABC6-4722A5D16F05.jpeg

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long ago, don’t remember the exact price I bought it at but found a b of DRC Montrachet at a restaurant for about $350. Bought it and drove to Wine Ex and got $3500 for it. Now when I eat there, I feel like it’s a free meal.

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At the Painted Lady in Newberg, OR in 2012 I had a 9 course degustation meal, each paired with a tasting pour of a different wine. Good mix of Old World and New World, and the paired food offerings were excellent. The intimate setting in the dining room of an old Victorian house made it seem more like a dinner party than a restaurant meal.

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We have had some great nights at Bern’s, but the most unexpected treat was when we visited Wild Boar in Nashville several months before they closed. They were clearing out that great cellar by dumping bottles on the pairing menu. I specifically remember 83 Lafite, which was not the best bottle of the night. 5 courses with wines for about 120 bucks I think.

Mine was probably 20 years ago, give or take, at the Marche aux vins in Ampuis. The Marche was a bit under the radar then, and there was a small, close-knit group of mostly American wine board folks who met up there – mostly because we’d heard about it from Stuart Yaniger. There were six or seven or maybe eight of us. Myself, Stuart, Howard and Rhoda Sherry, and Stuart’s co-blogger The Other Stupid. Those folks I’m sure about. Maybe also John and Beth Sprow; maybe Cor and Els Balfoort from Holland; maybe someone else. I miss those folks, and those days. For ten different reasons, the times can’t be revisited, except in memory.

One of the days, after a long day of tasting young wines, Yaniger decided we needed to visit a restaurant out in the hinterlands for dinner. Stuart was a bit secretive about the location and wouldn’t give written directions, so the second car had to follow his, into the dark January evening. We arrived, and the wine list and prices were not to be believed. We ordered two vintages each of Chave blanc and rouge; I can’t remember any other specific bottles we had, but there were several. At the end of the meal, they brought us complimentary pours from a fine old bottle of local brandy. We lingered long into the night.

After the drive back to Ampuis, where my car was still parked, I faced a fifteen minute drive to my hotel. I remember taking a long walk in the wee hours of the morning before I felt capable of driving. It had been a very good day.

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So many over the years, but in the early aughts Jeff Leve organized a handful of bacchanalian meals at The French Laundry, all of which were memorable. One dinner in early 2006 with Jeff, Eric LeVine, Brad England, Steve Mathessen, Greg Gregory, and me was particularly epic. I’ve copied Eric’s notes (edited for format only) from CellarTracker and hereby request forgiveness for likely violating the TOS. The six of us ate and drank well that night after a handful of other over-the-top wine lunches and dinners in Los Angeles over the preceding weekend.

The Grand Finale with Leve at the French Laundry
Yountville, Napa Valley, CA
Tasted Monday, February 20, 2006 by Eric with 2,008 views

INTRODUCTION

Well, five days of sheer hedonism drew to a close with our much anticipated dinner at the French Laundry. My partners in crime were host Jeff Leve, Brad England, Mark Kaplan, Steve Mathessen, and Greg Gregory, a perfectly sized group to share bottles with. And oh those bottles, as everyone stepped up amazingly!

For me this was a first trip to a Thomas Keller restaurant, so I was as excited about the food as I was about the extraordinary lineup of wines. On this night the wines were the star with the food taking a backseat. Several of the courses were brilliant, and everything was prepared impeccably and with amazing ingredients. However, I never felt swept off my feet by the cuisine. The wines on the other hand, oh my, it was amazingly educational and certainly one of the greatest and most memorable meals I will enjoy. I didn’t even bother taking notes on the food, so sorry for the scant details.

FLIGHT 1
With a cavalcade of fascinating early courses, we sipped on a wonderful Champagne.

1990 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut
France, Champagne
Ordered off the list. Rich with a bready style. Very tight and mineral at first but opening up nicely with some time in the glass. Gorgeous stuff.

We transitioned into some salad and seafood courses with an awesome Chablis, and Leve was so taken (he hates acid) that he bought some Raveneau at Premier Cru on the way home.

FLIGHT 2
1998 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux
France, Burgundy, Chablis, Chablis 1er Cru
Ordered off the list on strong recommendation from the somm. This is surprisingly round and lush in style with amazing concentration. With air this did get more flintiness and matchstick elements but was never steely or cold. Clean and delicious, a fantastic wine and great accompaniment to many of the early dishes.

FLIGHT 3
Ok, this is what we were waiting for. We still had a lobster course to get through before heading into the meats, but we needed to get into the reds. We decided to get the real oldies out of the way first. What a flight, as the Cheval was one of the most remarkable and educational wines I have ever seen. You could literally feel the pulses and the volume at the table rising as we excitedly dipped into these. Now we’re talking!!!

1921 Château Cheval Blanc
France, Bordeaux, Libournais, St. Émilion Grand Cru
This was a Vandermeulen bottling. When first poured I was worried that this was madeirized, as it mostly smelled of caramel. However, the wine had a miraculous transformation in the glass, getting darker and darker the longer it aired. The nose shows roasted coffee, caramel, balsamic and that ubiquitous ‘Asian spice’. On the palate this was initially quite sweet and seemed a little simple. However, after a few minutes in the glass it started to explode with a huge palate, drenched in nut oil, toffee, amazing weight and power, liqueur like in the mid-palate and then finishing out, amazingly, with Port-like intensity. Now I finally know what Parker means when he described the similar character of the 1947 Cheval Blanc. At one point, I noticed a fascinating thing: the candlelight in the restaurant was shining through my glass in just the right way such that you could see the viscosity of the legs illuminated on the tablecloth. This stuff was thick and it made me declare that in its youth this wine MUST have topped 14%. The table laughed at me, but 3 days later I read the Parker review and saw that in fact he had stated the same thing, hah! Anyway, this was really and truly one of the most memorable wines I have ever tasted, and it gave me my first true glimpse into what Bordeaux can really turn into with enough time.

1949 Château Latour Grand Vin
France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
This showed much lighter color than the Cheval. However, the first sniff was an OMFG experience, with a surprisingly young blast of cassis. Some lead pencil elements creep out, and the freshness on the nose is so very encouraging. Alas, the palate doesn’t deliver the goods, showing some notes of blood and iron, clean but fairly linear and not showing much weight, a little mintiness. And then as the 1921 Cheval gained more power and color alongside of it, this one seemed to crack up showing cherries and getting increasingly tart and short. I don’t know if this was a damaged bottle, but it certainly bears no resemblance to Parker’s review of the 1949. Oh well.

FLIGHT 4
Next we moved into a great course, whole, roasted lobes of foie gras served together with a salt tray featuring about 10 exotic salts. After 5 straight days of foie gras I thought I had enough, but this was a sublime preparation. For this one course, the food took precedence over a fine but not mindblowing wine.

1967 Château Gilette Crème de Tête
France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
This is a lovely Sauternes, and it was paired perfectly. The nose is thick and complex. The palate is lovely, with very nice acidity, but the weight here is a bit underwhelming at least as compared to a taste of the 1967 d’Yquem from a couple of years ago. Certainly this is a great bottle of wine, but it didn’t move me especially deeply.

FLIGHT 5
Jeff did a great job of convincing the kitchen to shuffle things, and we ended up with a fantastic pork belly course to pair with a pair of La La’s, a great way to snap back into the reds after the foie/Sauternes course. (You always run the risk of having the reds suffer when your palate has just seen a very sweet wine, but I saw no ill effects as we kicked this meal back into turbo.) It didn’t seem to me like people were blown away by these wines, but for me, this was hog heaven!

1983 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Mouline
France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie
Does Côte-Rôtie get any better than this? Not for me at this point in my tasting experience. A huge nose of blood, iron, horse and bacon is just unreal. Just sexy, sexy, sexy with loads of smoked meat. The palate is equally lush and sexy, a fantastic bottle, amazing acidity and vibrancy, loads of cherry, perfume and smoked meat. For me, with a luscious piece of pork belly, wow Syrah does not get any better.

1983 E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie La Landonne
France, Rhône, Northern Rhône, Côte-Rôtie
This was another beautiful 1983, more stern, reticent and darker than the La Mouline tasted alonside. This reminded me more of a Hermitage with iron and roasted meat. It took an extra hour in the glass before it really started to shine, although it never hit the same heights as the La Mouline.

FLIGHT 6
Now it was time to break back into Bordeaux. From here I honestly couldn’t tell you much about the food, but the wines, oh the wines! We did have one total dud in the 1961 Haut Brion, but otherwise wow!

1966 Château Lafleur
France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
Initially this seemed like the obvious wine of the flight. Loads of coffee on the sexy nose with a faint marine/seaweed hint. The nose is just to die for, although the palate was very tannic and while sweet and pure it seemed to be drying out a bit.

1961 Château Haut-Brion
France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
This was an off bottle. When first poured there was excitement from a few folks, but on my first sniff I found an intriguing nose with roast coffee, chalk, soy and alas, an overwhelming blast of volatile acidity. Increasingly the wine became stalky and vegetal as it quickly died in the glass. Surely this was a very flawed bottle.

1961 Château Latour Grand Vin
France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
Oh my, this is like Syrup of Bordeaux, black in the glass with smells of beef blood and dusky black fruit. With a lot of air the cedar comes out to play, and amazingly the wine is getting darker and heavier in the glass. Wow, there is just so much weight on this wine. I was very sad to see my last sips go on this wine that amazingly still seems far too young?!?

FLIGHT 7
Next we moved into a flight of 1982’s. When the contrast was too extreme within the flight I would go back and sample the wines from the prior flight (e.g. the right-bankers with each other).

1982 Château Lafleur
France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
As exotic as the 1966 Lafleur was, the 1982 was just so much more over the top. Meat, plums, OMFG!!! This is hard to believe. It gains in intensity and is like plums and mint macerating in blood, so explosive, overwhelming and consuming. Wow…

1982 Château Mouton Rothschild
France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
This was my second taste ever of this legendary wine, and the first one was from a bad bottle. This bottle was pristine, and it screamed from the get-go with huge notes of black fruit, hints of coffee and graphite. The palate is like pure, liquefied minerals, so thick in the mouth you feel like you could poor this on pancakes. Very distinct, very loaded with minerals, dry, powerful, not even close to ready to drink. But wow…

1982 Château Lafite Rothschild
France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Pauillac
The nose is awfully bright, piercing in fact, with sharp notes of cedar, cinnamon, mineral and cassis. It is a lovely wine, but in this flight, fairly overwhelmed.

FLIGHT 8
After the preceding wines, these seemed almost painfully young, but wow, what a way to finish out the reds!

1989 Pétrus
France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Pomerol
This was my first ever taste of a Petrus. I have heard that many vintages do not live to the hype, but surely the 1989 is not one of those. As exotic and powerful as the 1966 and 1982 Lafleur were in this tasting, the 1989 Petrus was at a whole different level. The concentration is off the charts, and this seems like a wine that will need decades to really be ready. The nose is just packed with licorice and minerals, but the truly remarkable aspect of the wine is the sheer size of it. Seamless, dark, and incredibly long. Amazing!

1989 Château La Mission Haut-Brion
France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
This bottle was far, far better than the 1989 La Mission we had the prior Thursday. Exploding from the glass with raspberry, leather and smoky, roasted earth. This is a baby, but this bottle delivered the goods. This was probably the most drinkable wine of this flight.

1989 Château Haut-Brion
France, Bordeaux, Graves, Pessac-Léognan
It is a rare showing when this wine is 3rd out of 3 in a flight, but this was a very tight and reticent bottle that was simply smoked by the La Mission and Petrus. Usually this wine is opulent and stunningly well rounded, but this bottle showed a lot of structure. It did seem to come to life quite a bit after an hour in the glass, but it was not a great showing given the amazing reputation of this wine. Oh well, this is still a rock-solid wine.

FLIGHT 9
At last, dessert was here and so was the d’Yquem. This was a baby killing, but I enjoyed the heck out of it.

2001 Château d’Yquem
France, Bordeaux, Sauternais, Sauternes
Well, Leve called this “thin”, but I loved it. Unctuous and powerful yet with amazing acidity. It doesn’t have quite the weight of the Suduiraut or the sheer focus and precision of the Rieussec, but it seems like a perfect cross. Undoubtedly this will take decades to really strut its stuff, but it’s pretty fun right now as well.

CLOSING

Wow, what a night!

All of my thanks to Jeff and my cohorts for all of their generosity in organizing events (Jeff, the King of Offlines) and stepping up with simply amazing wines. Wow, I need a rest!

I almost never buy wine off a list unless I am traveling, so I don’t have a ton to choose from, but our visit the Le Parc at Crayeres in Reims was stupendous. The champagne portion of the list is encyclopedic. I had a blast flipping through it, but ultimately had the sommelier choose a few bottles for us. Sensational meal, sensational wines, and (shockingly given the environment) incredibly friendly and helpful service

I’ve had more than my fair share of wonderful and great wine experiences in restaurants; far more than the few and far in between disappointments. And all of them shared with good friends, most with many of you, here on the board.

The one that perhaps stands out the most was the wonderful wine experience at l’Epicure at the Bristol Hotel in Paris, where we celebrated my 60th birthday with a number of friends including a number of fellow Berserkers. I had met with Chef Eric Frechon and the wonderful sommelier Bernard Neveau a few times beforehand and we planned the evening. The greatest pairing (IMHO) of the night was a 2001 La Tache with a poulet de Bresse served in a pigs bladder. The breast was served with chanterelles and crayfish, and the leg served in a truffle jus with leeks and potatoes. For the group of 20 for that one course, I had planned on three bottles. “Wilfred, the guests are drinking a lot of the wine” Bernard whispered to me. “How many bottles do you have left?” I asked. He replied, “Three more” so I asked him to have them ready to go. The 20 of us went through all 6 for that one course! Thisty crew! But it was fun and memorable and softened the blow of turning 60. Everyone said they remembered that course and pairing of the poulet de Bresse with the wine.

Another great experience was sitting in the garden of (then located) Troisgrois in Ruanne, France, relaxing, with Kelly Walker and Kevin Shin, with Francois Mauss and Pierre Troisgros. When we went to the dining room, among other wines, we had a (help me out on the vintage, guys) a Lafon Montrachet that remains to this day the best white wine of my life. I guess age prevents me from remembering exactly the vintage, but Kevin or Kelly will remember for sure.

The final wine related experience was a night of wonderful wines with Francois Mauss and Laurent Vialette at Le Cinq in Paris. We always have had wonderful experiences when we are together, and Bernard Beaumard (the GM) came by our table as we were finishing our wines and said (“I suggest you to stay here, don’t move. In about 5 minutes, Tina Turner and her group will walk right by your table.”). And low and behold, she did! Though only peripherally related to the wine, it is a memory I will always carry.

More than one memory, but I’d say those stand out in my mind, among a gazillion more. As you can see, so many delights; not many disappointments!

Hi Wilfred, any event drinking wine with Kevin Shin and Kelly Walker is memorable. I’ve had a few myself. Great guys. I also dined at Epicure just before Covid shut everything down. It was the 20th anniversary tasting menu which included the chicken dish. Unfortunately no La Tache for me that day. Excellent meal. I discussed the trip with someone who was at your party and they told me it was one of the best dining experiences they had ever had.

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I had read about their 20th anniversary celebration. Would have loved to have gone. I remember our Bern’s dinners very fondly.

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So many. Some current and former places run by wine geeks have just been regularly great. They’re thrilled to have fellow winos bring special bottles. You’re sharing with them and they’re sharing special open bottles with you, or even opening something they want you to try. It’s common to see other wine friends there, and to meet new ones. They feel comfortable enough to bring out dishes they’re working on for your feedback. It’s like your group being there was the highlight of their week.

Perhaps the best was an '80s Mount Eden dinner at The Plumed Horse in Saratoga. Such a great group of people in a private room, excellent pacing through the wines, each flight with a new course, perfectly coordinated with the staff, excellent food that paired well, all flawlessly executed.

Chef’s wine pairing dinner at Element 47 at the The Little Nell in Aspen. Aspen Restaurants | Enjoy Fine Dining in Aspen at Element 47

The wine and food pairings were spot on. What made it so memorable was as the restaurant got quieter later in the evening, the wait staff gathered around our table to hear about our hike earlier that day and to share their own stories of Aspen area adventures. Dinner was about $400 from what I remember, but it’s an experience we’ll never forget.

a 6+ hour lunch at Troisgros with Allen Meadows and some similarly-minded Burg geeks that included 93 Rousseau Chambertin, Leflaive Chevy, Jayer Cros, too many wines to remember and (still) the greatest meal of my life.

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In the early 90’s while leaving in Philadelphia, one of our frequent restaurants (The Dilworthtown Inn in West Chester) had a kitchen fire. While putting the fire out, 1000’s of gallons of water drained into the wine cellar below. While, the wines mostly were unharmed by the fire, many had their labels fall off. We ate there shortly after they reopened. Mr Barnes, the maitre’d, offered us some wines they could no longer offer on the wine list as the label was gone although they knew what the wine was because of the bin. They were offering these at a flat $50. Our wine that night, 1985 Dujac Clos de la Roche.

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