A Heavenly Visit to Hanna Winery in Sonoma County

In October the Wine Sense Club put on an extravagant field trip out to Hanna winery in Alexander Valley. Driving up the long and beautifully landscaped driveway of Hanna Winery, the Wine Sense club was able to take in the picturesque views of the valley. The club’s wine tasting excursion took place under the large oak tree below the tasting room. Shelby Lozinto, the President of the Wine Sense club arranged a private tasting for the club and presented a selection of the Hanna wines to the club members.

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Hanna Winery in Alexander Valley, Sonoma County.  Photo Credit: Hanna

About Hanna Winery

Hanna Winery was first started in 1985 by Dr. Elias Hanna.  Christine Hanna, president and daughter of Dr. Elias Hanna, took over operations of the winery back in 1996.  When she took over the operations the company’s production was less than 10,000 cases per year; now the winery produces up to 55,000 cases annually and is growing steadily.  Out of the 55,000 case production, 35,000 cases are solely Sauvignon Blanc.

Tasting Hanna Wines

The first wine the club experienced was Hanna’s renowned 2015 vintage of Sauvignon Blanc.  This wine took best in class during the San Francisco Wine Competition and received a double Gold medal during the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. This wine is also produced in the Russian River Valley. Hanna Winery has secured long term grape contracts to supplement their growth pattern.

The second wine presented to the club was the 2014 Hanna Rosé, which was produced in more of a French fashion meaning it was light, crisp, and not very sweet; a dry taste of the wine was emphasized. The Hanna Rosé is almost a 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Malbec. The Malbec is produced in Alexander Valley, whereas the Pinot Noir comes from the Russian River Valley. A fun fact about this wine is to achieve the beautiful light pink color, the skins of the grapes are only in contact with the juices for at most 4 hours.

The third wine the club tasted was the 2014 Elias Chardonnay.  The Elias brand name is derived from Dr. Hanna’s first name, he is also a renowned heart surgeon.  During Dr. Hanna’s career, he was known for having the “Quickest hands in the West.” Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are some of his favorite varietals to grow and consume.  This Chardonnay is grown in the Russian River Valley near the Santa Rosa tasting room. It is also barrel fermented in French and Hungarian Oak which gives the wine its smooth texture.

After the Chardonnay the group went on to sample the Hanna Malbec, which had recently received, the Gold Medal in the San Francisco Chronicle. The Malbec came across as the perfect Fall wine as it resembles pumpkin pie spice, “jammy” cranberry sauce and an essence of sage; the perfect complement to any Thanksgiving meal. Overall the wine was very lively on the palate.

The last wine the group experienced was the Hanna Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This bold wine was given 94 points by Robert Parker. It is grown in Alexander Valley where the valley has the perfect warm and sunny climate to produce Cabernet Sauvignon.

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Big John’s Market

Great Food from Big Johns Market

During the Wine tasting the Wine Sense Club enjoyed refreshing and delicious sandwiches and goodies from Big Johns Market in Healdsburg. At the end of the tasting Shelby escorted the group into the vineyards where everyone was able to sample a few grapes straight off the vine. In the area, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec were available to taste. The group was astonished with how sweet the grapes actually tasted and were amazed at the transformation they go through to transform into wine. To continue with the tour of the property, Brett Roland, a local wine tourist guide was kind enough to take the wine club on a horse and carriage ride down to the ponds. To end the tour of the property, Shelby took the group into the cellar room below the tasting room to show off the barrels and tanks.

Enjoying the wines, the education, the beautiful scenery and clear blue sky above, the group was enamored by the wonderful experience. Overall, Hanna Winery had been a great destination to take in the beauty that Alexander Valley has to offer and enjoy some premium wines of Sonoma County.

Grapes Still Stomped by Foot at Pax Wines in Sebastopol, CA

Contributed by Keira Fernandes – Have you ever felt the soft squishy feel of grapes underneath your bare feet?  Well, this is the way they still make some of the wine at Pax Winery in Sebastopol, California. That’s because owners Pax and Pam Mahle believe in making wine the old-fashioned way. Not only do they stomp their wine grapes by foot, but they refrain from using chemicals or any unnatural additions to their wines. Pax Winery also leaves the skins on the grape for as long as possible to allow for natural fermentation as well as getting maximum flavor.

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Pax Wine Tasting at Sonoma State University Winesense Club

The result is very delicious tasting wines that are fermented by natural yeast, and have achieved high scores from wine critics. They are best known for their red Syrah wine, achieving a perfect 100-point score from Vinous Antonio Galloni for their 2016 vintage.

Falling in Love with Syrah

Owners Pax and Pam fell in love with the Syrah grape after taking a trip through the California wine regions. They especially enjoy cool climate Syrahs, which have higher acidity and complex inky blackberry and anise notes. Therefore, Pax chose vineyards in the cooler climates of Sonoma County and Mendocino. While Syrah is what Pax is known for, they also produce other varietals including Gamey, Chenin Blanc and Carignane.

Visiting Pax Tasting Room in Sebastopol or Online

The Pax tasting room is located in downtown Sebastopol, and is open to walk-ins. They even offer wine on tap! Their welcoming and knowledgeable staff are sure to be able to answer any questions you may have, and you can take home some delicious bottles of Pax wine, or shop online at their wine store.

Elephant Motif and Farm-Stay Wine Experience at Zo Winery

Contributed by Keira Fernandes – This month we had a great educational wine-tasting on the campus of Sonoma State University with Zo Winery. They are located in the Dry Creek AVA of Sonoma County, just three miles outside of the town of Healdsburg.  What is unique about Zo Winery is that they not only offer wine-tasting, but a farm-stay wine experience. They also have a very special focus on elephants, with every wine label graced by an elephant motif.

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The Elephant Connection

The 11-acre vineyard was purchased by David Eckert in 1999 and named after his son Enzo. Enzo’s name is unique in that the first half of his name, “En”, is Japanese for perfect balance and endless, while “zo” translates to elephant; thus, leading to the natural progression of the elephant motif on their wine bottles and their merchandise.

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The Farm-Stay at Zo Winery

Zo Winery boasts a farm stay experience that focuses on the environmental and agricultural impact of their vineyards. Guests can reserve a room in one of the three historical buildings on the premise and explore the grounds. They have wine tasting available on site, as well as a blind tasting experience and an aromatherapy tasting session.

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Zo Wines Giving Back to Elephants and the Planet

A great variety of nine different types of wine is offered at Zo Winery, including the very popular zinfandel – signature grape of Dry Creek AVA, along with cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, viognier, rose of zinfandel and many other favorites.

The team’s passion for their products are reflected in their passion for giving back, with Zo Wines donating 1% of its time to local charities, 1% of net sales to Save Elephants, and 1% of sales to Save the Planet. With the unique experiences they offer, everyone will find something to love about Zo Wines. You can visit their website to see what they have to offer or schedule a visit.

Photos courtesy of Zo Wines website

Toasting Trione Winery at Over 100 Years in Sonoma County

(Contributed by Jane HofmiesterTrione Winery was the most recent guest winery in the SSU Winesense Club educational series.  Boasting over 100 years in Sonoma County, the Trione family are true pioneers in the region.

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The Old Stone Building at Trione Winery

 

About Trione Winery

Beginning as farmers and grape growers, the Trione’s own over 700 acres of vineyards in the Russian River Valley, Alexander Valley, and Sonoma Coast AVAs. They finally started making wine in 2005, and opened a winery tasting room for the public in 2008. Operated by brothers Mark and Vic Trione, along with Mark’s daughter, Denise and her husband, Kris, they opened the winery on the site of the historic Nervo winery.  Click here for a video on Trione Winery.

The Old Stone Building at Trione Winery

The famous Old Stone building was part of the original Nervo winery, and was constructed in 1908.  The Trione’s carefully renovated it, and today it is a showcase for weddings, fundraisers, live music, and other community events. The venue can accommodate gatherings of up to 250 people.

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Wines Featured for the SSU Educational Tasting

A Tasting of Four Trione Wines at SSU

What really stands out at Trione are their wines, produced by winemaker, Scot Covington. They specialize in well-balanced, handcrafted wines from their estate vineyards, with an emphasis on sauvignon blanc, zinfandel, and cabernet sauvignon from the Alexander Valley, and Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast and the Russian River. Frank Tanner from Trione was kind enough to lead the educational tasting with the following four wines:

Trione 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($23) – Aromatic, floral, herbal, crisp, grapefruit, lemongrass, nice minerality. What makes this Sauvignon Blanc unique is that it is made with a yeast strain from South Africa that enhances the flavors and aromas.

Trione 2013 Primitivo a.k.a Zinfandel ($37) – Earthy, fig, currant, blackberry, cherry. Italian style Zinfandel

Trione 2013 Zinfandel ($37) – Blueberry, blackberry, cherry, black pepper, tobacco, plum, long-finish.

Trione 2012 Henry’s Blend ($56) – a blend of the 5 Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. Soft, med-tanins, blackberry, cherry, cassis, cedar, vanilla, oak, tart finish. Will develop in the next 5-8 years.

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SSU WineSense Board with Frank Tanner from Trione

The Favorite of the Evening

All of the wines were delicious, but after the vote, the favorite wine of the evening was the Trione 2015 Sauvignon Blanc.

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Favorite of the Evening – Trione Sauvignon Blanc

 

Russian River Vineyards – A Winery with an 1890 Historic Farmhouse Restaurant and Organic Food Garden

(Contributed by Jennifer Schiff) Is it a restaurant, a farm, a tasting lounge, an historic site, or a winery? Well actually Russian River Vineyards encompasses all five of these functions. Established in the 1960s in the heart of the 10,000 acre Russian River AVA, Russian River Vineyards has grown to be one of the premier organic and sustainably farmed grape-growing properties in California.

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1890 Historic Farmhouse at Russian River Vineyards

This past week  a group of Sonoma State University Millennials was fortunate enough to attend an educational session and tasting at the SSU Wine Sense Club Meeting, with Russian River Vineyards winemaker, Giovanni Balistreri. Giovanni is also one of four owners of the estate. The team carries with them a myriad of backgrounds/experience in real estate, winemaking, fine dining, environmental health, and more — that has helped aid in their success in producing world class wines at this state-of-the-art winery.

The Restaurant in an 1890 Farmhouse with Organic Food Garden

Today, if you visit the winery, you not only find beautiful wines in their tasting room, but just less than a hundred feet away over 45 different types of vegetables are grown with each of them being served at their restaurant daily. The restaurant is housed in a beautiful historic farmhouse dating from the 1890’s.

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Patio of Restaurant at Russian River Vineyards

Beyond the standard tasting experiences you will find at a winery or restaurant, those who visit Russian River Vineyards also have the opportunity to tour the estate, learn all about its sustainable practices and biodiversity, as well as enjoy fine wines alongside fresh produce from the estate’s farm.

Winemaking at Russian River Vineyards

Giovanni explained that they use grapes from their own 6 acre vineyard as well as those produced from surrounding vineyards, and as far away as Mendocino County. Their approach very much embodies the concept of ‘quality over quantity.’ They specialize in pinot noir and Gewürztraminer, but also make a range of other varietals. Almost all wines featured were aged in 35% New, 100% French Oak, with a range of 12 to 20 months for the aging process. Click here to see a great video of Giovanni.

 

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Members of SSU Winesense Board with Giovanni Balistreri

Tasting of Five Wines from Russian River Vineyards

Giovanni led us through a tasting of five different wines, all small lots, of which none  exceeded a case production of 700.

Varietal Vintage Vineyard/

Appellation

Notes Case Count

(Approx.)

Pinot Noir 2014 Sonoma Coast, Petaluma CA Acidic, Silky, Soft 650
Pinot Noir 2014 Appian Way, Sebastopol CA Tart, Bright Fruit, Sleek Style 490
Cabernet Sauv. 2014 R. River Valley, Sweetwater Springs Vineyard Herbal & Dry Integrated Tannins, Dark 200
Charbono 2014 Guido Venturi Vineyard, Ukiah Long Fermen.

Tannins, Grip

200
Gewurztraminer 2016 Kunde, Kenwood Balanced Acidity and Sweetness 420

Favorite Wines of the Evening

When the vote was conducted at the end of the tasting to determine the two favorite wines, the winners were the 2013 Russian River Vineyards Appian Way Pinot Noir ($65) and the 2014 Russian River Vineyards Charbono ($48).

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Wines from Russian River Vineyards

 

 

Wines for the Lawyer and Sicilian in Your Life – Emmitt-Scorsone Winery

(Contributed by Jane Hofmeister) This week, Palmer Emmitt, CEO of Emmitt-Scorsone Winery, visited SSU to share his beautiful artisan wines with us.  Palmer and his partner produce two brands: Judge Palmer and Domenica Amato.

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Emmitt-Scorsone Wines

The Judge Palmer Wine Brand

This wine was name for Palmer’s grandfather James Palmer. He served as a judge in El Dorado County, California in the 1960s and 1970s.  Palmer said this wine is a favorite of lawyers, and also is a great gift for anyone working in a legal environment. However, the velvety and rich taste of this wine will satisfy people from all walks of life.

Domenica Amato Wine Brand

Domenica Amato is made in remembrance of Michael Scorsone’s grandmother who was born in Sicily and moved to America. Her story represents the essence of these wines as Domenica Amato wines are inspired by old world style wines, but have a new world flare that’s fun, funky and fruity.

Wines We Tasted This Week

Domenica Amato  2015 Grenache Blanc  (2% Viognier) – Medium bodied blend with notes of honeydew melon, lemon, stone fruit, and oak. Wine is unfiltered and unfined, grapes grown in volcanic Sonoma soil and stored in both neutral and French oak. Pair with scallops, sea bass, cod, lobster.

Domenica Amato  2015 Chardonnay – Full bodied, Burgundian style Chard with notes of apricot, toasted marshmallow, and lemon custard. Also unfiltered an unfined. Russian River Valley AVA, Sonoma County. Pair with smoked chicken, seafood linguini, bouillabaisse.

Domenica Amato  2007 Pinot Noir – Medium-bodied, modestly tannic Pinot with notes of mushroom, cherry, pomegranate, cedar, and oak. Grapes are stomped by foot and aged in French oak. Pair with filet minion, mushrooms, duck, rabbit, coq au vin.

Domenica Amato  2015 Syrah – Rich, bold, gamey wine with notes of licorice, wet wood, chocolate and coffee with a fruity finish. Also foot stomped and aged in new and used barrels. Dry Creek Valley. Pair with BBQ: brisket, pulled pork.

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WineSense Board with Palmer Emmitt

Favorite Wine of Millennials

At the conclusion of the tasting, participants were asked to vote on their favorite wine, and the Domenica Amato 2015 Grenache Blanc was the clear winner.

If you would like to experience these incredible unique wines, please make an appointment to visit Emmitt-Scorsone’s tasting room in Healdsburg. There you can experience both labels: Judge Palmer with innovative Bordeaux style blends, and Domenica Amato, old world style wines with a new world twist. All wines are limited production. Cheers!

 

The Unknown Story of Gloria Ferrer Champagne Cave’s First Venture into the US Market

Contributed by Jennifer Schiff – The SSU WineSense Club’s first meeting of the Spring 2017 semester featured Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves, a prominent bubble house located in the southernmost part of Sonoma. The sparkling wine house was established in 1982 by the same folks who brought us the globally distributed Cordon Negro, Freixenet. However, there is a little known story about their first venture into the US in the early 1930’s.

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After years upon years of producing cava and becoming the largest producer and exporter of sparkling wines in the world, the Spanish company Freixenet decided to extend their reaches and break ground in the wine world here on US soil. When they first ventured to the United States, their visit was cut short due to civil unrest erupting back home, which would eventually develop into the Spanish Civil War of the late 1930s. Shortly following that conflict was World War II, resulting in a less than ideal time for the company’s out of country developments. It wouldn’t be until the 1980s that they would again venture West, this time to the Pacific Coast, in search of a property suitable for the growing of grapes. In 1982 a purchase of 207 acres, now referred to as their Home Ranch, was made. Jose Ferrer, CEO of Freixenet at the time, wisely decided that the estate was suited to be named after none other than his wife Gloria. Over the next four years, vines were planted, buildings constructed, and plans for business drawn up. The doors at Gloria Ferrer opened in 1986 and their adventure as the first sparkling wine house in Carneros began.

Gloria Ferrer Today

Thirty-one years have passed since their opening and Gloria Ferrer has established itself as one of the finest bubble makers here in Sonoma County. Today they are responsible for over 150,000 cases in production, and have accumulated hundreds of Gold Medals in recognition of their wine. The parent company, Freixenet, with over 500 years of winemaking of Metodo Tradicional, took their talents and applied that same expertise to utilizing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay under Methode Champenoise in California.

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SSU WineSense Club Tasting with Gloria Ferrer 

Tasting of Four Gloria Ferrer Wines

During the meeting, we had the pleasure of tasting four different wines from the GF portfolio, all some of their most successful and celebrated products. To ensure no bias or influence was impressed upon us by his words, our speaker opted out of providing any details beyond the name, style, blend, and vintage of the wine, so as to allow us to form our own opinions on tasting notes:

Name Vintage Style Blend Tasting Notes
Sonoma Brut NV Brut 88% Pinot Noir 12% Chard. Citrus, Tart Green Apple
Blanc De Noir NV Brut 92% Pinot Noir 8% Chard. Fruity, Dark Cherry
Royal Cuvee 2007 Brut ⅔ Pinot Noir ⅓ Chardonnay Yeast, Bread, Grapefruit
Brut Rose 2013 Brut 92% Pinot Noir 8% Chard. Red Fruit Straw. Cranberry

 

In the end, all of the wines were delicious and well-received, so it was not possible to select a favorite.

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SSU WineSense Board Members with Gloria Ferrer Staff

SSU Wine Sense 2017 Spring Schedule Focuses on Napa and Sonoma Wineries

downloadThe Sonoma State University (SSU) Wine Sense Club has announced their Spring 2017 meeting schedule, featuring seven exciting wine education sessions. Each two hour meeting, held from 7:00pm to 9:00pm in the Bennett Valley Room includes a presentation from a winery professional and a guided tasting. Appetizers are served to pair with the wines. Participants must be enrolled as a student at SSU and be 21 years of age or older.

The Spring 2017 Schedule is:

Feb. 9 – Gloria Ferrer Winery – bubbles, chardonnay and pinot noir

Feb. 23 – TBA

March 2nd – Russian River Vineyards

March 23 – Buena Vista

April 6th – ZAP

April 27 – Domaine Carneros

May 4th – Mantanzas Creek

RSVP to: winesensessu.gmail.com.  Follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @sssuwinesense

Larson Family Winery – A Tale of Rodeos, Race Horses and $4 Million Dollars

 (Contributed by Jennifer Schiff) The SSU Winesense Club was honored to host Larson Family Winery at one of our recent tastings. We were all entranced to learn their amazing history, and then very pleased to taste such delicious wines.

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Picnic Tables at Larsen Family Winery

The Colorful History of Larson Family Winery

The 100-acre winery has been around since 1899 when the Millericks purchased the property. They began to hold the rodeo on the property in the 1920’s until the 1950’s, and it became the largest rodeo in the west.  The rodeo attracted many people as well as a few famous horses, including Seabiscuit who was trained at the facility on site for about 6 weeks in between races.  Another great horse that was reared at the property was Native Diver, the first horse to win a million dollars.

The family started to make wine in the 90’s under the label Sonoma Creek. The brand grew so large and became so popular that the Larson’s sold it in 2004 for $4.1 million and started a mobile bottle company. They also decided to focus on a small production of high-quality wines, which are only sold Direct to Consumer (DTC) at the winery or online. They have also created a few new wine brands, including Three Labs, Millerick Roads, and jug wines with interesting names, such as Wingo White.

Tasting Larson Family Wines

We were allowed to taste four wines at the SSU Wine Sense Club meeting. These included a Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a Cabernet Sauvignon Blend:

  1. The Pinot Grigio was a blend of Pinot Grigio, a little Chardonnay and a very small amount of Gewürztraminer to bring in a little sweetness.
  2. The Chardonnay was steel tank fermentation and then was transferred to neutral oak for 8 months to soften up the wine but not contribute flavor.
  3. The Pinot Noir was a very light Pinot, good for the summer and was only a few shades darker than a Rose.
  4. Finally, the blend was 75% Cab, 20% Merlot and 5% Tempranillo. Being a blend, the wine was very smooth and very easy to drink for a Cabernet. It is also their best selling wine.

Favorites of the Evening

All of the wines were delicious and well made, but the favorites of the evening were:

Millerick Road Chardonnay

Larson Family Red Blend

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Kenwood Kicks Off SSU Wine Sense Club Meeting

(Contributed by Jennifer Schiff) Kenwood Winery was kind enough to kick off the first SSU WineSense meeting of the semester. Based in Sonoma Valley, Kenwood has a long reputation for high-quality wines, and is the home of the famous Jack London brand to honor the writer who wrote so many wonderful stories, including Call of the Wild and Valley of the Moon. Kenwood Winery also donates money to support the Jack London State Historic Park.

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Photo Courtesy of Kenwood.com

About Kenwood Winery

Kenwood Winery was originally started in 1906 by the Pagani Brothers, in an old barn near the site of Jack London’s property. Later the winery was purchased by the Lees Brothers who introduced a French style of wine making, and began to separate varietals by vineyard to create a more organized business. Cuvee style wine making was used to create the new vintages, enabling them to focus on boutique wines.

Eventually Kenwood was purchased by Gary Heck of Korbel, and slowly grew in size until it gained its current excellent national reputation for high quality Sonoma Valley wines. Today Kenwood is owned by Pernod Ricard, who has insured that the wines continued to be distributed nationally and appear in well-known restaurants. Kenwood has become somewhat of a household name and we were very lucky to have been able to have them come present at SSU.

Kenwood Wines We Tasted

We were presented with six different varietals, starting with three whites and finishing with three reds. Highlights included a Sonoma Coast Sauvignon Blanc that was very light and crisp with nice floral notes to it. It was the favorite white of the evening. When beginning with the reds we tried a Jack London Zinfandel that was very nicely balanced with the perfect amount of spice. We finished with a Cab that had a nice smoky finish as well as a good amount of tannins that many people appreciated.

The Favorite of the Evening

Everyone unanimously agreed that the 2013 Kenwood Jack London Cabernet Sauvignon was the favorite wine of the evening.

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