Looking to plan a weekend getaway to explore the best Essex County Wineries?
Explore Ontario Southwest’s best vineyards, located a short drive from Windsor and Detroit on the north shore of Lake Erie near Kingsville. The Essex Wineries offer tasting rooms, vineyard tours, spacious outdoor patios, romantic restaurants, and beautiful wedding venues!
Our comprehensive wine guide showcases our favourite Essex County Wineries, featuring detailed descriptions for the best vineyards to swirl and sip on a wine lovers road trip!
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History of Essex County Wineries
They found them on Pelee Island, just off the shores of Lake Erie. In 1866 the trio – D.J.Williams, Thomas Williams and Thaddeus Smith – opened Canada’s first commercial estate winery, Vin Villa Estates.
Since then, a growing number of vintners have been reclaiming the soil and the region’s reputation by producing some of Canada’s most interesting wines. Between 2005 and 2015 saw a remarkable growth in the number of vineyards and wineries in Essex County, including the formation of SWOVA (Southwestern Ontario Vintners Association), which then turned into the current association EPIC (Essex Pelee Island Coast Winegrowers Association).
Today, there are approximately 1,000 acres of grapes in the Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island Designated Viticultural Areas in Ontario Southwest.
Essex County is sitting on the bottom of an ancient inland sea, so the dominant soil types are sandy loam and clay. Laura Fancsy, President of the Essex Pelee Island Coast Winegrowers Association shared, “As you head further north in Essex County you will see more clay and less sandy loam. We are a relatively young wine growing region, so still in the experimental phase for what grows best. In my opinion, based on what we have tried and seen success with, Cabernet Franc, Riesling, Chardonnay are consistently good.”
Essex County has a country charm with the wineries situated adjacent to their vineyards. Fancsy added, “Often you will find winery principles working the retail shop or tasting bar, allowing for an intimate look at the passion behind the bottles. Essex County is also situated next to Point Pelee National Park, home to spectacular bird watching and the Monarch migration, as well as an international border with Michigan, allowing for convenient day-trips to Detroit.”
Festivals at Windsor Essex Wineries
- March Madness: Your vine-side ticket to this annual event includes a gourmet mac n’ cheese sample and wine pairing at each participating winery.
- Spring Into Epic: In May celebrate the start of summer weather with a weekend pass that includes a wine sample and unique experience at each participating winery.
- An EPIC Afternoon: This event brings together the winery members of Essex Pelee Island Coast and their customers for an afternoon of fine wine, delicious food, and live music.
- An EPIC Taste of the Season: EPIC wineries hold a food donation drive to stock up local food banks shelves before the holiday season.
How To Get To The Essex County Wineries
Essex County is located a short drive south of Windsor on the north shore of Lake Eerie.
Most tourists stay in Kingsville, which makes for a great hub for a weekend getaway as there are plenty of cute coffee shops, soothing spas, friendly restaurants and romantic accommodation options.
If you’re looking to sleep in the heart of downtown Kingsville we suggest booking a room at the trendy design-forward The Grove Hotel. If you’re looking to enjoy an adults-only romantic weekend escape enjoy some R&R in beautiful rural surroundings at The Walnut Grove B&B.
From Toronto the drive to Kingsville is 350 km and takes approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes along Highway 401.
Best Essex County Wineries
If it’s your first time visiting the Essex County Wineries we suggest buying an Epic Wine Tasting Pass. For just $50 you can enjoy at flight of four wines at 8 wineries in the region. Each pass is delivered instantly via text message or email and is valid for 365 days from purchase.
After visiting the wineries on the passport you can discover 6 other vineyards in the region for a total of 14 oenology adventures!
455 Seacliff Dr, 519-733-6551
Grapes were first planted on Pelee Island in 1854 with commercial winemaking developed over the next decade. By the turn of the century, there were approximately two dozen wineries operating in Essex County. Prohibition in the United States, liquor reforms in Canada and other agricultural and socioeconomic conditions such as the WWI led to the downturn of the industry by the 1930s. In 1979, grapes were then reintroduced to the island with a planting on a 150 acre estate. Pelee island Winery was established in 1982, with the winery doors in Kingsville opening in 1983.
The winery takes its name from Pelee Island, where the farm and estate grapes are grown. The word pelée is French for ‘bald’ and was named by early explorers to the region. Located to the northeast of Pelee Island in 1918, Point Pelee was the first national park in Canada to be established for conservation.
Today the popular winery offers two locations for visiting oenophiles to visit: one on the mainland in Kingsville and one on Pelee Island at the Pavilion. The Kingsville location offers charcuterie boards to enjoy while wine tasting. At the Pavilion on the island peckish guests can order from the Deli Hut Menu. Popular menu items include wood fired pizzas, and “You BBQ” items that you can grill on public barbecues. The Pavilion is open May to October and the Kingsville location is open year-round.
Martin Janz and Tim Charisse are Pelee Island Winery’s winemakers. “Pelee Island is home to the southernmost vineyards in Canada, planted on limestone based, shallow clay soils. Proximity to Lake Erie offers safe incubation in spring and protection well into the fall to contribute to the unique microclimate with over 200 frost free days and the most heat units in all of Canada. This combination of limestone, lakes and latitude is what makes Pelee Island one of the very special places in Canada,” said Charisse.
1193 Road 3 E, 519-733-9463
Mastronardi Estate Winery opened in 2006 after the Mastronardi family purchased a historical 100 acre vineyard in the heart of Lake Erie North Shore. It is owned by Eadie and Tony Mastronardi and their son Jared.
The Mastronardi’s transformed the older original pole barn into the current winery, retail and tasting room with unique artisan craftsmanship offering the appearance of old world charm. Its new more modern Vino Vista space is a popular wedding venue, built a few years ago.
Both Tony and Jared make the wine at their namesake vineyard. Tony loves red varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and especially Syrah.
Looking to enjoy an intimate experience at one of the Essex County Wineries? We suggest booking Mastronardi Estates viticulture tour. Join the family in their vineyard to celebrate everything grape growing. It’s just $15 a person and includes a tasting of 4 award winning wines.
1425 Iler Rd, 519-738-4295
Cooper’s Hawk Vineyard first opened in July, 2011 in the heart of Windsor Essex Wine County.
It is located on the original land of the Caldwell First Nation. It was an apple orchard when Tom and Katy O’Brien bought the first 25 acres. The vineyard now stretches across 70 acres of land and 18 acres of grapes.
The Essex County Winery’s name pays tribute to a bird that was present when the O’Brien’s bought the property.
Nik Antunovch is the winemaker at Cooper’s Hawk and he has been blending quality grapes here since 2015. He is now an owner of the winery. He lives in Niagara with his spouse who is a winemaker at Peller Estates.
Nik likes working the longer growing season in Essex County. “We like all our varietals and our approach is to let the grapes speak for themselves. Every vintage of Ontario wine is unique depending on the growing season. We want to have the wines express that,” said Tom.
We suggest visiting Cooper’s Hawk Vineyards for lunch to enjoy a wine paired feast at The Vines Restaurant. On a sunny day find a shady spot on the beautiful outdoor patio or in the winter keep cozy inside the restaurants intimate dining room.
533 County 50 Rd E, 519-738-3264
Oxley Estate Winery opened in July, 2012, in the midst of a first-time tourist event along County Road 50, Explore the Shore, that brought in over 3,000 visitors over two days!
The Essex County Winery is owned by the Wilson family: Ann and Murray, their son Steve and his wife Karolynn.
Steve Wilson from Oxley Estate Winery shared, “We are in the historic hamlet of Oxley, a centre of agriculture and a favourite vacation locale for city dwellers, who came out by train and wagon to stay in farm houses in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Oxley was also the end point of the famed Sauk Indian trail from the Chicago area.”
The building was originally a tobacco sorting barn, built in 1920, then used for vegetable sorting and packing. “We added new cedar siding, large windows and doors, a sweeping staircase, fireplaces in and out, the large shaded patio, and gardens. We want Oxley to be warm and inviting with lots of light and greenery, similar to the grand houses of the 1920’s,” explained Wilson.
Oxley Estate’s winemaker is Murray Wilson, while Steve’s son (Murray’s grandson), Andrew Wilson, is the Assistant Winemaker.
“Murray has been here from the beginning. We planted the first grapes in 2010. Andy was here then, too, with his older brother, David – working in the fields as very young teenagers. Andy went on to get a degree in Oenology and Viticulture from Brock University. He especially enjoys making dry, crisp and refreshing white wines, but his favourite grape is Syrah,” said Wilson.
The popular Windsor Essex County Winery has an onsite restaurant that serves lunch everyday in the busy summer season and early dinners on Friday and Saturday. It’s known for its fresh perch, peanut duck wings, oysters and signature Barn Burger.
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151 County Road 50 East, 1-866-372-8439
John, Steve and Jean Fancsy are the owners of Viewpointe Estate Winery.
The winery property was purchased from local winemaker Sal D’Angelo, who had planted the grapes in 1999. The property is on Little’s Point, one of the most Southern points in mainland Canada.
The tasting bar and retail space was modeled after French Chateaus in Bordeaux. The stone and woodwork as well as the rotunda, which makes up a unique feature of the retail building, is based on the Mettawas Hotel and Casino in Kingsville built by Hiram Walker in the 1890s. The East and West buildings are connected through a large underground tunnel that serves as a barrel room.
Having one of the best, unobstructed, panoramic views of Lake Erie is the inspiration behind the winery’s name.
John Fancsy is the resident winemaker. He is passionate about creating wines that showcase this region’s true world-class potential: Cabernet Merlot capable of aging long-term, barrel-fermented Chardonnay, and Cabernet Franc.
In the warm summer months we suggest planning your visit around lunch to enjoy a sunny seat on the outdoor patio. The kitchen offers comfort food classics like fish & chips, poutine, chicken wings, pizzas and a slew of fresh salads.
The restaurant also offers a special menu to compliment the winery’s summer concert series.
130 Essex County Rd 50, 519-738-6111
Martin Gorski and Suzanne Dajczak are the owners of North 42 Degrees Estate Winery. Martin planted the vineyard in 2007 and has been making wine since 2011.
The eye-catching winery has a compact gravity flow design featuring a geothermal cooling system for increased energy efficiency. The welcome centre was designed on the principals of using natural materials like stone, glass, and wood to “bring the outside in.”
The 42nd parallel marks the California–Oregon border, an area world-renowned for winemaking. “We wanted to create a sense of location that associates our terroir with other areas engaged in winemaking,” said Gorski.
Looking to enjoy a romantic dinner at one of the Essex County Wineries? Visit North 42 Degrees and you’ll find a spacious tasting room with outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards. Skip upstairs and you’ll find Bistro 42 dining room, outfitted with a booming fireplace for a cozy winter meal. There’s also a rooftop patio best enjoyed at sunset with a flute of sparkling wine.
The winery’s bistro offers Sunday brunch, lunch, and dinner menus. The dishes are designed to reflect what’s in season. During our visit in September the Fall harvest menu had just launched and featured a mouth-watering Autumn Salad, Smoked Salmon Carpaccio, Ravioli Bolognese and Vegan Risotto.
108 Essex County Rd 50, 519-738-9800
Colchester Ridge Estate Winery, also known as CREW, was established in 2001 by husband and wife team Bernie and Nancy Gorski.
“The name CREW didn’t necessarily come from a love of sailing but is certainly a happy coincidence. Our name CREW is an acronym for Colchester (where we are) Ridge (for the ridge formed by the ice age as it passed through our region) and Estate Winery,” Gorski explained.
The Gorski’s planted twelve acres of vinifera vines on their family land in 2001, produced their first vintage in 2004, and opened the shop in the red building behind the vineyard in 2006. After years of continual growth led by product quality and personal hospitality, the Gorski’s proudly presented the new CREW Winery & Gallery in November, 2019.
Visit the popular Windsor Essex Winery and you’ll find an art gallery and event space upstairs. The vineyard also boasts 3 covered patios, 2 of which are screened in. For canine lovers, the front patio is dog friendly.
The focal point at the tasting bar is “All Together Now,” a metal sculpture by Giuseppe Palumbo featuring three dancing sheep. It symbolizes the celebration of being with your CREW.
For five years Colchester Ridge Estate’s winemaker Ryan Oldridge has been working with local fruit, including estate grown Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot.
“CREW and Lake Erie North Shore produce some of the most consistently ripened grapes in Ontario, year over year. Because of this, we’re able to create these bigger and bolder red wines while continuing to make fresh delicate, fruit driven whites as well,” said Oldridge.
Looking to enjoy brunch at one of the Essex County Wineries?
The restaurant at Colchester Ridge Estate offers a breakfast menu on Sundays between 10am-1pm. You can also pop by for lunch between 1-5pm, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday Friday and Saturday. Highlights from the menu include Chicken Bacon Egg Rolls, Mandarin Goat Cheese Salad, Pickerel Sliders and Hanger Steak Crostini.
7457 County Rd 18, 519-738-1145
Muscedere Vineyards is a family-run Essex Winery, which first opened in 2006.
Melissa Muscedere shared, “Talks of a winery began with my two older brothers Fabio and Roberto. My brothers noticed an opportunity in Windsor Essex, something new we could do with our family farm that our parents had purchased back in 1986. Our father was retiring around the same time and our Nonno in Italy managed vineyards his whole life.”
Preparation began in the early 2000’s and first planting took place in 2002. “My parents built their house, which also houses our retail store in 2004. Since than we’ve added on our production area, a backyard gazebo and pizza oven, where we prepare wood-fired pizzas between May and October,” said Melissa.
Winemaker Roberto Muscedere has a passion for reds. “They grow best on our family property, we have a thick heavy toledo clay soil that stresses our red vines and produces great concentration. We’re also about 10 km off the lake and have an earlier bud break and in turn a greater amount of growing degree days onsite,” said Melissa.
Muscedere Vineyards is a family-friendly Essex County Winery. You’ll find free-range chickens and two pet goats that are always a hit with kids!
1 Colio Dr, 519-738-2241
Colio Estate Winery first opened in 1980 and is known for being one of the first wineries in the Windsor area.
It was here in Lake Erie North Shore, the southernmost and warmest wine appellation region of Ontario, that three Italian bricklayers named Alfredo, Enzo and Tiberio decided to fulfill their life dream of building a winery. Colio would go on to receive the first winery license in Southwestern Ontario.
The name Colio is not a family name, but the name of a region in Italy that is famous for its wines.
Rich Fortin Vice President of Marketing at Colio Estate Winery shared, “Given our winery location in the heart of Harrow, we really wanted the winery to be visually impressive and to have a feeling of warmth. We worked with local contractors and used local stone to give the winery that local feel and used flowers, chairs and lots of windows to give the front of the winery a very inviting feel.”
Allison Christ has been the Colio Estate Winery winemaker for 9 years. She began fostering her skills in winemaking with an Honours BSc. in Chemistry and Mathematics from the University of Windsor, followed by harvest experience in both small and large winery settings, as well as a President’s position at the Windsor Essex Chapter of the Ontario Wine Society. Christ loves making sparkling wine and barrel fermented chardonnay.
If you’re looking to visit one of the oldest Essex County Wineries, Colio Estate offers tasting flights daily 7 days a week for $10 per flight for 4 one ounce samples. You can enjoy tasting flights under a covered pavilion or while sitting in a comfy Muskoka chair located out front of the winery.
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724 County Road 50 E, 519-738-0597
Paglione Estate Winery is a family owned vineyard that first opened in 2013 in Windsor Essex County.
Founder Santino Paglione always dreamed of owning a vineyard when he was a little boy growing up in Italy.
Paglione Estate Winery’s Tuscan-style building features a clay tile roof, stone façade, and turret. Santonio formed and built the cupola on the patio and the outdoor pizza oven. The mountain scene painted behind the tasting bar is Santino’s hometown of Capracotta, an Apennine Mountain town in the province of Molise. There is actually a stone from his childhood farmhouse in the archway of the entrance door of the winery. The cherubs on the ceiling are meant to be a depiction of Bacchus, the Italian God of Wine, who is sometimes represented by a curly-haired cherub drinking wine. All murals in the winery were painted by Susan Dupont Baptista.
Sandra Paglione, President and Co-Owner of Paglione Estate Winery shared, “We work with Jan Schulte-Bisping, who has a Masters in Oenology and Viticulture from Germany, with over 20 years of industry experience working in California, South Africa, and since 2012, Canada. Being German, he of course, loves Riesling and makes an amazing, beautiful dry Riesling. He is also loves working with the classics, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Gewurztraminer.”
Looking for one of the best Essex County Wineries to enjoy a wine paired fancy feast?
Paglione Estate’s Trattoria is famous for its wood-fired pizzas, traditional Italian sharing plates, Italian-inspired cocktails, and gelato.
7258 Essex County Rd 50 RR #5, 519-738-9253
Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery first opened in 2006. It is Ontario’s only beachfront winery. The perfect place to sip a cool glass of Pinot Grigio while dipping your toes in Lake Eerie.
The award winning winery is a family affair, managed by Stephen, Tanya and Jake Mitchell. Sprucewood Shores’ President Stephen Mitchell shared, “The building was designed and built by our father Gord Mitchell. His preferred style was a blend of rustic wood and stone. Gord was a farmer, turned plant manager who always kept his dreams of returning to his roots alive.”
They saw an opportunity to create a premier vineyard along the shores of Lake Erie back in 1975 and after acquiring the land, the Mitchells started planting vines by hand in 1991 with the help of their extended family. They sold their grapes to neighboring wineries for years, until 2004, winemaker Tanya created Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery’s first vintage release.
Tanya’s winemaking philosophy has developed in to one that is strongly influenced by her technical and experience based background and an understanding that wine is an artistic expression. Her focus is on delivering a balance of minerality, acidity, fruit, and finesse in her wines. Her favorite varietals to work with are Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling and Marquette.
8704 Essex Road 9, 519-563-7697
The test plot vineyard at Dancing Swallows was originally planted in 2006. Later the commercial vineyard was planted in 2012, first small harvest took place in 2014, and the winery opened for retail in 2020.
The farm was surveyed back in the 1840’s, and has been in the Wilkins family since 1881. The family is linked to a lot of the United Empire Loyalist families that came here in the late 18th century.
The winery tasting area is all outdoor gardens, centred around a 100 year old maple tree. The tasting garden is surrounded by a full suite of heritage farm buildings: driveshed, granary, barn, milk house, machine building, hen house, tobacco stripping house, smoke house, and cold cellar. Most date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Scott Wilkins owners of Dancing Swallows Vineyard explained, “I inherited the 100-acre farm 20 years ago, and was looking for a way to keep it in the family. Given the number of wineries opening in the area (and my passion for wine) a winery sounded like good path forward. The name comes from the swallows that were seen flying above the test plot vineyard on a very hot day, and my niece commenting, At least someone is having fun out here.“
Scott’s is the winemaker at Dancing Swallop Vineyard and loves working with the chardonnay grape. “I tend to like love-it-or-hate-it wines. I have this feeling that making a wine that everyone ‘likes’ means no one will love it. So, we tend to push the envelope on the winemaking a bit.”
Grab a seat on one of the Muskoka chairs on the grass and enjoy a tasting of fine wine served out of a cute red shipping container.
5141 Concession Rd 5 N, 519-997-2576
Vivace Estate Winery first opened its doors in August, 2017.
The name Vivace is a classical music term, meaning a lively and upbeat tempo. It represents the essence a vineyard and winery should be – a lively place that brings people together.
Jean Qian is the owner of the popular Windsor Essex Winery, which is a 100% woman-owned business! The vineyard itself is one of the oldest in Lake Erie North Shore as many of the vines were planted in the 1980s.
“Since I first laid eyes on the vineyard I had a vision of what I wanted this winery to be. Now I completely transformed the old barn into a peaceful, elegant rustic winery. Last year, we added a modern look tasting room feels like a breath of fresh air that contrast to our old rustic tasting room with barrels around. The new modern look tasting room now is a big attraction for those younger customers to get involved in Ontario wines,” said Vivace Estate Winery owner Jean Qian.
It’s located in the western entrance of the wine route in Windsor Essex County. “We are either customer’s first stop or the last stop of their wine tour of Lake Erie North Shore. We strive to make a good first or lasting impression on all of our customers and make sure they come back to the region,” said Qian.
We suggest sampling Vivace Estate Winery’s signature red wine called Etude. It’s crafted from the Marechal Foch grape, which was planted in 1999 so has matured beautifully. Marechal Foch is a hybrid French grape, it ripens early, winter-hardy and disease resistant, which allows the winemaker to consistently produce great wine across every vintage. Swirl the glass and you’ll discover aromas of blackberry, currants, black pepper, and hints of coffee.
If you’re on a Essex Wineries road trip and feeling peckish between tastings we suggest ordering a cute charcuterie cup. The snack is perfect for sharing and features cured meats, cheese, bread sticks, grapes and olives.
1241 S Malden Rd, 226-246-0720
Vin Winery was first opened in August, 2021 by Jordan and Joshua Goure, Bronson Goodfellow and Nolan Bernard. The Essex County Winery is surrounded by 30 acres of a 150 year old natural growth Carolinian forest.
Looking for the best Essex County Wineries to host a romantic wedding? Vin Winery offers a beautiful backdrop for romantic celebrations thanks to its “Wedding in the Woods,” venue.
Weddings are hosted every weekend on the property from May to November. Couples share their vows on the grass overlooking a pond while the reception takes place in an enchanting forest decked out in twinkling lights.
Feeling thirsty? Hop over to Vin Winery’s trendy tasting room, featuring a mural by local artist Derkz showcasing the Roman god of wine Bacchus.
Jordan Goure from Vin Winery shared, “We have been in the brewing side of the industry at our partner brewery BREW since 2014. As lovers of wine we were excited to get our wine manufacturing license in 2016 to start recipe development.”
Each bottle label is designed by the winemaker’s wife, Amanda, which showcases the artistic elements of the area as well as the natural beauty of the property.
During the warm months of the year grab a seat on the front patio and enjoy sipping a flight of BREW craft beer and VIN wine.
Essex County Wineries Weekend Getaway Things To Do
Planning a weekend getaway to sip your way through the Essex County Wineries?
When you’re in need of a break from vineyard hopping there are plenty of things to see and do in Kingsville and the surrounding area.
- Estate Of Health Day Spa: if you’re planning a romantic wine weekend or girlfriends getaway make sure to book a relaxing treatment at Kingsville’s most celebrated spa.
- Canadian Transportation Museum: a must-see for vintage car lovers and families with kids keen to stroll through a Pioneer Village.
- John R. Park Homestead: was a station on the Underground Railroad prior to the American Civil War. It’s now a living history museum that showcases farm life in the 19th-century.
- Point Pelee National Park: at the southernmost point of the Canadian mainland – Point Pelee National Park, experience nature like never before. Each spring, view flocks of migratory birds, joined in autumn by waves of vivid Monarch butterflies. In the summer come for a paddle and swim.
- Old Dutch Guys Chocolate: Kingsville’s most celebrated chocolate shop.
- The Local Maker: the best place in town to buy gifts made by local artisans.
- Kingsville Golf and Country Club: is a scenic course of championship quality, offering 27 holes inundated with trees, traps, hills, water, and wildlife.
- Lee & Maria’s: is a family farm that has been feeding the community for over 40 years. Stop in before driving home to pick up fresh produce at the market.
- Red Lantern Coffee: Kingsville’s much loved cafe is a small batch specialty coffee roaster and serves pretty pastries.
- Cancunsito: We have Mexican migrant workers to thank for growing much of the provinces fruits and vegetables. Thanks to the high concentration of Mexican’s living in Essex County you can sample plenty of authentic dishes. Cancunsito serves up traditional tortas, empanadas, flautas, gorditas and carne asada in nearby Leamington.
- Jack’s Gastropub: has been serving fancy food to the Kingsville community since 1989. Grab a seat on the wrap around porch and enjoy classic fare like poutine, fish tacos, pulled pork sandwich, burgers and local Lake Erie Perch.
- The Grove Brewing: Kingsville’s award winning craft brewery features a finger-licking-good restaurant perfect for hop heads. Pair a cold pint with wings, curry, Detroit-style pizza, burgers and gourmet sandwiches.
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