Rebel of Paso Robles – Clos Solène Winemaker Blends Old World Tradition with New World Style


Clos Solène Bottles

“I don’t want to sound too French-y.” That was the moment of self-deprecation from the young winemaker, Guillaume Fabre of Clos Solène, that officially won over the room of tasters — assuming there were any that had not already been enchanted at the first sip of his 2015 Hommage Blanc (Wine Advocate 94 points), a crisp white Rhône-style blend of citrus and wet stone.

A third-generation winemaker from the South of France, Fabre spent his childhood through his early 20’s on the family winery tending to the grapes and learning the old world rituals behind producing exceptional wine. After graduating with a major in winemaking, enology and vineyard management at the Lycée Charlemagne, Fabre took an internship with acclaimed winery L’Aventure in Paso Robles in 2004.  His goals were simple: to learn English and perfect his craft.  Following his internship, and a brief stint at his parents’ property in Bordeaux, Fabre returned to Paso Robles with his muse, a young woman named Solène (now his wife), and a dream to make his own wine.  Again, his goal was simple: to make impeccable wine, his way.

Guillaume Fabre of Clos Solène

Doing things his unique way is Fabre’s calling card. An artist, Fabre is less concerned with “how it has always been done” — though he absolutely respects the traditions he was steeped in as a child and young man — and more focused on how it can be done to produce the finest product.  While the classic trinity of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre (“GSM”) is the hallmark of Côtes du Rhône-style wines, Fabre has been known to blend in a hint of white varietals like Viognier to give his red blends a pop of acidity that make them more food friendly and drinkable at an earlier age. And while the Paso Robles AVA is best-known for its heritage Zinfandel and Rhône varieties, Fabre’s appropriately named Cabernet Sauvignon, L’Insolent (Wine Advocate awarded the 2015 vintage 95 points), is as fine an expression as any of its Napa Valley cousins.

Indeed, even Fabre’s approach to wine sales and marketing is outside the box. He works with recreational wine enthusiasts to organize small “pop-up” tastings, many in private homes. And Fabre’s wine club allows customers to select for themselves the wines they will receive — a far cry from the ubiquitous “take what you get” model many clubs use as a producer’s clearing house for less desirable bottles.

When I curiously observed that his Rhône-style reds were not bottled in the typical, fatter, Burgundy-like bottles, he matter-of-factly quipped, “I think the [tall, straight Bordeaux-style] bottles are much more elegant.” However, the uncommon shape of the vessel became irrelevant the moment I tasted Fabre’s 2014 Harmonie (Wine Advocate 93 points) — the epitome of Châteauneuf-du-Pape with its velvety and complex parade of herbs and dark fruit, and as drinkable a GSM blend many vintages its senior.

Guillaume Fabre

So, what’s next for the talented Fabre and Clos Solène, currently a two person-operation assisted by some strategically placed electric blankets to help keep select barrels warm at night? Simple: purchasing his own piece of Paso Robles vineyard. I plan to buy a few extra bottles to help him get there.

Tastings can be arranged by appointment.

— Taste of Adventure


Death of the Speakeasy?

Playing Card

A friend recently asked me if the speakeasy trend was over.  Has the hoop jumping of SCOPing out secret entrAnces, passwords, and the like run its course?  I thought perhaps this might be the case.  But a few weeks ago I dropped into a bustling West L.A. ITALIAN restaurant for an early biRd dinner of chopped Brussel sprOuts salad with salty pecorino, California grapes and toasted almonds; whole branzinO with fennel and lemon; and piping hot sugar-dusted zeppole.  That was enough for me to leave quite pleased.  But then the owner approached our table, with a wry smile, asking if we might want to try something special at the “hidden bar.”  It’s nearly impossible for me to resist an invitaTion to check out a Secret lair housing untold treats.  I’m pretty sure my weakness for clandestine spots and secret passageways stems directly from my obsession with the OLD boardgame Clue, which my brother and I played nonstop as kids.   We accepted the invitation and were escorted out the front of the restaurant and led to an unmarked, handle-less door.  A couple quick raps and a sharply dressed man in a fedora cracked the door, quickly confirmed we had the proper escort, and welcomed us inside.  First order of business, surrender your phone.  A single playing card acts as your claim check to retrieve it at the end of the evening.  We were then ushered to the bar.  The room is a jewelbox lined with rare whiskeys, scotches, and other spirits, as well as a colorful assortment of vintage tiki and cocktail glasses (which appear to have been snatched up from a very classy grandmother’s estate sale).  The cocktail list has the heft of a college text book.  But the best move is to set it aside and ask one of the eager craftsmen to demonstrate their skills by creating something bespoke.  Finding a drink I haven’t tried before can, at this stage, be as challenging as catching LIGHTING in a bottle; but I am pleased to say this place deliVerEd.  The atmosphere aNd servICE inspire you to sit for hours; which can be dangerous when imbibing $22 cocktails.  Though I may have expected to write this place off as a gimmick (albeit a charming one), I felt like Miss Scarlett, in the Library, giddy with anticipation about what might happen next.

Best Place for Drinks and Dinner in Glen Ellen

Glen Ellen Star 2015 © Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Towards the end of his life, American novelist Jack London — whose beloved works include “The Call of the Wild” and “White Fang” — purchased a ranch in Glen Ellen, a tiny speck of a town in Sonoma County California. With less than 1,000 people and cloaked by shadowy oak trees, it’s the kind of place you’ll miss if you blink. No doubt the foremost quality that led Mr. London and a relative handful of others to call Glen Ellen home. Most of those who pass by likely give a quick nod to its small-town charm, snap a photo, daydream about what living there would be like, and in their next breath continue on down Highway 12. Like a first date: pleasant enough, but neither person making an effort to dig deeper.

Glen Ellen Star 2015 © Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Slow down. Pry the veneer. There is something mystical and curious here, maybe even a bit dark. Something that inspired ole Jack to devote the final years of his life to the development of his ranch, leading him to abandon his first love authoring cherished classics in favor of turning out dime store fiction to fund his obsession. Tragically, the crown jewel of the property, Wolf House, burned down shortly before it was finished. London died on the property a few years later at the age of 40, ashes scattered under a rock, whispers of alcoholism and suicide.

Iconic and delicately human. Picturesque and splendidly peculiar. That is Jack, and Glen Ellen. And, at the risk of putting too fine a point on it, the Saloon at Jack London Lodge. Well, perhaps not iconic, but beloved despite its quirks. Or because of them. There’s a polished oak bar, comfy wingback chairs, and big screen TVs. Lively locals, snarky (in a good way) bartenders, cold Coors on tap, and high-quality local wine by the glass. Rough around the edges with a pure heart. Kind of like the sled dog in that famous book.

Glen Ellen Star 2015 © Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Along with the winemakers, vineyard workers, artists and anything-but-ordinary townsfolk, culinary mavericks have descended upon the 2-square-mile hamlet, which boasts at least seven notable restaurants at the time of this writing. Among them, Glen Ellen Star. Nevermind the pedigree of Chef Ari Weiswasser, which includes Daniel and The French Laundry. Really, forget it. This is down home awesomeness on a plate. Cast iron quick bread with za’atar oil. Bubbly-crusted fig pizza from the wood fire oven. Charred corn, cotija cheese, chipotle and lime — an homage to Mexican street food.  Crispy-skinned brick chicken with creamy corn, green chiles and dill. It’s always nice to see an accomplished chef run wild. Kind of like the sled dog in that famous book.

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Top 3 Boutique Hotels in Sonoma for Foodies



There are a number of small hotels, inns and B&Bs to chose from when planning a visit to Sonoma, home of some of the finest wine producers in the world (check out the Top 10 Sonoma County Wineries to Visit). With perks like cookies and milk at turndown, evening port by the fire, and an exclusive wine bar stocked with local gems, these top selections promise to deliver an unforgettable experience in this premier wine and food destination.

Farmhouse Inn

Farmhouse Inn Forestville. Take a family-owned B&B in the heart of the Russian River Valley and pair it with impeccable service (6 concierges for 18 guest rooms) and a world-class restaurant, and you have one of the most special places in Sonoma. The Farmhouse Inn isn’t merely an experience; it’s a wine country lifestyle. The super luxe Barn rooms are regularly used for Pottery Barn photo shoots. Visit the “Sonoma Bath Bar” near reception and stock up on complimentary seasonal scrubs, salts, milk bath and handmade olive oil bar soaps to enjoy in your grand soaking tub (don’t miss the Sumbody Wholesum Bath Milk, a sweet and creamy mix of coconut milk, buttermilk, goat milk, cream and yogurt, that smells like warm sugar cookies). The 3-course farm-to-table breakfast, featuring treats like warm Blackberry Scones, perfectly-cooked eggs from the family’s nearby ranch, mascarpone stuffed French toast, and artisanal coffee from local roaster Taylor Maid Farms, will be one of the highlights of your visit. Check out one of the “Farmhouse Expeditions,” like local food foraging, peach basil jam making, or morning egg collecting. Share wine tasting stories with other guests around the outdoor fire pit while making s’mores with housemade marshmallows. Few things are as sweet as enjoying a honey and ginger massage or luxuriating in your steam shower before descending a flight of stairs to a Michelin starred restaurant. Feast on salt roasted pear and parmesan cappelletti with shaved Burgundy truffles. Then retire to your room for warm cookies and milk in front of the wood burning fireplace. The sweet surprise you receive in the mail around the holidays every December will have you booking your next trip.

Gaige House

Gaige House Glenn Ellen. Nestled near Calabaza Creek in the tiny town of Glen Ellen, Gaige House blends country charm with modern Asian elements. The serene “Zen Suites” – which feature enclosed atriums and massive granite soaking tubs – will transport you to the Japanese countryside. The main house hosts guests every morning for a hearty farmstyle breakfast of favorites like fluffy blueberry pancakes and warm artichoke quiche. A daily wine and cheese reception and the sugary scent of fresh-baked cookies will lure you back to the main house every afternoon. After some nearby wine tasting, stop by the fig cafe (sister restaurant of the girl and the fig in the Sonoma town square) for the roasted squash pizza with bacon and sage. An indulgent hot stone massage in your suite, followed by a glass of port near the fire in the club room is a perfect end to the day. Be sure to take home a copy of The Kitchen at Four Sisters Inns cookbook and invite your friends over for a wine country brunch featuring French Bread Custard.

Kenwood Inn and SpaKenwood Inn and Spa Kenwood.  An ivy-covered Mediterranean style villa, Kenwood Inn and Spa is a little slice of Tuscany in Sonoma’s Valley of the Moon. This adult-only retreat features lavish rooms with fireplaces, featherbeds and top-quality Italian linens, as well as an award-winning spa offering vinotherapy treatments. The signature breakfast showcases products from Sonoma’s best farmers and ranchers, accented by produce and herbs grown in the on-site garden. Chocolate lovers can stop by the nearby chocolate tasting room at family-run Wine Country Chocolates to sample rich truffles and purchase other treats like chocolate dipped figs. Don’t miss Kenwood Inn’s private wine bar (which received an Award of Unique Distinction from Wine Enthusiast) where you can try rare local wines and nibble on house-marinated olives, Marcona almonds and wood-fired pizza Marghertia. Pamper yourself with the “Sweet Surrender” in-room service, and let your cares melt away in a hot bath amid flickering candles, the calming scent of lavender, and a glass of crisp Prosecco.

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Top 10 Sonoma County Wineries


(Last updated on March 21, 2017) With over 400 wineries, Sonoma County is one of California’s most prolific wine-producing regions. Top-notch Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – which thrive in the cool oceanic microclimate – along with farm-to-table dining, pristine hiking and cycling, and rustic charm, draw visitors from all over the world. Discover why Wine Enthusiast named Sonoma one of the 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations.

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1. Arista Healdsburg.  Family-owned Arista focuses on soft, elegant Russian River Valley Pinot Noir that reflects the unique terroir of the regions from which the fruit is sourced. Pros have been watching Arista’s wines since the arrival of talented winemaker Matt Courtney (formerly of Helen Turley’s Marcassin Vineyard) in 2013. In addition to Pinot Noir, enjoy samples of Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Gewurtztraminer at the intimate tasting room surrounded by a scenic Japanese garden.

2. Dutton Goldfield Sebastopol.  Pinot Noir and aromatic Chardonnay are the mainstays of Dutton Goldfield. Stop by the tasting bar and enjoy the wine and cheese flight – a tasting of limited production wines paired with local artisan cheeses – or the “Beast and Pinot” flight – a tasting of a range of Pinot Noir paired with charcuterie.

Gary Farrell

3. Gary Farrell Healdsburg.  Gary Farrell crafts superb Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with lush fruit and complexity. Although Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are at the core of the winemaking program, Gary Farrell also produces limited quantities of Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Zinfandel. Enjoy sweeping views of the Russian River Valley from the tasting bar, or book a more in-depth tasting of six wines on the outdoor terrace in warmer months or fireside in the colder season.

4. Hartford Forestville.  Hartford crafts classic, single-vineyard Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and robust old vine Zinfandel (which pairs beautifully with dark chocolate). A Pinot Noir lover’s paradise, Hartford offers upwards of ten different selections in a given year. Enjoy a tasting while taking in spectacular views of the vineyards from the patio.

5. Kistler Sebastopol.  Kistler’s world class, single-vineyard Chardonnay rivals the finest producers in Burgundy. The Pinot Noir is similarly magnificent. Both are available for purchase exclusively to their mailing list members. Those wanting to try before they invest can make a reservation for a special visit to Kistler’s Trenton Roadhouse for a taste.

Paul Hobbs

6. Paul Hobbs Sebastopol.  Paul Hobbs crafts small production, vineyard designate Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet using minimally-invasive winemaking techniques. The result is a pure and authentic expression of the varietal. Set aside two hours around lunch time for the “Small Bites Experience” at Lindsay House. You will be treated to spot-on pairings like Cabernet with wood oven roasted lamb, and Chardonnay with pan-seared halibut. Don’t miss selections of Malbec from Paul’s Argentina collection.

Porter Creek

7. Porter Creek Healdsburg.  A stop by the charming roadside tasting room of Porter Creek, a father and son operation, is a must-do. They produce organic, hillside, vineyard designate Burgundian and Rhone varietals – Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Carignane, Syrah and Zinfandel. The vineyards are sustainably farmed (they even use vehicles fueled by organic vegetable oil), with an emphasis on biodynamic practices.

8. Rochioli Healdsburg.  The Rochioli family has been growing grapes in the same vineyard for 80 years. Indeed, they were pioneers in planting Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley in the late 60s, selling off most of the fruit (including to venerable producers like Williams Selyem) until producing their own wine in the mid-80s. Rochioli offers silky Pinot Noir and crisp old vine Sauvignon Blanc, among other varietals. Stop by the tasting room to sample a range of Estate wines.

9. Sojourn Sonoma.  Sojourn – founded in 2001 – is a relative newcomer, producing critically acclaimed artisan Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet. Schedule a tasting at the charming downtown Sonoma tasting salon near the historic town square. You will appreciate Sojourn’s commitment to high-quality wine in a pretension-free, friendly atmosphere.

Williams Selyem

10. Williams Selyem Healdsburg.  From its beginnings in 1979 in a garage in Forestville, Williams Selyem has achieved renown as the producer of some of the most highly-coveted Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. They also produce lovely Chardonnay, Zinfandel and late harvest selections. Tastings of these micro-quantity wines are reserved for list members, but you can sign up here.

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Best Food and Wine Experiences in Napa Valley

Strawberry Shortcake, Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California 2014 © Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Strawberry Shortcake, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen 2014 © Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

One of the world’s best wine and food destinations, Napa Valley is nirvana for those whose greatest pleasure is the perfect pairing amid breathtaking natural beauty.  The first glimpse of the vineyards as you enter the valley on Highway 29 instantly lifts your mood in anticipation of the spectacular culinary delights that await.  Whether a romantic escape, a girls’ weekend or a cycling getaway, Napa Valley offers sensory experiences that make it effortless to unplug from the world and connect with those around you.

Undoubtedly, Napa Valley vintners produce some of the best wine in the world.  The food scene is equally revered, and includes two of the nine U.S. restaurants with a highly-coveted 3-star rating in the 2015 Michelin Guide – Chef Christopher Kostow’s Meadowood, and Chef Thomas Keller’s foodie mecca, The French Laundry.

Then there are the hidden gems of Napa Valley: off-the-beaten path tasting rooms and immersive farm-to-table experiences.  These are the magical experiences that die-hard foodies live for.

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Oakville Grocery, Oakville, Napa Valley, California A morning stop at Oakville Grocery is a delicious way to kick off your Napa Valley adventure.  Although hardly a secret (the store was founded in 1881, and is the oldest continually operating grocery store in California),  Oakville Grocery is a quaint country store supplying the tastiest treasures from Napa and Sonoma farmers and artisans.  Grab an espresso and one of the scrumptious breakfast sandwiches – perhaps the organic scrambled egg with apple wood ham, roasted peppers and pepper jack cheese on a buttery croissant – and enjoy peaceful vineyard views from one of the outdoor benches before you set out for the day.

A tasting at the O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery located high in the hills above St. Helena is a can’t-miss event.  The stunning views of the valley alone would be worth the trek; add the world-class cabernet and your mind will be blown.  O’Shaughnessy’s two offerings – Howell Mountain and Mount Veeder – consistently earn rave reviews from the venerable Robert Parker, who awarded 97 points to the 2012 Mount Veeder.  Relish the powerful, complex flavors of dark cherry, cocoa and spice as you savor every drop.

With your palate awakened, head down the mountain for lunch at local favorite Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen.  In warmer months, the tables on the charming brick patio underneath the 100-year-old fig tree are the perfect spot to enjoy incredibly fresh summer salads, crisp sauvignon blanc and sinful strawberry shortcake with fresh cream.  Or cozy up inside at the lively bar and trade stories with locals and visitors over wood oven pork shoulder and a glass of earthy pinot noir.

St. Helena Olive Oil Co., St. Helena, Napa Valley, California

After lunch, stop by St. Helena Olive Oil Company around the corner on Main Street, and be sure to try Katz and Company’s exquisite raspberry honey.  About a mile up the road is The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.  You will find all things culinary at their Spice Islands Marketplace, including a tasting bar where you can sample chocolate, cheese, charcuterie, olive oil and wine.

Pairing wine and food is an art, with thousands of books written on the subject.  When done expertly, the experience is otherworldly.  Seriously.

Austin Gallion, Director of Hospitality and Executive Chef at Vineyard 29, is a pairing pro.  He is the mastermind behind Vineyard 29’s innovative hospitality programs.  Forget the ubiquitous dry breadstick, and reserve your spot for a flight of Vineyard 29’s superb cabernets, cab francs and zinfandel’s perfectly matched with bite-sized “tastes” like duck confit with cherry compote. Guests with good timing might be able to snag Vineyard 29’s coveted sauvignon blanc, which delights with bright citrus, minerality and warm caramel.

Olive Oil and Syrup, Round Pond Estate, Rutherford, Napa Valley, California

Those looking for the full farm-to-fork experience have two first-rate opportunities. Round Pond Estate, located in the acclaimed Rutherford region of Napa Valley, is a family-owned and operated estate comprised of vineyards, gardens and orchards. In addition to excellent wine, the family produces delicious artisanal olive oils, red wine vinegars and citrus fruit syrups. The “Garden to Table Brunch” includes a tour of the biodynamic garden, cooking demonstration (with wine), estate wine tasting and seated brunch on the stunning terrace with sweeping views of Napa Valley. Those looking to get their hands dirty can book a spot for the annual “A Day in the Life” experience, where you will harvest grapes, assist the winemakers, and enjoy all the gourmet food and wine the estate offers.

Grassfed Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Jam, Farmstead, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California

Advocates of sustainable, organic farming will be rapt with Long Meadow Ranch, which produces acclaimed wines, olive oil, grassfed beef, eggs, honey and heirloom fruits and vegetables. Options to see and experience everything LMR has to offer abound, and include extensive tours, kitchen workshops, and multi-course meals hosted by Chef Tim Mosblech. For those with limited time, book a table at LMR’s restaurant, Farmstead, and devour down-home goodies like wood grilled artichokes, meatballs with tomato marmalade, grassfed lamb, and “brick cooked” chicken with salsa verde.


Ready for more wine tasting? Set aside a couple of hours to lounge in the outdoor sculpture garden at Ma(i)sonry in downtown Yountville. The art collection is intriguing, but the main attraction is tasting hard-to-find wines from over 20 boutique producers like Juslyn, Lail, Pahlmeyer, and Renteria. Don’t miss Blackbird Vineyards’ incredible Pomerol-inspired wines; a glass of the Arriviste rosé is the picture-perfect ending to a day of indulgence.

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Top Food Markets to See Before You Die









1. FERRY PLAZA FARMERS MARKET San Francisco, California

Not too far from the epicenter of the organic food movement popularized by renowned chef, food activist and writer Alice Waters, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market has a seemingly endless offering of organic fruits, vegetables, meat, cheese and prepared foods from over 80 Bay Area producers. While the farmers market is open three days a week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday), the Ferry Building Marketplace, open daily, is a destination in its own right. Must Try: Ethereal beignets from Boulettes Larder, burnt caramel hazelnuts from Recchiuti Confections, and almond brittle with dark chocolate from Alfieri Farms.

2. MERCADO DE LA MERCED Mexico City, Mexico

The largest market in Mexico City, La Merced sprawls across four city blocks and offers an boundless bounty of Mexico’s finest provisions from over 3,000 vendors, including dozens of dries and fresh chiles, moles, Oaxacan cheese, nopals (cactus paddles) and avocados. Pick up the freshest ingredients for this unforgettable guacamole. Must Try: Rich, spicy, fragrant Mexican vanilla, and homemade grilled masa cakes.

3. LA BOQUERIA Barcelona, Spain

Dating back to 1217, La Boqueria is one of the oldest, and arguably finest, markets in Europe. With a dizzying array of produce, meat, seafood, cheese, olives, spices and much more, you could easily spend a whole day here, winding down with a glass of cava and tapas at Bar Pinotxo. Or book a class at La Boqueria’s cooking school. Must try: Iberico ham, manchego cheese, and one of the myriad brightly-colored fruit popsicles.


The main attraction at Tsukiji Fish Market is the early morning tuna auction, where visitors (capped at 120 a day) line up at 5:00 a.m. to observe the spectacle. Must try: Incomparably fresh sushi and sashimi at Daiwa Sushi.

5. COURS SALEYA Nice, France

Nestled among picturesque buildings and mere steps away from the turquoise Mediterranean Sea, Cours Saleya is one of the most beautiful markets in France. Although largely a flower market, you will find a generous offering of the freshest fruits and vegetables in Southern France, including the elusive and fragrant fraises des bois (wild strawberries). Must try: Sundried tomatoes and vanilla sea salt.


Undoubtedly the best little market you’ve probably never heard of, the Saturday Waimea Town Market is a relatively undiscovered gem nestled among the gently rolling hills of the upcountry. Over 30 vendors offer beautiful produce, meat and prepared foods from the Big Island — most produced within miles — including exotic items like lilikoi (passion fruit), ginger, coconut, papayas, and rambutans, which can be difficult to find as fresh stateside. And if all this wasn’t enough, the market is run on a volunteer basis and has raised over $150,000 in the last six years for Parker School. Must try: Macadamia nut tarts and pineapple and toasted coconut macadamia nuts from Ahualoa Farms

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