Attacked by Puppies!


You could say that these sécateurs are the liaison between grapes and wine, couldn't you? For how could one exist without the other--how could wine be born without vines first being torn? It is with a snip or a clippety clip that one then becomes the other. In cutting the umbilical cord, or stem, transition begins.

So then transition, or liaison, this is our word of the day. First, a note from our sponsor. (To sponsor an edition of French Word-A-Day, contact me).

liaison (lee-ay-zohn) noun, feminine
    : union of two elements
    : connecting of two notes (music)
    : connection, link between two places*
    : love affair

* Quand je l'ai appelé, la liaison était mauvaise.

Audio File and Example sentence: listen to the French words, above Download Wav or Download MP3.  (More on the French word "liaison" at the excellent L'

A Day in a French Life...

by Kristin Espinasse

I should tell you about how today's word was chosen. It began when Jacqui, one of our volunteer grape pickers, offered me a story about her harvesting experience, giving me permission to post it. I asked if she could summarize her story in one word (a word that I might match with a French "word of the day").

"Transitions," Jacqui offered.
"That won't work," I pointed out, regretfully. "Transitions is the same word in French. I illustrated my point with a sincere attempt to pronounce the French version of the word:  "TRAHn ZEE sheON."

Ah, yes, Jacqui sympathized. We now had a dilemma.

Enter "liaison," a synonym for "transition". Now to make the word fit! For when we think of "liaison" we think of dangerous things... like love.

It is Jacqui's love for France and all things French that has her returning to Provence at every chance.... even if "chance," on this occasion, meant the crippling prospect of grape-picking. (Jacqui suffered a knee injury after a week of non-stop picking...). Though, from the "sound" of her words in the following missive, one senses that Jacqui has overlooked the pain, and in pain's stead, found poetry. Read on... 

by Jacqui McCargar

A Provençal vineyard in the pre-dawn is a quiet, still place. The sun begins its ascent and shows its fiery red face as it peeks from behind Mont Ventoux to the east. The vines begin to take shape out of the dimness and the birds start to sing.

As the sun rises higher and the air warms, the slight mist that hangs above the vines disappears. In the distance cars coming down the drive make crunching noises on the gravel surface. Our picking crew has arrived to start another day. We get organized with our pails and sécateurs,* sunscreen is applied and hats are donned in anticipation of the hot Provençal sun.


We will harvest trellised and goblet trained vines. The trellised vines are much easier to harvest because the vines are trained on wires and most of the grapes hang down and are accessible.

The goblet style are normally much older vines and are very low to the ground which necessitates bending, squatting, kneeling and, sometimes, crawling on the rock strewn ground to find the grapes Mother Nature has so successfully hidden from the marauding birds that would feast on them.

We get our row assignments and march off with our empty pails and our shears...


For a while clip clip clip and the sound of grapes hitting the bottom of the pail is all that is heard. French and English banter, occasional bursts of laughter as we make our way down the rows of vines. Our pails fill and we empty them into a case or a bin that is pulled by the tractor.


Lunchtime eventually comes around and we either head to the farmhouse to eat at the big outside table or picnic sur place* in the vines.

Baguettes and cheese, charcuterie* and ailloli,* cold mixed Provençal veggies, pizza, wine and beer... on and on it goes.

After our food coma subsides, we head back to the vines and again clip clip clip into the rhythm clip clip clip -- ouch! (nicked a finger). Medic! Band-aid in place, the clipping continues. Some of the grape clusters are woven so tightly together or around a vine or trellis wire... that it becomes quite a puzzle to find the stem to cut that will liberate the grapes from the vine.

At the end of the day we take the grapes back to the cellar to be de-stemmed and crushed.


They are then pumped into the fermentation tanks and we are ready to clean equipment--seaux*, sécateurs, caisses*--for tomorrow's ramassage de raisins.*

Now it's back to our apartments for dinner and beer or wine and a good night's sleep so we can come back tomorrow...  and recommencer.*



Mille mercis to Jacqui, for her harvest hymn. Please be sure to leave Jacqui a note in the comments box. I know she will enjoy hearing from you!  And to Jacqui: thank you for all of the grapes that you brought in... before your knee brought you down! Thanks, too, for the lovely pear tart and for the hot, comforting meals that you cooked for your fellow harvesters.

Jacqui McCargar is a native Californian from Sonoma County's wine country and a Francophile, who loves almost everything about France.

~~~~~~~~~~~~French Vocabulary~~~~~~~~~~~
le sécateur (m) = pruning shears; sur place = on site; la charcuterie (f) = cold meats (ham, salami...); ailloli (m) = aioli, garlic mayonnaise; le seau (m) = bucket; la caisse (f) = box, case; le ramassage de raisins = gathering of grapes; recommencer = to start again

In Gifts and more..

Pizza herbes

Herbes de Provence (Special for Pizza) in Crock:
Herbes picked in Provence with a blend of Oregano, Thyme, Basil & Marjoram

Pre de Provence Lavender Soap. Imported from France: Pré de Provence, literally translated, means "Meadow of Provence." Transport yourself there with this triple milled savon.

Un, Deux, Trois: First French Rhymes:
...a collection of 25 traditional nursery rhymes for children

French Exambusters Study Cards:
Over 1500 questions and answers written by certified teachers and professional translators with a focus on exam preparation. Highlights the essential French grammar and vocabulary you need to know to test well. Prepare for quizzes, tests, AP, PRAXIS II, SAT II, CLEP, and N.Y. Regents Level I-III. Helpful for travelers!



"Scraps & Spikes." (whoops, spokes, "Scraps & Spokes". A sneek preview at this Saturday's photo gallery. Don't miss it! Click here for more about these photos.

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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


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Quand je l'ai appelé, la liaison était mauvaise.

Didn't quite get this example sentence - and I think you forgot to translate it for us.

When I called it, the liaison was bad?

Bill in St. Paul

Great description of the grape picking process, Jacqui! It reminds me of my meager half day of grape picking. When we picked the grapes they were trellised and even then there were bunches that were hard to find. I can't imagine what picking goblet-trained vines must be like, crawling around trying to find the hidden bunches that "Mother Nature has so successfully hidden from the marauding birds"!

Those puppies are getting cuter by the day. You're tempting me to get another Golden, but I'm not sure Julius, the cat, would allow it.


Wonderful narration of a day in the vines Jacqui. I could feel the sun on my face and the vines beneath my fingers. Merci Beaucoup et Santé!

Eileen deCamp

Thanks Jacqui! It sounds like so much fun but also lots of work! I'm glad your nails didn't take too much of a beating!


I'm curious. How long does the grape picking season go on for? Are all the grapes ripe at the same time or do you have to decide which ones to pick?


Beautiful image, Jacqui. I want to know more about Jacqui. Does she come to every year for the grape harvest? Where is she from and how did come to start doing this?


To Divya, the grapes ripen at different times according to the variety of grape and weather conditions. The harvest will go on until ALL the grapes are harvested and are put to bed in the fermentation tanks.

To Donna, Thanks very much for the applause! I live in Sonoma County "Wine Country" and was reminded by all that I spoke with that I could harvest grapes nearer to home, my response was ahh, but it's not Provence! This is my first year of harvest and my 7th visit to La Belle France and Provence. I got the idea from Kristi's blog. It was a lot of fun and I met a lot of nice people.





thank you for the lovely post. I too am from Sonoma County and enjoy Kristin's blog. I enjoyed your perspective on the crush in Provence. I am glad at least one of us could attend!


Jacqui . . Such a nice story. I felt I was right there, at your side . . (and I was, in spirit). From San Diego, I say good going and thank you.


For someone to describe the farm and the ramassage so well, I thought it had to be someone who was familiar with vineyards, and you confirmed it, Sonoma Valley, CA! I am reminded of the movie about CA wines and how it became accepted, something called corked, or bottled, cannot remember the name at this point.

Thank you Jacqui for sharing your experience, very beautifully described, and I see those pups have many many fans. They are going to miss being held by pairs and pairs of lovely hands.


Thank you Kristin! The picture of the grapes on the vine is DIVINE! This should have been the fruit that misled Eve not apples, don't you think?


Jules Greer

Hi Jacqui,

Thank you for your lovely story of a day in the vines. I love the way you captured the first rays of dawn over the vineyard, the sounds of the morning song of the birds roosting in the trees along the creek - you brought back the true feeling of life at Rouge-Bleu during the harvest. The bonding of souls during the harvest is a gift that can only be known by experience...I always remember the feelings Kristi and I would have when we were driving along the roads of France after our harvest and we would notice harvesters out in fields, we would look across at each other with knowing in our eyes and hearts - knowing that those poor people out in the fields were not poor at all, but in the mist of a joyful experience grounded in the soul of the earth.



Lee Isbell

Very nice, Jacqui. I'm afraid I'm past the peak for grape picking but I love hearing about it. Age and creaky joints aside, if cobwebs and their makers are as prevalent in the grape rows as I found in the lavendar rows, I'm afraid that would deter me more than aches and pains.

Guessing on the translation: "When I call him, the connection is bad."


Jules, thanks very much for your response and comments about my story. It's hard sometimes to put into words what you see before you.
I also have a much better understanding and sympathy too, for the hard work that goes into harvest in my area.

To Lee, the cobweb makers are very much present in the grapes as are praying mantis and grasshoppers. Don't like the spiders much either!Some are kind of scary looking but Jean-Claude will pick them up! (shiverrrr!)


Drew: Lee just wrote in with a correct translation (thanks, Lee!)

Mom: loved reading your message to Jacqui. So glad you were home today to receive my call earlier. Hope you make some vacation sales from your new home office! (Why not post John's link here? Who knows, maybe someone will be interested in a golf vacation in Mexico! :-) :-) HINT HINT HINT....

Genie: re how to get involved in the grape picking... as a volunteer harvester. First of all we need to screen you (i.e.: are you somebody who enjoys boot camp? Second... well, if you can get through boot camp and endure ten days straight of picking... then, as the famous Army recruiting poster reads: WE WANT YOU! (Just email me and I'll send you the specifics!)

Denise Lavoie

Those secateurs look familiar!


Hello to Denise, co-picker of grapes!


Bon courage Jaqui. C'est tres difficile de cueillir les raisins. J'habite dans le VAR. Je vois le vendange, parce que j'habite pres d'un viticulteur, les vendageurs se sont bien amuses. Beaucoup de bruit et des rires.
A l'anne prochaine.

Christina ( une anglaise qui habite dans le Var)


So Jacquie, are you ready to head back to Sonoma to start their harvest???? We seem to be a bit later here in the next few weeks it should start. It has been too long since I have been to Provence....5 years. But now that I am retired there is no excuse. At least I do live in one of the nicest places in the states....Carmel, so I should not complain about that, but ah, my soul is so French.
I recently found out that my grandfather is French Basque, so I guess my soul truly is at least 25% French.

Joan Myers

Thank you, Jacqui, for a wonderful story! Hope that your injury heals soon, so that you can come back to Cali to clip, snip and harvest here!



Quand je l'ai appelé, la liaison était mauvaise. Past tenses (passé composé and imparfait)
When I called him, the connection was bad. Of course liaison does have other meanings! Here are some:an affair,link,a slur in music,thickening in cooking, bond in chemistry, carrying over a consonant sound before a vowel(happens a lot in French!)
I'm enjoying reading about the grape harvest. Do those who work on the ground wear knee pads, like for gardening?

Marianne Rankin

Jacqui, thanks for the description of your grape-picking day. We need to appreciate the labor that that entails. Maybe in years to come I will be able to help with the harvest. Now I will know what to expect. We appreciate your efforts to help produce Rouge-Bleu.

The first time I met the word "liaison," it was in a French textbook explaining how sounds are carried over from the end of one word to the beginning of the next (vowel sound). Learning correct liaison is one of the challenges in mastering French.

Another "connection" meaning is diplomatic, such as ties between two or more countries.

I'm pleased to pick up still other meanings, as well.


Hi Jacqui! It was a pleasure to read your beautiful story. You offered us an inspired peek at the joys and toils of harvest week. Thank you! I wish you a happy homecoming!

Jules: Your comments are most inspiring and beautiful as well.

Blessings all!

elizabeth foree

Dear Kristin,
I just spent 3 weeks near La Cadiere (Bandol) and the vendage was in full swing at the Chateau we have been staying at for 10 years each Sept. I love to cook there so fixed your pizza with mustard on brise pastry. It was a big hit with everyone. So now I have a need for a dessert recipe for the french squash (courge) or persimmon (kaki) that I could see everywhere. Would like to use the brise pastry that I found at Casino. Thanks for your imput. Betsy

Barbara Hall

I loved reading your story Jacqui. I too live in Sonoma County (in the town of Sonoma) and like you, am a Francophile (currently taking lessons at the Alliance Française in San Francisco.) Bon courage with the recovery of your knee.

Jacqui McCargar

Hi Barbara! Thanks for the kudos and the well wishes. Do you happen to go to the Santa Rosa Chapter Alliance Francaise get togethers in Santa Rosa at Sassafras on the first Friday evening of each month?? Maybe I'll see you there! I live in Santa Rosa.

Martin Rys

We just did a harvest in Malibu, California.
So beautiful to hear your experience.


Wonderful story of your experience Jacqui - thank you!

Jules: I loved reading your words, as always!

Kristin: I'd like to hear a few stories about the messages I spy written on the fermentation tanks. Have the volunteers left messages there? When did the tradition begin?


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