2018 Vintage

  • MacRostie on


    August 27, 2021

    by Tom Hyland

    “Must-Try Chardonnay And Pinot Noir From Three Artisan California Wineries”

    “There are hundreds of wine producers in California that excel at producing wines with an artisan approach. Crafting small lots of wines such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, two Burgundian varietals that at their best are made to display not only ideal balance and true character that represent their particular varietal, but also offer a sense of place, wines that reveal the identity of where the grapes are grown.

    In this article, I will focus on three producers in northern California that brilliantly capture their specific area’s character and personality regarding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.


    Thales Vineyard, Russian River Valley, source of Pinot Noir for one the best wines from MacRostie Vineyard and Winery.

    MacRostie Vineyard and Winery, Sonoma County

    Founded by Steve MacRostie in 1987, this has been one of the shining stars in the Carneros Sonoma area, especially with Chardonnay. Pinot Noir, with much of the fruit sourced from Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast, has become equally important for the winery, which recently moved its location from Carneros to a state-of-the-art facility on Westside Road in Healdsburg in the Russian River Valley. While Steve Macrostie was the original winemaker, he turned these duties over to the effervescent Heidi Bridenhagen in 2013; she had served as assistant winemaker there since 2011. Her style is one that showcases bright varietal fruit with a notable sense of origin; the wines always display very good acidity and are elegantly styled.

    Note that all of the Macrostie Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs (as well as all of their other wines) are bottled with screw caps, which the proprietors believe preserve the wines’ freshness and purity.

    2019 MacRostie Charles Heintz Vineyard Chardonnay – 95 Points

    Brilliant light yellow; aromas of golden apple, spiced pear and goldenrod. Medium-full, this has excellent ripeness, very good acidity, and a delicate creamy, lush feel, all the while coming across as very delicate on the palate. This has beautiful finesse along with exquisite balance, and will be especially appealing to Chardonnay lovers who tire of excessive wood notes in their wines. A marvelous success that can be enjoyed tonight with lemon sole or halibut, or put away for three to five years.

    2018 MacRostie Thale’s Vineyard Pinot Noir – 92 Points

    An estate vineyard of MacRostie since 2013, this site was named for Steve’s wife Thale. Beautiful delicate garnet; aromas of bing cherry, pink roses and carnations, this is a delicious Pinot Noir with very good acidity, impressive varietal purity, medium-bodied tannins, nicely integrated notes and a lengthy, supple finish with delicate notes of black spice. Pair this with roast chicken tonight or lay away for another five to seven years.

    2018 MacRostie Sangiacomo Vineyard Pinot Noir – 91 Points

    Beautiful delicate garnet (almost pink); aromas of bing and black cherry, pomegranate and chrysanthemum. Medium-full, this has ripe fruit character, very good acidity, earthy notes in the finish and rich tannins. Give this a few years to settle down, as it will improve for another five to seven years. If you want to pair this with food tonight, serve it with cornish hen.

    2019 MacRostie Dutton Ranch Chardonnay – 91 Points

    Light yellow; aromas of guava, melon and saffron. Medium-full, this is quite rich on the palate and displays more intense wood notes and power than the Heintz Chardonnay. This is more in the style of many California Chardonnays from the 1980s and 1990s and needs to be paired with very rich seafood (lobster, swordfish) or meats such as roast veal. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years.”

  • MacRostie on Red Wine Breakfast

    August 6, 2021

    Hayley Hamilton Cogill

    “Wine of the Day: 2018 MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Pinot Noir”

    “From cool-climate Petaluma Gap, nestled in the volcanic soils of Wildcat Mountain within Sonoma Coast, MacRostie Winery & Vineyards crafts rustic, intense Pinot Noir filled with character. Planted in 1998 by founder Steve MacRostie knowing the combination of the coastal influence from the Pacific, and the iron-rich volcanic soils would meld to create wines with structure, complexity, and quality.

    MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir elegantly embodies all three, delivering a wine with texture, richness, and power. On the open, aromas of boysenberry and blackberry meld with wild sagebrush, star anise, and violets, leading to a dense palate of licorice, wild berries, black cherry pie, and bitter chocolate. A beautiful wine that can handle a rich pairing of braised or slow-roasted beef or wild boar ragu, but also easy enough to enjoy with roasted chicken, Mexican food, or a mushroom-filled pasta.”

  • MacRostie in The Tasting Panel

    The Tasting Panel

    August 2021

    by Meridith May

    “Pinot Parade: Our Top Picks for Summer”

    2018 MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Pinot Noir – 94 Points: Outstanding

    “Wildcat Mountain Vineyard is owned by Steve MacRostie and his partners Nancy and Tony Lilly. Its volcanic soils, strong maritime winds, and coastal fog contribute to the distinctive character of this lushly layered red, which opens with inspiring

    notes of cinnamon roll and cherry pie. A more complex mid-palate unfolds with jasmine, frankincense, and other exotic floral notes, leaving a trace of lavender and plum on the finish.”

    “Down the Aisle”

    2019 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay – 94 Points: Outstanding

    “Sourcing from vineyards in Carneros, the Russian River Valley, and the Petaluma Gap, winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen works with such prestigious growers as the Duttons, Sangiacomos, and Martinellis to make this spiritual white. It possesses an inner glow thanks to the juiciest peach, the sweetness of honeysuckle, and a splash of tangerine, which join under-lying minerality, a lift of acidity, and a touch of vanilla nougat. The pineapple juice–like finish is memorable.”

  • MacRostie on Honest Cooking

    Honest Cooking

    July 2021

    by Kalle Berman

    Summer Wine Guides 2021: Reds”

    “When you think ‘red wine’ your mind might not immediately go to ‘summer.’ But what would a summer grilling party be without some delicious reds to pair with your steaks, brats, burgers and ribs?

    In this first of four summer wine guides (the others covering whites, rosés and sparklers), we focus our attention on the 61 red wines we think you should be drinking as the height of summer is quickly approaching. Ranging from lighter wines that pair excellently with fish and vegetables, to heavier, classic reds that go well with your smokey, savory meats. And although they are all great food wines, they are also equally excellent on their own – perfect for sipping as you enjoy yet another gorgeous summer sunset.

    As usual in our wine guides – we let the winemakers themselves speak about why they think their wines deserve your attention.

    2018 MacRostie Klopp Ranch Pinot Noir Russian River Valley

    Winemaker’s Notes:

    The 2018 Klopp Ranch Pinot Noir displays an awe-inspiring level of concentration and depth. Cinnamon, dried flowers, and sun-ripened raspberry aromas entice you to take a sip. On the palate, this gorgeous wine is soft and appealing, with silky tannins and bright berry fruit flavors. Nuanced cocoa and coffee notes tie into the finish leaving a pleasing, lasting impression.”

    Summer Wine Guides 2021: Whites”

    “Welcome to summer – have a glass of delicious white wine, take a seat on the porch and just take in the scenery. And don’t worry out finding the right wine – we’ve taken the guesswork out of summer white wine selection for you.

    As the summer presses on, a glass of crispy Sauvignon Blanc or a buttery Chardonnay floats our boat equally. We don’t discriminate against grapes – good wine is good wine in our book – but we do want our wine be versatile, equally comfortable drunk on its own as paired with the finest summer bounty. So here, presented in the winemakers’ own words, are our favorite white wines of the blistering summer of 2021.

    2018 MacRostie Dutton Ranch Chardonnay Russian River Valley

    Winemaker’s Notes:

    The wine has a pale yellow color and complex aromas of ripe pineapple, green melon, and a touch of honeysuckle. On the palate, it offers a soft, supple texture that elegantly supports the vibrant fruit flavors. The finish is round and mouth-filling, with a beam of energetic natural acidity and linger hints of kumquat and tropical fruit.”

  • Wine Enthusiast Advanced Buying Guide

    Wine Enthusiast
    April 2021
    by Virginie Boone

    2018 MacRostie Kent Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay Russian River Valley – 91 Points: Excellent; highly recommended

    “Floral and mineral driven, this white is also robust in tropical and stone fruit, while being substantial in style and body weight. A note of honey adorns the palate and nose and emphasizes the viscous roundness in the wine.”

  • MacRostie: 2018 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

    Capture Magazine
    October 2020

    MacRostie Winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen joined MacRostie in 2011 and became just the third winemaker in the winery’s history in 2013. MacRostie’s vineyard program has evolved to include some of the Sonoma Coast’s great­est vineyards. With an approach that marries meticulous attention to detail with a love of experimentation, she is continually finding ways to make MacRostie’s wines better and better. ‘I love making our Sonoma Coast wines. With our single-vineyard wines, it’s about capturing what makes each vineyard so special-in a way it’s more hands-off. With our Sonoma Coast wines. I get to play. I’m constantly refining my sourcing strategy, the percentage of fruit from different sub-appellations, the clonal mix, our barrel program and my approach to blending. If there is a secret to the success of these wines, it is that we treat every lot like it will become a vineyard-designate wine, even though we may know it will become a part of our Sonoma Coast bottling.” 

    The 2018 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir comes from equally illustrious vineyards, including grapes from MacRostie’s own Thale’s Estate Vineyard in the heart of the Russian River Valley, Dale Ricci’s Vineyard in Carneros, Noble Vineyard in the Petaluma Gap, and Wohler Vineyard in the Russian River Valley. ‘We make most of our Pinot in small 1-ton fermenters, and we’ll do upwards of 60 or 70 fermentations. so when it is time to blend there is so much possibility.’

  • Wine Enthusiast Advance Buying Guide

    Wine Enthusiast

    February/March 2021
    By Virginie Boone 


    2018 MacRostie Mirabelle Vineyard Chardonnay Russian River Valley – 91 Points: Excellent; highly recommended

    “Effusively bright and high-toned, this wine offers a demure imprint of oak on the nose. It then evolves to show complex contrasts of ginger, Meyer lemon and jasmine—an effectively cohesive, harmonious and lengthy expression of understated fruit.”

    2018 MacRostie Russian River Valley Chardonnay – 90 Points: Excellent; highly recommended

    “Crisp apple, Meyer lemon and tangerine flavors make for a fresh, fruity experience on the medium-bodied palate, while the wine shows balance and elegance throughout. Floral apple blossom and jasmine add to the liveliness and appeal.”

    2018 MacRostie Bacigalupi Vineyard Chardonnay Russian River Valley – 90 Points: Excellent; highly recommended

    “Slatey, earthy and salty, this vineyard-designate shows a wealth of hearty stone-fruit flavor. Robust and rounded, it has a flourish of floral aromas that complement the fruit well, finishing in a fresh hit of acidity.

    2018 MacRostie Sangiacomo Vineyard Chardonnay Carneros – 90 Points: Excellent; highly recommended

    “Crisp and earthy, with a rocky mineral component that adds grip and grit, this is a high-toned white, with effusive floral aromas and a depth of fruity flavor. Gravenstein apple pear and Meyer lemon characteristics are seasoned in a lengthy dash of nutmeg.”

    2018 MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – 90 Points: Excellent; highly recommended

    “Reductive in thick, dark fruit—a mélange of concentrated cherry and plum—this wine has supple texture and elongated tannins. The oak is well integrated and provides additional highlights of vanilla and baking spice.”

  • Wine Enthusiast Advance Buying Guide

    Wine Enthusiast

    December 2020
    By Virginie Boone 

    2018 MacRostie Manzana Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – 93 Points: Excellent; highly recommended

    “Grippy, layered and textured, this impressive wine is elegantly lean and balanced, with contrasting notions of blood orange, cranberry and forest floor. It impresses in its enduring acidity and bold structure.” 

    2018 MacRostie Nunes Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – 92 Points: Excellent; highly recommended

    “Thick and savory forest and tea elements combine effortlessly with crunchy fruit flavors of cranberry and orange in this light-bodied, elegant vineyard-designate. The concentration gives way to a silky smoothness that rides along the lengthy finish.” 

    2018 MacRostie Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – 92 Points: Excellent; highly recommended

    “Rich in cola and vanilla flavors that accent the core of strawberry, rhubarb and orange peel, this wine is cohesive and integrated. Silky and creamy on the palate, it builds tannin weight over time, finishing in a balance of black tea.” 

    2018 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – 91 Points: Excellent; highly recommended

    “Hearty and full bodied in style, this wine is nonetheless high toned in edgy acidity and cool climate vibes, giving a balanced perspective of brightness within its power. Rhubarb, raspberry and forest notes dominate along a silky smooth texture of layered tannin and oak.” 

    2018 MacRostie Putnam Vineyard Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – 91 Points: Excellent; highly recommended

    “Robust tannins wrap around a core of forest floor, black tea and savory, edgy intrigue in this coastal wine. High-toned acidity buzzes along a focused palate of wild strawberry, cranberry and rhubarb.” 

  • Top 100 Sonoma Wines 2020

    Sonoma Magazine

    November 19, 2020
    By Linda Murphy

    Just in time for the holidays: your guide to the best wines and wineries in Sonoma County.

    Our 2020 Top 100 Wines list points the way to the best bottles from throughout the county. The winners are a diverse group, covering various viticultural regions, grape varieties, and production quantities. Many picks are found in local grocery stores, others can be purchased only from wineries. Pinot Noir, arguably Sonoma’s most popular wine (in a supreme compliment, Napa Valley wineries seek out Sonomagrown Pinot), gets a lot of attention, and high-end Cabernet Sauvignon is coming on strong. The finest bottles are indeed expensive, although it’s more often a reflection of increasing costs in labor, health care, grape prices and packaging materials, than it is outright gouging (though some of that exists).


    Healdsburg-based wine critic Linda Murphy selected the Top 100 Wines of 2020 based on her yearlong tastings at wineries and of samples sent to her, as well as her blind tastings at wine competitions including The Press Democrat 2020 North Coast Wine Challenge. Only wines produced from Sonoma County-grown grapes, by wineries located in the county, are eligible for the Top 100. All wines were tasted in 2020.

    A former managing editor of Sonoma magazine, Murphy earned two James Beard awards as the founding editor of the San Francisco Chronicle wine section. She’s evaluated Sonoma wines for 30 years, and always has the consumer in mind with her recommendations. Not all expensive wines are worth their price, and many value-priced wines deliver far more interest than their price would suggest.

    2017 MacRostie Dutton Ranch Chardonnay

    Dutton Ranch encompasses multiple vineyards, and winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen tapped three of them for this multi-layered wine. The honeyed nose leads to ripe golden apple, peach, and tropical fruit, and a Meyer lemon brightness balances the finish.

    While the 2017 Dutton Ranch quickly sold out, the 2018 vintage is currently available here.

  • Year’s Best California Chardonnays

    Wine & Spirits

    October 2020
    By Josh Greene

    “Our blind panels tasted 379 California chardonnays during the past 12 months. Our critics tasted 121 exceptional (90+) and 56 as Best Buys. Joshua Greene covers California’s North Coast; Patrick J. Comiskey covers the Central Coast.”

    2018 MacRostie Bacigalupi Vineyard Chardonnay Russian River Valley – 92 Points: Delicious, compelling; a compelling wine of its region; a delicious, finessed expression of place

    “This grows at Bacigalupi’s Frost Ranch, where MacRostie sources a block of chardonnay propagated from diverse heritage selections in a mix of young and old vines. The wine initially seems to be all about golden fruit, from apricot to nectarine, pithy grapefruit acidity and savory grape-skin tannins. It develops length and elegance as it opens with air, a salty tension keeping the richness in line. Decant it for a savory veal stew.”

    2018 MacRostie Kent Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay Russian River Valley – 91 Points: Delicious, compelling; a compelling wine of its region; a delicious, finessed expression of place

    “All about generosity, from vanilla cream to savory pastry notes, this is round and luscious, lasting on toasted almond and apricot scents. It’s a classical Russian River chardonnay to pour at brunch with poached salmon.”

    2017 MacRostie The Key Chardonnay Sonoma Coast  – 91 Points: Delicious, compelling; a compelling wine of its region; a delicious, finessed expression of place

    “In the 1960s, Steve MacRostie trained as a US army cryptographer in Vicenza, where he developed an interest in European wine. He now channels that interest into the single-vineyard chardonnays he makes with wine-maker Heidi Bridenhagen. This vintage of The Key is tense and grassy, then settles into intriguing fruit depths that combine the tartness of yellow cherries, the muskiness of huitlacoche and the mineral savor of cheese rind. Panelist Michele Em suggested it would open up with baked apples and brie.”

    2018 MacRostie The Key Chardonnay Sonoma Coast  – 91 Points: Delicious, compelling; a compelling wine of its region; a delicious, finessed expression of place

    “Steve MacRostie and winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen blend The Key from their favored chardonnay lots, including parcels in the Russian River Valley, the far Sonoma Coast and Carneros. It’s a fresh, coastal white with green-apple notes and rooty scents of carrots. The texture is creamy, the finish clean.”

  • “Alphabetical Guide to California Pinot Noir”

    Wine Spectator

    October 15
    By Kim Marcus

    “These wines were tasted for Kim Marcus’ California Pinot Noir tasting report in the Oct. 15, 2020, issue of Wine Spectator magazine. For a full analysis of the latest vintages and top wines and top values charts, read ‘Cascade Effect.’ More than 600 wines were reviewed for this report. members can find all reviews, with full tasting notes, in the Wine Ratings Search.”

    2017 MacRostie Hellenthal Vineyard Pinot Noir Fort Ross-Seaview – 92 Points: Outstanding; a wine of superior character and style

    2018 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – 91 Points: Outstanding; a wine of superior character and style

    2017 MacRostie Cummings Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – 90 Points: Outstanding; a wine of superior character and style

    2017 MacRostie Terra de Promissio Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – 90 Points: Outstanding; a wine of superior character and style

    2017 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – 89 Points: Very good; a wine with special qualities

    2017 MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – 89 Points: Very good; a wine with special qualities

    2017 MacRostie Thale’s Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – 89 Points: Very good; a wine with special qualities

    2017 MacRostie Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – 88 Points: Very good; a wine with special qualities

    2017 MacRostie Wohler Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – 88 Points: Very good; a wine with special qualities

    2017 MacRostie The Loch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – 88 Points: Very good; a wine with special qualities

    2018 MacRostie Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – 87 Points: Very good; a wine with special qualities

  • Cascade Effect

    Wine Spectator

    October 15
    By Kim Marcus

    “Pinot Noir continues its expansion across the Golden State, with rising quality and increased production driven by a surge of single-vineyard wines flowing from key winegrowing regions up and down the California coast, where the cooler, maritime-influenced climate proves ideal for the grape’s cultivation.

    This past year has been a banner tasting season as I reviewed more than 600 wines since my previous report (“Coastal Conquest,” Oct. 15, 2019), with the vast majority of the action centered on the 2017 and 2018 vintages. Overall, more than 375 wines reached 90 points or higher, making for a remarkably high level of quality, with three dozen wines scoring in the 94- to 95-point range.

    Perhaps even more impressive is the diversity of the appellations where Pinot Noir excels. Classic-rated wines are being made all the way from Mendocino’s Anderson Valley, one of the state’s northernmost appellations, to Santa Barbara’s Sta. Rita Hills, 400 miles to the south. In between, districts in Sonoma, Napa and Monterey also chime in with stellar wines.

    In Sonoma’s historic heartland of Pinot Noir, the Russian River Valley, stalwart producers such as Arista, Dehlinger, Ferren, Hartford Court, Paul Hobbs and Williams-Selyem continue to prime the quality pump with both single-vineyard bottlings and appellation blends. Indeed, the high quality of many appellation blends make them a good buying strategy if you are looking for value. These versions tap multiple vineyard sources within an appellation and are made in significantly higher quantities. They offer solid varietal flavors and structure, with just a bit less concentration and finesse compared with single-vineyard offerings.

    From the Russian River Valley, look for the EnRoute Les Pommiers 2018 (93, $60), MacMurray Ranch 2017 (92, $38) and Sojourn 2018 (92, $45). From the Sonoma Coast, there’s the 2018 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir (91, $34), RouteStock 116 2018 (91, $23), Au Contraire 2017 (90, $27), La Crema 2017 (90, $25) and Sean Minor 2018 (90, $22). And from Carneros, seek out the Artesa 2017 (91, $25) and Acacia 2017 (90, $27).”

  • 2018 MacRostie Russian River Valley Chardonnay

    Wine Review Online

    August 25, 2020
    By Rich Cook

    MacRostie Winery and Vineyards, Russian River Valley (Sonoma County, California) Chardonnay 2018 ($36)

    Here is another winner from winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen that hits my crisp-and-creamy Chardonnay spec head-on. Less than ten percent new oak and partial malolactic fermentation hold the acidic edge that makes the variety pop, letting the lemon and melon fruit profile sing brightly. This is my kind of sipping Chardonnay for warm weather. It’s just a touch softer than 2017, but it works very well.

  • 2018 MacRostie Russian River Valley Chardonnay – 93 Points

    Wine Review Online

    August 18, 2020
    By Marguerite Thomas

    2018 MacRostie Russian River Valley Chardonnay – 93 Points 

    “Year after year MacRostie Chardonnay is always outstanding and the 2018 vintage is no exception — in fact better than ever in some ways. There is plenty of ripe, rich fruit here but in no way is it overstated. Instead, the fruit is a team player, neatly tag-teaming with the subtle spice of oak and the freshness that acidity brings to the blend.”  

  • Wine Advocate – California, Sonoma County

    Wine Advocate

    By Erin Brooks
    August 13, 2020

    2018 MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – 91 Points: An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines

    “The 2018 MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Chardonnay has leesy Bosc pears and white peaches with notes of gunflint and honey-nut notions. It’s light to medium-bodied with a good core of peachy fruit, bright freshness and a long, clean finish. 992 cases produced.”

    2018 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – 90 Points: An outstanding wine of exceptional complexity and character. In short, these are terrific wines

    “Pale ruby, the 2018 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir offers blackberries, cranberries and rhubarb with notes of woodsmoke, black tea leaves and earth. The palate is light-bodied, soft and juicy with a good core of fruit and a satisfying finish. 4,181 cases produced.”

    “USA, California: Sonoma County 2018 Vintage” 

    “2018 in Sonoma has been hailed as a spectacular vintage, and for many top wineries it is. But this is not a great vintage across the board—if something looks too good to be true, it probably is. The 2018 vintage carried the potential for near-perfect wines, but it also carried the potential for mediocrity. The 2018 vintage provided, undisputedly, the opportunity to make world-class wines. It was also replete with hidden dangers—both natural and manmade—that resulted in more than a few washed out, dilute, flavorless wines, from unfamiliar and familiar names alike.

    2018: The Good News 

    2018 was an unusually long, cool growing season, and there are many gorgeous wines to choose from. Regional character is clear across appellations, particularly for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. There were no heat events to stunt growth or erase regional character, and both varieties are pure and precise in this vintage. The extended growing season allowed for winemakers to harvest at leisure, and many properties expertly captured a perfect picture of ripeness. Cooler nights maintained very bright acidity across varieties, and in general, the best wines of 2018 are lifted, layered, energetic and dynamic, with incredible movement and texture in the mouth. The best Chardonnays are silky, with precise and mineral entries, broad and layered mid-palates and long, linear finishes. Pinot Noirs are incredibly pure and nuanced, with high-toned, ethereal aromatics, replete with the layers of fruit, earth, spice and bitterness that make for the best examples of this grape. Later-ripening varieties show very finely grained tannic structures and Goldilocks ripeness rather than simple fruit or power. The best 2018s are tight right now but will age very well in bottle, as cooler nights resulted in incredibly vibrant acidity across varieties, and the best wines have plenty of fruit to carry the wines in the cellar. With time in bottle, the best 2018s will gain nuance and depth.

    A Bumper Crop of Unripe Grapes  

    For the last several years, California has led the charge of the ‘new normal’ with a string of very warm, very dry years. To set the stage for 2018, it’s important to understand the past several years in California. Beginning in 2012, growers faced increasing challenges with drought and extreme heat events, capped by the devastating Labor Day heat wave of 2017. Readers will recall that temperatures reached 117 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas, and that the extreme heat lasted for several days. To top things off, early October brought wildfires that ripped through Sonoma, destroying vineyards and bringing the issue of smoke taint to the forefront. Mother Nature did ease some suffering with the arrival of heavy rains during the winter of 2017/2018, officially ending the years’ long drought. Many parts of Sonoma also experienced rainstorms in late spring, adding to mildew pressure. 

    After the late spring rains, the season returned to normal, and fruit set was perfect across the region. At veraison, growers began to notice large crop loads—by all accounts, 2018 was a massive bumper crop, as ample winter and spring rain plus perfect fruit set combined to result in incredible vine vigor and up to seven or eight tons per acre of fruit in some cases. Most notably, there was not an increase in the number of clusters but rather unexpected increases in berry size that crept up after veraison and the first thinning passes. Berries continued to swell up in size during the season, distorting the picture revealed by cluster counts at veraison. In many cases, final yields were up over 30% from what was predicted at lag phase. 

    Six years of drought taught winemakers and growers in California to hold their breath for the inevitable heat waves in August and over Labor Day weekend, but they never came. Instead, it cooled considerably. Many growers reported steady temperatures in the 70s and 80s (Fahrenheit) for the remainder of the season. Nights were especially chilly, and fierce wind on the Sonoma Coast slowed ripening. All across Sonoma County, vines loaded with crop in anticipation of a warm year struggled to ripen. Viticulture is always a gamble, and cooler vintages present a different set of challenges. A polar opposite vintage from 2017 and the first cool vintage in six years surely caught people off guard: growing degree days in 2017 far surpass those accumulated in 2018. Donum winemaker Dan Fishman says, ‘2018 was a little bit like 2012—if you weren’t paying attention, it could turn mediocre because there was nothing to force your hand. A vintage like that can lead to a lot of okay wines.’

    Controlling yields was critical for success in 2018. ‘The big news this year was the crop size, following the end of the drought,’ Paul Hobbs said. ‘We had tremendous rain, and the vines were ready to go. They were in hyper-fertile productive mode. On average, we dropped at least a year’s worth of fruit on the ground, and we still went over yield by 5% to 10%. That’s essentially saying we had two vintages in one in 2018, if we had harvested all the fruit. We couldn’t believe the berry and cluster weights we were seeing. We did four yield thinnings, so it was a horribly expensive year for us, because of all those passes.’ Some winemakers opted out of late-season thinnings, feeling it was too little, too late. This may have been true in some instances, but in general, the best wines in 2018 are from properties that kept a tight watch on their vineyards and continually adjusted crop load to the cooler season. Those who did little or no thinning at all were left with a bumper crop of unripe grapes, and there were still grapes hanging on vines as I drove around the valley in late October and early November. ‘People didn’t thin,’ says Hobbs. ‘It blew my mind. We thinned to the point where the ground was literally covered in grapes, but no one around us was doing that.’ Kistler winemaker Jason Kesner agrees that controlling yields was critical for quality in 2018. ‘I remember looking at other vineyards that are normally picked a week or two after ours that still had fruit on the vine three weeks later. You can only ask so much of a grapevine. There is something about setting vine balance early in the year so your vines can do all the work on their own. Crop load is the biggest factor for dilute wines in 2018—if people are honest about how much tonnage they brought in!’

    Economic and logistical factors also played a role in quality potential. The heavy crop load in 2018 was a relief for many who had lost significant portions of their production in 2017. Expecting a warm year, it would be tempting to hang some extra crop—winemakers need inventory and growers need to get paid. A big crop also results in a myriad of logistical problems in the winery: not enough tanks for fermenting, not enough space for storage, not enough barrels for aging, etc. Labor has been scarce in recent years, and finding enough labor for such a large harvest was also a challenge. Romantic as winemaking is from the outside, at the end of the day, it’s a business. Economic and logistical challenges, rather than quality, drove winemaking decisions in many cases this vintage. ‘2018 could have been a logistical nightmare for winemakers,’ notes Kosta Browne winemaker Julien Howsepian. ‘Not enough capacity to take in fruit at the right time, fermenting in any container you can find, etc. That constrains a winemaker’s ability do things in a way they might have anticipated from the onset. It’s almost like the vintage took control of them, even if the fruit was really good. A great vintage doesn’t mean the wines will become great.’

    Keeping yields in check was the biggest factor for potential quality, and many top growers and winemakers reported having to make up to five extra passes through the vineyards throughout the season once it became clear that the crop was much larger than initially anticipated. Not every property can afford to send crews out to make the extra thinning passes critical for success in 2018, and not everyone could round up a crew with the shortage of labor. 

    Heavy yields and well below average summertime temperatures combined this year to produce many washed-out, dilute, hollow and flavorless wines—Burgundian varieties were especially affected. ‘If you’re carrying too much fruit, it shows with dilute, washed out wines,’ says Arista winemaker Matt Courtney. ‘Over-cropping sticks out like a sore thumb with those Burgundian varieties.’ There are plenty of Pinot Noirs that lack color, aroma and flavor. Many Chardonnays are neutral in character and have very tangy acidities without much fruit support. Later-ripening varieties can be quite soft or feel over-extracted and manipulated, as if saignée rather than viticulture was used to concentrate the wines made from unripe grapes. The least successful wines this year are inherently boring and will not age, despite their high acidities—there’s just no fruit to carry them forward.

    Noteworthy Producers

    Some producers made potential ‘career’ wines in 2018, and the lineup of wines from Kistler and Dumol are the best I have ever tasted. Although I have only tried one 2018 from Occidental, I suspect Steve Kistler’s 2018s will be some of the most exciting of the vintage, due to their unique character and terroir expression—these are detailed, pure, crystalline Pinot Noirs. There are some incredibly promising wines from Jesse Katz’s Aperture—the 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon from Alexander Valley is very compelling. Hirsch excelled in this cooler vintage, and the wines are crystalline, pure and singular in character. As always, Paul Hobbs has crafted a gorgeous lineup of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays that continued to improve after four or five days of being open. 

  • Wine With…Pork Chops Dijonnaise

    Wine Review Online

    by Marguerite Thomas
    August 2020

    “The Wines:  It is somehow satisfying to feature a dish every once in awhile that partners beautifully with a variety of wines, and Pork Chops Dijonnais is one of those recipes.  The wines that did not fare well here were, first, a big, tannic, oaky red that overwhelmed the soft, creamy sauce. A tart Sauvignon Blanc didn’t fare well either. I’ve liked this type of refreshing white wine with other dishes, but in this case, its relatively high acidity got screechy in the company of the comparatively rich, mellow mustard sauce. But these three paired up very nicely:

    2018 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay  

    Like the Chappellet Pinot Noir, this luscious Chardonnay is lithe and versatile. Its creamy texture, zesty fruit flavors and minerality all wrap deliciously around the taste and texture of the racy sauce.”

  • Wine & Spirits Year’s Best California Chardonnays

    Wine & Spirits Magazine

    October Issue

    92 | MacRostie 2018 Russian River Valley Bacigalupi Vineyard Chardonnay $46 (not yet released)

    91 | MacRostie 2017 Sonoma Coast The Key Chardonnay $65

    91 | MacRostie 2018 Russian River Valley Kent Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay $46 (not yet released)

    91 | MacRostie 2018 Sonoma Coast The Key Chardonnay $65 (not yet released)

  • Wine Enthusiast Advance Buying Guide – 2018 MacRostie Tollini Vineyard Chardonnay Redwood Valley

    Wine Enthusiast

    by Jim Gordon
    October 2020

    2018 MacRostie Tollini Vineyard Chardonnay Redwood Valley – 90 Points: Excellent; highly recommended

    “This wine offers subtle oak and a whole lot of butter to give it a rich, palate-clinging expression. It is full bodied, creamy in texture and has a lingering buttery finish.”

    Looking ahead at the 2019s, this was another cool year that has plenty of similarities to 2018, if not even a touch more freshness and acidity. I’ll taste these in-depth next year, but certainly, this will be another strong vintage for all of the Central Coast.

    The Wines

    While I was forced to cancel all my oversea trips due to COVID-19, I was able to drive to the Central Coast late in June of 2019 and do large AVA tastings as well as a handful of visits, which I tried to keep to a minimum. I hope you enjoy these wines as much as I enjoyed tasting through them and writing the report!”

  • 2018 MacRostie Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley – 92 Points

    by Jeb Dunnuck
    August 4, 2020

    2018 MacRostie Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard Santa Maria Valley – 92 Points: Outstanding wines. These wines are outstanding for their type and are worth the extra effort to seeking out.

    “All destemmed and brought up in 46% new French oak, the 2018 Pinot Noir Bien Nacido Vineyard has a pure, almost pretty, medium-bodied style that highlights its strawberry and raspberry fruit over the classic marine-influence of this site. Showing more floral and spice notes with time in the glass, it’s nicely balanced, has ripe, polished tannins and terrific balance, and should continue drinking nicely for 7-8 years.” 

    “The 2018s from Santa Barbara County” 

    “This report focuses on the 2018s from Santa Barbara County, but also includes a handful of late release 2017s (and even some 2016s) as well as a few wines from additional regions in California. Many producers in Santa Barbara County make wines from other areas of California, and I’m able to taste those wines during this trip. Rather than saving those reviews for a later report, I’ve opted to publish them sooner rather than later.

    The 2018 Vintage

    Throughout California, the 2018 vintage was a long, cooler, and even growing season that presented few challenges. The year got off to a cool start, followed by plenty of early season heat in July, then a colder than average ripening period in August, September, and October. Harvest was the latest since 2011. The grapes had loads of hang time, and the critical ripening period occurred under cooler temperatures. Yields were slightly up over 2017 and close to average, and growers had easy harvest decisions with no heat spikes or rain events.

    I loved tasting through these wines. The style isn’t far off the 2016s (with maybe a splash of 2010), with the wines showing beautiful purity of fruit as well as ripe tannins, good concentration, and solid underlying structure. Alcohol levels are down over 2017 and acid levels are up, yet the wines have terrific depth of fruit as well as supple, elegant textures. The cooler ripening period also resulted in terrific aromatics, and these are fresh, lively wines across the board. The wines don’t have the same level of sunny, sexy fruit found in the 2017s (and to a lesser extent, the 2016s), but they still have plenty of opulence and texture. In addition, the wines show classic characteristics and regional and site-specific characters.

    From a consumer standpoint, this is an easy vintage to understand, and quality is both high and consistent. You can’t go wrong with the 2018s, and the vintage is unquestionably in the list of top vintages for the region, including 2004, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016, and 2017. There are gorgeous Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from Santa Maria and the Sta. Rita Hills, loads of Rhône blends and Syrahs from Ballard Canyon, Los Olivos, and Santa Ynez, and more and more, incredibly high-quality Bordeaux blends from Santa Ynez and the Happy Canyon region of Santa Barbara County.

    Looking ahead at the 2019s, this was another cool year that has plenty of similarities to 2018, if not even a touch more freshness and acidity. I’ll taste these in-depth next year, but certainly, this will be another strong vintage for all of the Central Coast.

    The Wines

    While I was forced to cancel all my oversea trips due to COVID-19, I was able to drive to the Central Coast late in June of 2019 and do large AVA tastings as well as a handful of visits, which I tried to keep to a minimum. I hope you enjoy these wines as much as I enjoyed tasting through them and writing the report!”

  • Wine Spectator names Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir as one of ‘9 Knockout California Pinot Noirs at 90+ Points’

    Wine Spectator

    by Aaron Romano
    July 27, 2020

    This week, we explore outstanding wines from some of the top Pinot Noir top regions in California. From Sonoma’s Russian River Valley to Monterey’s Santa Lucia Highlands to Santa Barbara’s windswept Sta. Rita Hills, each of these Pinots displays the unique style of the region and techniques that produced it.

    Pinot lovers will recognize several veterans on this list, including La Crema, MacRostie and Siduri. But one winery not previously known for Pinot Noir is Chappellet. This Napa-based Cabernet titan has recently expanded into Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from select vineyards in Carneros and Sonoma. Its Dutton Ranch bottling shows crunchy red fruit and berry flavors, with mineral and Asian spice notes on the finish.

    Bravium was founded in 2007 by winemaker Derek Rohlffs. His Anderson Valley bottling pulls grapes from two vineyards, Wiley and Valley Foothills. The former sits on a ridge above the fog line, near the Pacific; the latter occupies south-facing slopes in the center of the valley. This combination yields a svelte style with cherry tart and juicy dark currant flavors. And if you’re seeking a widely available, wallet-friendly pick, look to the lively Acacia Carneros Pinot, which overdelivers at 90 points and $27.”

    2018 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – 91 Points: Outstanding; a wine of superior character and style

    “Light and refined, with concentrated dried red cherry and berry flavors supported by fresh acidity. Underbrush and dried herbal notes on the finish.” – Kim Marcus

  • The Press Democrat “Wine of the Week”

    The Press Democrat

    by Peg Melnik
    June 23, 2020

    “Wine of the Week”

    2018 MacRostie Russian River Valley Chardonnay

    “There’s a paradoxical unity in social distancing. Who knew the pandemic would make many feel so connected, like kindred spirits?

    ‘At the winery, I would say being distanced from one another has brought us closer,’ said Heidi Bridenhagen, the winemaker of MacRostie Winery. ‘We’re in this together and it has brought out the best in everyone. The amount of empathy and understanding has been amazing.’

    The philosophical winemaker who sees the upside in this pandemic is behind our wine of the week winner – the 2018 MacRostie Russian River Valley Chardonnay at $36.

    Rich, yet balanced, this chardonnay has a blend of enticing tropical and citrus notes. It has aromas and flavors of green apple, papaya and lime. The wine begins with aromas of toffee, with citrus notes just beneath, and follows it through to the palate. The MacRostie has a lush texture, yet finishes crisp. It’s an impressive wine and a steal for this caliber of chardonnay.

    Other top-rated chardonnays to consider include: Gary Farrell, 2017 West Side Farms, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Chardonnay, $55; Jordan, 2018 Russian River Valley, Sonoma County Chardonnay, $35; Goldschmidt’s Singing Tree, 2018 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, $18 and Crossbarn, 2019 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, $27.

    As for the MacRostie chardonnay, Bridenhagen said it was a delight to craft.

    ‘This wine is my winemaker’s playground,’ she said. ‘We work with so many iconic growers in the valley — the Duttons, Martinellis, Bacigalupis, Kent Ritchie, Charles Heintz and more. Each site is a small slice of chardonnay heaven, and with our Russian River Valley chardonnay I don’t have to stick to one specific vineyard. I can play with the diverse flavor and aromas from each vineyard and layer them together into what I feel embodies a great Russian River chardonnay.’

    Making wine during a pandemic complicates logistics, but Bridenhagen isn’t losing sleep. Winemaking has made her an experienced tactician.

    ‘My job as a winemaker is a constant series of decision making, which is something I consider myself good at,’ she said. ‘So taking the pandemic and assessing each situation individually – is this action high-risk? Can I make it medium- or low-risk? – is just another layer to consider and address.’

    Bridenhagen, 36, joined MacRostie in 2011 after working at Vinwood Cellars, a Geyserville production facility owned by Jackson Family Wines. She earned a degree in biochemistry and a minor in chemistry in 2006 from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

    The winemaker likes the mysteries intrinsic even in a mainstream grape like chardonnay.

    ‘Many people have assumptions about what chardonnay tastes like, but chardonnay is incredibly versatile and has a huge breath of expression,’ Bridenhagen said.

    The masked winemaking team sits 10 feet apart from each other when discussing wines.

    ‘Winemaking is an incredibly familial environment,’ Bridenhagen said. ‘It feels strange to not be able to hug, share a glass of wine and a meal with my co-workers or a shift beer at the end of a long day that was particularly rewarding. That said, winemaking has been going on for thousands of years and it continues even during a pandemic.’”

  • “New Releases From California And Oregon – MacRostie, Far Niente, Abbot’s Passage, And Argyle”

    “This winery in Carneros Sonoma was founded in 1987 by Steve MacRostie, one of the early proponents of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in Sonoma County. The winery today offers numerous examples of these two varietals from single vineyards located in several AVA in Sonoma, such as Russian River Valley. Petaluma Gap and Sonoma Coast, as well as other regions in California. Heidi Bridenhagen is the winemaker, and is involved with MacRostie in finding the best vineyards from which they can source outstanding fruit each season.
    by Tom Hyland
    May 27, 2020

    2019 MacRostie Pinot Noir Rosé – Excellent

    Deep orange/coral hue; aromas of orange jelly and watermelon. Medium-bodied, this has impressive texture and a dry finish with notable persistence. I love the complexity and character of this rosé! Enjoy over the next two years. 

    2018 MacRostie Sangiacomo Vineyard Chardonnay – Very Good

    Light yellow; aromas of vanilla, golden apples, mango and pineapple. Medium-full, with good concentration, this offers good freshness and pleasant tropical fruit, but lacks complexity. Good acidity, moderate wood notes. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years. 

    2018 MacRostie Mirabelle Vineyard Chardonnay – Outstanding

    Bright, light yellow; inviting aromas of lemon zest, red apples, and saffron with a subtle note of honey. Medium-full with very good concentration. Lengthy finish, very good acidity, excellent varietal purity, impressive complexity and balance. The wood notes are nicely integrated and the overall wine is very appealing and delicious. Lengthy finish with subtle notes of almond in the finish. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. 

    2017 MacRostie Hellenthal Vineyard Pinot Noir – Very Good

    Delicate garnet; red cherry, strawberry, beet, delicate wood. Medium-full with very good concentration. Subdued style, nicely balanced, but I’d prefer a bit more fruit definition. 3-5 years. 

    2017 MacRostie Rodgers Creek Pinot Noir – Excellent

    Delicate garnet; cola, bing cherry, marjoram. Medium-full, impressive complexity, medium-weight tannins, excellent persistence, good acidity and a nice sense of finesse. Enjoy over the next 5-7 years.”

    Download MacRostie Reviews

  • Sonoma: Another Brilliant Vintage in 2018

    Seven outstanding wines. These wines are outstanding for their type and are worth the extra effort to seeking out.

    by Jeb Dunnuck
    May 2020

    2018 MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – 93 Points

    “More complex notes of mulberries, black raspberries, forest floor, bouquet garni, and spice emerge from the 2018 Pinot Noir Wildcat Mountain. Beautifully textured and medium-bodied, with a great mid-palate and silky tannins, it’s unquestionably an outstanding effort and should easily drink well for 4-6 years or more.”        

    2018 MacRostie Kent Ritchie Chardonnay Russian River Valley – 92 Points

    “From a site in the Russian River and aged in 25% new French oak, the 2018 Chardonnay Kent Ritchie offers lots of toasty and spicy notes as well as orchard fruits, medium body, a pure, clean, soft style, good acidity, and a clean finish. It’s another impeccably made Chardonnay that delivers the goods.”     

    2018 MacRostie Wildcat Mountain Chardonnay Sonoma Coast – 92 Points

    “Brought up in 24% new French oak, the 2018 Chardonnay Wildcat Mountain is another terrific effort. White flowers, toasted spice, peach, and honeysuckle notes all dominate the nose, and it’s fresh and lively, yet also textured and lengthy on the palate.”

    2018 MacRostie Bacigalupi Chardonnay Russian River Valley – 91 Points

    “Last of the Chardonnay, the 2018 Chardonnay Bacigalupi comes from a site on the Russian River Valley and was raised in 22% new French oak. White currants, apple blossom, spice box, and honeyed toast characteristics give way to a soft, juicy, balanced beauty that has good acidity and a clean, elegant style ideal for drinking over the coming 4-5 years.”

    2017 MacRostie Thale’s Vineyard Pinot Noir Russian River Valley – 91 Points

    “The translucent ruby-hued 2017 Pinot Noir Thale’s Vineyard was completely destemmed and spent 10 months in 40% new French oak. Coming from a site in the Russian River Valley, it’s made in a more elegant style yet still brings the Russian River fruit profile with lots of cherry and mulled strawberry notes as well as medium body, a core of sweet fruit, and a great finish. It’s another balanced, charming, incredibly delicious Pinot Noir from this estate. Drink it over the coming 3-5 years.”

    2017 MacRostie The Loch Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast – 91 Points

    “The most expensive release in the lineup, the 2017 Pinot Noir The Loch comes from a site on the Sonoma Coast and was brought up in 40% new French oak, with the balance in once- and twice-used oak. It has a touch more oak yet packs plenty of light cherry and strawberry fruit, subtle spice, medium to full body, a great mid-palate, ripe tannins, and a good finish. I don’t find it considerably better than the other releases here, but it’s still a terrific wine.”

    2018 MacRostie Russian River Valley Chardonnay – 90 Points

    “The 2018 Chardonnay Russian River Valley is in the same ballpark, with beautiful purity of fruit (orchard fruits, white flowers), medium-bodied richness and depth, good acidity, and terrific overall balance. Both of these two appellation blends are terrific wines well worth seeking out.”

    Download MacRostie Reviews

  • Restaurant Wine Review of MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

    Restaurant Wine 

    by Ronn Wiegand
    February 2020

    2017 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir – 4 Stars: Excellent quality for its type, style, and price. Among the very best of its type for its price. Highly recommended

    “Screw cap. Excellent: supple and finely flavored, this Pinot Noir is a crisp, balanced wine, with rose petal, cherry, red currant, black tea, and oak aromas/flavors, and a long finish. Shows a bit of tannin; can develop further. Fine value.”

    2018 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay – 3+ Stars: Very good quality for its type, style, and price. Has distinctive character and positive attributes. Recommended

    “Screw cap. A full bodied, crisp Sonoma Coast Chardonnay of very good quality. It is round, delicately flavored (pineapple, white peach, lime, toast, roasted nut), balanced, and lingering on the finish. Very good value; will develop with modest aging.”

    Download Pinot Noir Review

    Download Chardonnay Review

  • 2018 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay – 91 Points

    Wine Review Online 

    by Rich Cook
    April 28, 2020

    Another fine Chardonnay from one of my favorite producers. This multi-vineyard wine shows winemaker Heidi Bridenhagen’s talent for blending, showing nice range from apple and citrus notes to more tropical suggestions of pineapple and mango. A creamy mid-palate and a crisp finish make this a glass I could swirl and sip all day, or pair with a salmon in cream sauce. Well done!”

    2018 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

  • The Best Wines For Springtime’s Bounty Of New Foods

    Forbes.comMariani’s Virtual Gourmet Newsletter 

    by John Mariani 
    April 23, 2020

    “I’m not fond of people who serve me produce out of season, like the tasteless, sinewy asparagus people eat all year long and tomatoes that were picked in the middle of January. I therefore look forward with baited breath to what springtime brings to market, and I love nothing more than to match up wines appropriately. Now’s the time for strawberries, radishes, peas, arugula, basil, mint, fennel, morels, apricots, cherries, dandelion greens, fava beans, fiddlehead ferns, new potatoes and rhubarb to come out. (Artichokes are also in season but, despite the earnest efforts of  some wine writers to match them with wines, none really work.) And spring lamb is readily available and at its best. Here are some wonderful match-ups.

    2018 MacRostie Sonoma Coast Chardonnay

    At 14.5% alcohol, this is considerably more powerful than most Chardonnays, even from California, but, if you like this style, with pronounced oak and vanilla, this well-priced Sonoma example is your best choice for lobster with clarified butter, bluefish and soft-shell crabs.”

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