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Posts Tagged ‘Sicily

A ramble round Vittoria

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In Italian, cerasuolo means cherry-red. The word also appears in the names of two appellations. Cerasuolo d’Abrruzo is a Multepulciano-based rosé from central Italy. Cerasuolo di Vittoria is a red wine from southeast Sicily, specifically the province of Ragusa and parts of Caltanissetta and Catania.

Though Cerasuolo di Vittoria has been made since the 17th century, it wasn’t granted DOC status until 1974. Since 2004, it has been Sicily’s only DOCG. By law, Cerasuolo di Vittoria must be a blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato, with the former constituting between 50 and 70%. Within the DOCG is a large zone, centred around Vittoria and including the original DOC, whose wines are entitled to the Classico designation provided they have been matured 18 months or longer.

Cerasuolo di Vittora 2015, Planeta ($24.00, 10553362)
A 50-50 blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato from vines rooted in sandy top soil over tufa. The two vineyards are at 70-80 metres above sea level. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Macerated on the skins for 14 days. Fermented in temperature-controlled (23°C) stainless steel vats. Gently pressed in a vertical press. Matured in stainless steel tanks. Reducing sugar: 2.8 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: La Céleste Levrue.
Bright nose of red berries, pine forest floor, fresh oregano, “turnip” and “pepper oil” that takes on candied notes as the wine breathes. A medium-bodied mouthful of red berries and red peppercorns. Smoothed-edge acidity brightens the fruit while a mineral streak adds a modicum of depth. The tannins are soft on surface, more sinewy underneath. A bitter thread runs though the caramel-overtoned finish. Best, by which I mean freshest and most lively, just after opening. With time in the glass, the wine loses nuance and buoyancy, becoming more fruit-forward and sweet-seeming, even cloying. (Buy again? Meh.)

Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2015, Classico, COS ($36.50, 12484997)
A 60-40 blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato from organically and biodynamically farmed vines averaging 25 years old. Elevation: 230 m. Fermented in stainless steel tanks on the skins and with indigenous yeasts. Matured 15 months in 20- and 40-hectolire Slavonian oak foudres and several months in bottle. Unfiltered. Reducing sugar: 2.0 g/l. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Nuanced, complex, savoury nose: red fruit, cured wood, dark minerals and spice. Fluid, silky and on the lighter side of medium-bodied. The gossamer fruit is grounded in a mineral substrate and structured by lacy tannins and pronounced but seamlessly integrated acidity. Finishes long and clean. A balanced, complete and enchanting wine. Not remarkably deep but a here-now pleasure to drink. (Buy again? Yes.)

Cerasuolo di Vittoria 2014, Classico, Gulfi ($41.50, 13477828)
A 70-30 blend of Nero d’Avola and Frappato from organically farmed vines from a single vineyard near Ragusa. Elevation: 400-500 m. The varieties are vinified separately. The manually harvested grapes are given a short cold-maceration, followed by fermentation in stainless steel for about two weeks. After pressing, the base wines are blended and matured a few months in stainless steel tanks. Reducing sugar: 3.4 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Sélection.
The nose of blackberry, sandalwood, old wood and leafmould is darker, richer and sweeter than the others but also jammier. In the mouth, it’s bordering on full-bodied and possessed of a satiny texture. Minerals darken the very ripe fruit. Structure is provided by smooth though resilient tannins and sufficient acidity, depth by layers of flavour. A bitter note chimes through the decent finish. Remains fresh despite the density. An enjoyable, even elegant wine albeit one that’s atypically rich – more southern and solar, less like a Burgundy and more like a Languedoc – for the appellation. (Buy again? Sure.)

Mo’ Wine Group November 23rd tasting: flight 6 of 6

Written by carswell

March 7, 2018 at 12:48

Northern exposure

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Terre Siciliane 2015, Versante Nord, Eduardo Torres Acosta ($35.00, 13387380)
Nerello Mascalese with 20% other varieties, including Nerello Capuccio and possibly Alicante Bouschet and Grenache from vines in two co-planted parcels (Pietramarina and Crasa, totalling 1.5 ha) at 550 to 750 metres in elevation on the north-facing side of Mount Etna, hence the bottling’s name. The vines average 45 to 50 years old, with the oldest being about 80. The manually harvested grapes were transported to Arianna Occhipinti’s winery in Vittoria. Some clusters were destemmed, others left whole. Fermented with indigenous yeasts and macerated on the skins for 15 days in a cement tank with no temperature control. Matured 16 months in 750-litre Slavonian oak botti. Minimally sulphured. The 2015 is the second vintage of the wine. Total production: 6,000 bottles. 13.5% ABV per the label, 12% ABV per the SAQ. Quebec agent: oenopole.
The expected cherry and plum plus cedar, blood and stone. No more than medium-bodied. Structured by silky acidity and gossamer tannins, the fruit seems shot through with minerals. The sustained finish brings a light astringency and a dusty aftertaste. So pure and savoury, so effortlessly complex. A pleasure to drink. (Buy again? Yes.)

Terre Siciliane 2015, Pirrera, Eduardo Torres Acosta ($59.00, 13387371)
The blend is similar to the Versante Nord but with 90% Nerello Mascalese. All grapes come from the high-altitude (850 metres) Pirrera vineyard on the north slope of Mount Etna, which had been abandoned until Acosta began rehabilitating it. The vines average 50 years old and the soil is sandy with volcanic ash and stones. The wine-making was identical to that for the Versante Nord. The 2015 is the second vintage of the wine. Total production: 1,100 bottles. 13.5% ABV per the label, 12% ABV per the SAQ. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Inexhaustible nose of spice, cedar, old wood, forest floor, background dried cherry, floral and balsamic notes and more. Richer than the Versante but still medium-bodied and silky. There’s a pure core of fruit, racy but integrated acidity, an airframe tannic structure, minerals galore, a feathery astringency and a very long, subtly inflected cherry marzipan finish. More serious than its flightmate yet still so fresh. A flawless, complex, engaging, delicious wine. (Buy again? Yes.)

Soon after the wines’ release, a MWG member who was wondering which if any to buy asked a well-regarded SAQ wine advisor for input. The advisor said he was enamoured with the Versante Nord but felt the Pirrera wasn’t worth the extra outlay. The member bought some of the Versante and gave the Pirrera a pass. At the tasting a few days later, our experience was more the opposite: both wines were delightful but the Pirrera was the standout. The member made a beeline to the SAQ and scored a couple of bottles.

MWG September 28th tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

November 16, 2017 at 13:37

Native whites

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Gaillac 2016, Les Pierres Blanches, Domaine De Brin ($24.85, 13314666)
A blend of Mauzac (60%) and Len de l’El (40%) from organically farmed vines rooted in stony calcareous-clay soil. Manually harvested. The grapes are direct-pressed and the must is chilled and clarified by settling. Vinification – including sponatneous alcoholic and complete malolactic fermentation – and maturation take place in neutral barrels and last nine to 12 months. Unfiltered and unfined. No added anything except possibly a tiny amount of sulphur at bottling. Reducing sugar: < 1.2 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Ward & associés.
The first sniff brings a hint of reduction and volatile acidity followed by an odd mix of apple, flowers and sauerkraut. In the mouth, it’s clean, fresh and sleekly acidic, dry but full of applely fruit and quartzy minerals with a bitter undertow. Fair depth and good length. Not bad but not the revelation I was expecting. A taster who had enjoyed an earlier bottle didn’t peg our bottle, which was served double-blind, as the same wine. Nor did the wine match the description of the trustworthy SAQ advisor who recommended it. In other words, probably an off bottle. (Buy again? Yes, especially to give it another chance.)

Terre Siciliane 2016, Versante Nord, Uve Bianche, Eduardo Torres Acosta ($35.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Born in the Canary Islands, Acosta headed to southeast Sicily in 2012 to intern with Arianna Occhipinti. He later did a stint as a winemaker at Passopisciaro, eventually renting and farming a few parcels and making wine under his own name. His first commercial vintage was 2014. The grapes are grown in the Etna appellation but the wines are made at Occhipiniti’s facilities in Vittoria. That and the fact that at least some of the vineyards are higher than the allowed 800 metres of altitude are why the wines qualify only for the broad Terre Siciliane IGT designation and not the Etna DOC. This blend of Minella (60%) and other local varieties is made using grapes grown in six plots on the north face of Mount Etna. The organically farmed vines average 45 to 50 years old and are rooted in soils with a high volcanic ash content. The grapes are manually harvested, crushed and macerated on the skins for five days in concrete tanks with no temperature control. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured eight months in neutral oak botti. The 2016 is the first vintage of the wine. Total production: 2,000 bottles. 12% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Complex nose, initially of “garlic sausage,” summer savoury and poblano chile, then more lemon and quartz. Dense and apricoty in the mouth, with citrusy acid and a mineral structure beyond the obvious current of salinity. The very long brings a lingering pithy bitterness. A multifaceted, engaging wine if not exactly a charmer. Probably better viewed as an accompaniment to dinner than an aperitif. Nearly the entire shipment was snatched up by Montréal Plaza restaurant, where it’s currently on the list for $76 and would make a smart match for many of their super-savoury dishes. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG September 28th tasting: flight 2 of 7

Written by carswell

November 8, 2017 at 12:09

Etna threesome

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Etna Rosso 2014, Rossodiverzella, Benanti ($25.10, 11348459)
Nerello Mascalese (85%) and Nerello Cappuccio (15%) from 10- to 60-year-old vines grown in parcels on the northern, southeastern and southwestern slopes of Mount Etna at altitudes varying from 450 to 900 m. Manually harvested. Destemmed. Fermentation and 20- to 21-day maceration with selected yeasts take place in stainless steel vats. Maturation – 80% in stainless steel tanks, 20% in French oak barriques – lasts eight to 10 months. Reducing sugar: 2.3 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: L’Enoteca.
Fragrant nose of red berries, plum and spice with a faint floral perfume. Medium-bodied, fleet and quite dry. The sweet-tart fruit unfurls like veils across the palate. Bright acidity and supple tannins provide a light but present structure. A vein of volcanic minerals runs from the mid-palate into the long, slightly astringent finish. Such an appealing blend of fresh and savoury. (Buy again? Yes.)

Etna Rosso 2013, Graci ($27.80, 13041830)
Nerello Mascalese (100%) grown on the northern-eastern slopes of Mount Etna at an altitude of 600-700 m. Fermentation with indigenous yeasts and maceration on the skins are in concrete tanks and last for around 30 days. Matured 18 months in concrete tanks with spontaneous malolactic fermentation. Reducing sugar: 1.9 g/l. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Symbiose.
The darker, more minerally nose is marked by old wood, cherry, plum, spice chest and leather aromas. In the mouth, the wine is heftier and headier than the Benanti, the fruit is riper without seeming jammy and the flavours are entertaining. A smooth current of acidity brings welcome freshness while cushy tannins provide torque. The persistent finish has a tarry edge. (Buy again? Sure.)

Etna Rosso 2013, Barone di Villagrande ($28.60, 12988167)
Nerello Mascalese (80%) and Nerello Cappuccio (20%) from organically farmed vines on the southern slopes of Mount Etna. Maceration and fermentation in temperature-controlled tanks lasts six to 10 days. Matured 12 months in 500-litre Etna oak barrels. Altitude: 650-700 m. Reducing sugar: 2.5 g/l. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: AOC & cie.
Jammier on the nose, showing the expected cherry and plum along with aromas described as “a bit coffee,” “fruitcake,” “molasses” and “pomegranate.” Bigger, denser and fruitier than its flightmates. Fundamentally dry though the very ripe fruit gives an impression of sweetness. It also drives complexity and depth into the background. A dusty quality colours the mid-palate and lingers into the long finish. May benefit from a few more years in the cellar. At this point too New Worldish and Parkerized for me, though some around the table loved it. (Buy again? Unlikely.)

MWG January 12, 2017, tasting: flight 6 of 7

Written by carswell

February 6, 2017 at 12:57

A blessing

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While waiting for some technical information on the next wines in the August 12th tasting to land in my inbox, a note on a recent arrival at the SAQ.

Terre Siciliane 2015, Lucido, Marco de Bartoli ($20.00, 12640603)
100% Catarratto Lucido from organically farmed 13-year-old vines. Manually harvested. Gently pressed. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. Matured on the lees for seven months, also in stainless steel tanks. Reducing sugar: 1.3 g/l. 12% ABV. 20,000 bottles made. Quebec agent: oneopole.
Served too cold, the wine seems shy, even nondescript. But as it warms, the nose blossoms: lemon and a little peach, straw, fired quartz. The flavours echo the nose, the delicate fruit and waxy texture making way for a mineral mid-palate. Soft acidity glows as if from within. The wine’s bone-dryness is apparent only on the finish. Faint notes of dried herbs, pineapple water, white flowers, caramel and citrus pith linger long. As its name suggests, luminous and translucent, sane and coherent. That such quiet beauty can be had for $20 is a blessing. A fine accompaniment to grilled shrimp and squid with olive oil, lemon and parsley; the next bottle is earmarked for Hazan’s mussel and romano bean soup. (Buy again? Naturally.)

Written by carswell

September 10, 2016 at 12:16

Green dream

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IGT Terre Siciliane 2014, Vignaverde, Marco De Bartoli ($26.90,  12755152)
This is the second vintage of the wine and the first vintage sold at the SAQ (the 2013 was available through the private import channel). 100% Grillo from organically farmed 20-year-old vines grown in the Samperi vineyard. Manually harvested and gently pressed, the grapes were picked earlier than is the case for the fruit used to make the estate’s Marsalas and oak-aged Grillo (late August as opposed to early September), the idea being to produce a fresher wine. The must was chilled and clarified by settling for 48 hours, then fermented with indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled 50 hl stainless steel tanks. Matured on the lees for six months, also in stainless steel tanks. Sulphur use is kept to a minimum. 11.5% ABV. Quebec agent: oneopole.
Wafting nose of honey-dipped apple, lemon peel (pith included), sour pineapple and chalk dust. Medium-bodied, smooth and fluid. The flavours are gorgeous and unassertive – this is a wine drawn in pastels – a cross between a lemon and an apple, say, with some pear notes chiming in on the finish. A mineral underlay adds savour while delicate acidity keeps everything fresh. Limestone, chamomile and the faintest hint of anise linger long. So suave and drinkable, a beaut. (Buy again? If only I could but it’s virtually gone from the island.)

As an accompaniment, the winery suggests “whole wheat pasta dishes, sea bass rolls [or] Sicilian truffle from Hyblaean Mountains,” all of which sound good to me. That said, this seemingly mild-mannered wine proved the best pairing yet for a darkly flavourful Sicilian rabbit stew whose ingredients include onion, celery, parsnip, olive oil, bay, pine nuts, golden raisins, garlic, fennel seed, vinegar, sugar and chocolate. Go figure

Written by carswell

April 22, 2016 at 13:44

Two warm-climate whites

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The teaser sent to MWG members prior to the tasting described this flight as “Two warm-climate still whites. No other connections.”

Côtes du Roussillon 2014, Les Glaciaires, Domaine Gardiés ($24.70, 12013378)
Grenache Blanc and Gris (40%), Roussanne (40%), Macabeu (20%) from organically farmed vines. Manually harvested. “Traditional vinification” (whatever that means). Matured eight months in demi-muids. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La Céleste Levure.
Dusty, sun-baked minerals, hints of lemon, white pepper, garrigue, menthol, peach, anise and, according to more than one taster, “coconut.” Weighty on the palate but also fleet and fresh. There are minerals galore as well as light peach, pear, pineapple and honey and brisk acidity of a type you can’t assume you’ll encounter in a Roussillon white. Long, rainwatery finish. Impeccable. (Buy again? Yep.)

Sicilia 2014, Bianco Maggiore, Cantine Rallo ($22.40, 12476989)
The estate is located in the commune of Marsala, in westernmost Sicily. 100% Grillo from organically farmed vines planted in 2001. Manually harvested. Gently pressed. Alcoholic fermentation in temperature-controlled (16-18°C) stainless steel tanks lasts eight days. Does not undergo malolactic fermentation. Matured in stainless steel takes for six months and in bottle for one month. Reducing sugar: 2.2 g/l. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Les vins Dupré.
Complex, effusive nose that elicited descriptors like “rocky,” “oily” and “saline.” Aromas of spicy white fruit dusted with lemon zest are echoed in the mouth. Texturally, it’s rich but not heavy. There’s a touch of residual sugar – or maybe it’s just the ripeness of the fruit – but basically we’re talking a round, dry, joyful wine. Good acidity and length. Complete. If you like Grillo, you’ll love this. White of the evening for several around the table. Excellent QPR. (Buy again? Def.)

MWG January 14th tasting: flight 3 of 7

Written by carswell

January 22, 2016 at 15:39

Old World and New

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Eloro 2012, Spaccaforno. Riofavara ($28.50, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Nero d’Avola with small amounts of other, unspecified local grape varieties, all from organically and semi-biodynamically farmed vines averaging 30 years old and grown in a four-hectare, limestone-soiled vineyard. The grapes are hand-picked, then destemmed and lightly pressed. Fermented on the skins and with indigenous yeasts in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. Matured at least six months in barrels (80% second-fill tonneaux, 20% third-fill barriques) and at least 10 months in bottle. Unfiltered. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Selection.
Pepper, leather, violet, herbs, dark cherry and strawberry. Medium- to full-bodied. Bright fruit, bright acidity and tight but not rebarbative tannins, all in perfect balance. Long, smooth finish. Tastes solar yet is less dense, more buoyant than many Nero d’Avolas. Another beauty. Good QPR. (Buy again? Done!)

Crozes-Hermitage 2012, Terre d’éclat, Domaine de la Ville Rouge ($31.95, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Syrah from organically farmed vines averaging 35 years old. The estate is converting to biodynamic agriculture. Long maceration and fermentation with indigenous yeasts at around 28°C in temperature-controlled tanks and using daily pump-overs. Matured 12 months in barrels. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Selection.
The expected dark fruit, smoke and bacon along with unexpected “kefir yogurt” and “roasted acorn squash” (quoting other tasters). More medium- than full-bodied, with a smooth and velvety texture, fine tannins and lifting acidity. The cherry fruit has bacon overtones and slate underpinnings and the finish is long and meaty/gamy. The oak is discreet. Young – would probably have benefited from a few hours in the carafe – but still accessible and definitely enjoyable. (Buy again? Yes.)

Napa Valley 2011, Charbono, Tofanelli Family Vineyard ($49.95, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Charbono (aka Bonarda, Corbeau and Douce Noir) from organically farmed, unirrigated vines grown in a 1.5-hectare vineyard located in the Calistoga AVA. The grapes were hand-picked, destemmed, cold-soaked for four days and fermented with indigenous yeasts and twice-daily punch-downs or pump-overs. Pressed directly into French oak barrels (25% new) and matured for 17 months with two rackings. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Selection.
Chocolate-covered blackberries, pomegranate and a “hint of vanilla.” Mouth-filling and round, fruit-driven and soft-tannined but, despite the density and oaky finish, surprisingly fresh. Spice overtones and some stony minerals add welcome complexity. The velvety texture persists through the long finish. Definitely not a Cab or Zin but unmistakably Californian. (Buy again? A bottle for curiosity value.)

MWG October 23rd tasting: flight 6 of 6

Noir and Nerello

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Beaune 1er cru 2011, Les Chouacheux, Domaine Chantal Lescure ($53.95, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Pinot Noir from a 1.5-hectare vineyard of organically farmed vines averaging 50 years old. Manually harvested. After destemming, the uncrushed grapes are gravity-fed into stainless steel vats for cool semi-carbonic maceration. Fermentation is with indigenous yeasts and occasional punch-downs. The grapes are then pressed and the wine transferred to oak barrels (25-30% new) for 16 months’ maturation. One or two months before bottling, the wine is racked. Blending and bottling are done at lunarly favourable moments. Unfiltered and lightly sulphured. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Selection.
Cherry (the fruit and the wood), mushroom and a hint of “Dutch process cocoa,” as one taster put it. Pure silky fruit, fine tight tannins, supple acidity and a caressing finish. The oak is discreet and perfectly integrated. Not the most dimensional Burgundy you’ve ever drunk but elegant and accessible (though surely able to evolve and improve over the next five to 10 years). (Buy again? Yes.)

IGT Sicilia 2008, Reseca, Gulfi ($57.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Gulfi’s only Etna wine. 100% Nerello Mascalese from unirrigated, organically farmed old vines. Manually harvested. Macerated and fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. After malolactic fermentation has ended, the wine is transferred into 225-litre French oak barrels for around 24 months’ maturation. Bottle-aged another two to three years before release. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Selection.
Expressive, savoury nose of red plum, dried cherry, clay, spice bread and “roasted dried seaweed.” Rich but not heavy, ripe but dry, with fragrant, chewy, bordering on brambly fruit, velvety tannins, suave acidity, a dark mineral substrate and a long, kirsch-overtoned finish. The combination of warmth and freshness is special indeed. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG October 23rd tasting: flight 4 of 6

Written by carswell

November 20, 2015 at 13:44

South and north

with 4 comments

Sicilia 2011, Carjcanti, Gulfi ($36.50, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Carricante (95%) and Albanello (5%) from unirrigated, organically farmed 15-year-old vines rooted in limestone and clay. Manually harvested. Fermented in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts. Matured around 12 months in 2500-litre stainless steel tanks and 500-litre French oak barrels. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Selection.
Striking, complex nose: tamari (!), almond paste, dried apricot, split wood and white spice against a backdrop of minerals. Medium-bodied, fruity but dry, especially on the finish. Lots of minerals and soft but sustained acidity. Long with hints of quince and oxidizing yellow apple. Unique and delicious though probably not a long ager. Understandably a favourite of many around the table. (Buy again? Definitely.)

Alsace 2012, Riesling, Vieilles Vignes, Domaine Jean Louis & Fabienne Mann ($35.95, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Riesling from organically farmed old vines grown in several vineyards. Manually harvested. The must from the gently pressed grapes is allowed to clarify by settling, then fermented in stainless steel tanks with indigenous yeasts. Maturation on the lees lasts around 10 months. At bottling, the wine is lightly filtered and a small amount of sulphur dioxide is added. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Bambara Selection.
Lemon, white flowers, white minerals and eventually buttery marzipan. Very dry. Rich and hefty. Smooth on the surface but dig a little and you find tense acidity and real mineral depth. Ends long and clean on an intriguing faintly bitter note. Beautiful, classic Alsatian Riesling at a fair price. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG October 23rd tasting: flight 2 of 6

Written by carswell

November 18, 2015 at 12:51