se donner de la peine pour faire quelque chose

Cool Raoul

"Post visit endorphins"  Read on, in today's story-column.

Note: The next word-a-day will go out on Monday! 

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Cool Raoul (khool Rah oohl) expression

(How to translate this well known French *slang* expression , one that has obviously borrowed a bit of English slang ("cool"). Would you agree the one of the following correctly expresses the meaning (the meaning being "don't sweat it!")... so how about this translation for "Cool Raoul": Chill Jill! Relax Max! Zen Gwen!

A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse

"It is what it is"

Jitters & rain! A *tour bus* will pull up to our home/grape farm this afternoon... and its *47 students* will file into our front yard for a wine-tasting. I hope our visitors are not picturing the set of "A Good Year". Here at our vineyard, we'll need "Beverly Hillbillies" expectations to take off the pressure. We don't do manicured gardens, we don't do tasting rooms. We do have a rickety old picnic table (seats 10).

Need to take a spoonful of my own medicine: "warm affection, not perfection!", now, to find a feather-duster and a pooper-scooper...

The panicked words, above, were posted yesterday at Facebook. (Thank you to everyone who responded with calming thoughts, including my cousin Marc's no-nonsense "two cents": "Kristi you kick a$@!!  fear not just set em on the ground and get em intoxicated").

...And now for the awaited update I promised...

We did not survive the "friendly invasion".... Thrived is the word! We thrived from it! Composure was one of the many issues that arose in the leading-up-to this event (we'll get to logistics in a bit), for I had to keep running back and forth to the bathroom to towl dry the sweat from beneath my arms, this, before the audience arrived [imagine an audience coming to your own flea-bitten home! (OMG--The dogs! we'll get to them later...]). As for the nerve-wracked hostess and the talk she gave...

Like a child rushing home from a thrilling backwood adventure, words running ahead of her spinning legs -- so excited is she to recount every detail to anyone who'll listen -- this is how my own words spilled out in front of the high school students... and their collected ears were as receptive as a grandmother's or grandfather's as I, the thrice-their-age hostess shared the adventure that led me to France.

If I had only known how accepting the group would be, I might have skipped the pre-arrival jitters, which began three some days before the event when I was surprised by the response to a certain email confirmation that I had sent....

On Friday night it occured to me that I might contact the teacher who had written me last winter, and who I eventually insisted come for a visit. "But I will be travelling with my students..." Professor Wrenn explained. "Well, why not bring them too!" I insisted...

And then, last week, in an unusual organizational mood, I had the inspiration to confirm Professor Wrenn's visit. Ah, and wasn't he coming with a few students? it seemed to me.... Figuring I'd need to wash a couple of extra glasses, I sent off a confirmation message to inquire about how many extra goblets to set out.

What happened next was a brilliant test! Either throw in the towel (too late, I'd need it to soak up all that persperation) or simply join the audience and watch it unfold -- "it" being the latest act in this farcical vineyard comedy.... 

When Professor Wrenn wrote back, informing me that 47 students would be joining us, there was a moment of silence there, before my blurring computer screen. Next I shook my head in sincere appreciation and, looking up, I applauded (somewhat sarcastically) the powers that be. This was just another test, wasn't it, Lord? Obviously there are still a lot of kinks to work out in little 'ol meaning-well me. The fact remains: It is one thing to mean well, but action is proof of the heart's intent

That night I tossed and turned. In my dreams troops of students marched up the driveway...

The next night's dreams had the same students overcoming the front gate! They were now looking for seating. Only where? We did not have 47 seats in my dream... not even in reality!

When I wasn't dreaming, I was fretting about logistics: just where will we put everyone if it rains? 

"Under the mulberry tree," was Jean-Marc's non-chalant answer.
"Only if we squeezed together like sardines could we fit under that mere seedling!" Now I was exaggerating, our tree was older than that; still, its leafy branches might cover 25 heads, max. (Note: while the scorching sun was initially an issue--now it was rain that threatened!)

When I wasn't fretting about logistics, I wondered about a few practical points, such as les toilettes! We had one of these "seats" available for guests....

"They can just 'go' behind the grape vines!" Jean-Marc offered another of his outrageously improbable solutions. 
"These are Americans!" I reminded him, as if his own countrymen were "The Barbarians". 

And speaking about going to pot, what about our pot-holed lawn? I imagined so many sprained ankles as students squeezed their way past the bottlenecked courtyard and into our scorched-grass garden.

And the dogs! Our goldens were supposed to be the fluffy 'welcome committee', offering up a sweet-scented bienvenue to our visitors.... As it happened the dogs had run off the night before... only to return one hour before the guests arrival. And what poor dead river rat had they rubbed all over their furry bodies this time? What to do with the stinky, style-cramping dogs?!!!

It was all too late now. The jig was up. One way or another, the tour bus was arriving. It was showtime minus 58 minutes when, standing there with a wet head, I rooted through the medicine cabinet for toothpaste and a comb. Nada. Zip. Scratch. Rien! Our own kids, who had left for camp, had swiped them! Chewing on the bristles of my toothbrush, hoping to capture the essence of mint, I ran my fingers through my hair. I had to give my husband credit - he certainly wasn't worried about appearances -- in fact just where was he this many minutes before he was to appear, wine-bottles in hand, and launch into his welcoming speech? 

The moment passed.... as had all the uncertain moments before it.

And then, there they were, filing in smoothly to the courtyard, over to the mulberry tree, where each student took a mismached seat.... (scavengered seats taken from every kitchen nook and every garden cranny). 

And, there they were, listening to Jean-Marc, listening to me. And there was the rain, falling down softly, hitting the leaves of the mulberry tree. Where was the chaos? Where were the ankle sprains? Where was the kilometer-long line to kitchen bathroom?

Looking over the scene, more than order, there was peace. And when I glanced over to Professor Wrenn, seated in his wheelchair at the foot of the steps, I saw each individual raindrop falling over him, like pennies from heaven. Rich droplets mirroring the moment. The weather didn't seem to bother our teacher. In his clear eyes I saw that it was, afterall, a beautiful day.



Um... logistics!

Jean-Marc, aka "Chief Grape" is a natural!




Professor Wrenn, after the rain, and students.


P.S.: (a bit off topic but...) I forgot to wish everyone a Happy 4th! HAPPY 4TH!!!! In return students wished Chief Grape and me "Happy Anniversary" (celebrated 17 years married on the 4th!)


Postnote: so much more to say about Mr Wrenn's class visit. So many names to mention (I only managed to scribble down the name of one of the student photographers: thank you Max Parriott! I hope to add in the names to the other picture-takers. Where to end this rapid recounting of yesterday's meet-up? How about with Merci beaucoup to the students from St. Helena High, in Napa Valley. It's was such a joy to spend time with you.


Le Coin Commentaires
I'm afraid I could not get in every detail of this memorable visit, but I hope you enjoyed the story of our first tour bus visit! To leave a comment, click here.


Meet-up! If, by great chance, you happen to be near Colmar, France on Thursday, please join Jean-Marc and me for dinner! Click here for more info.

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As soon as the students and the chaperones left, we missed them! "Monsieur Wrenn," Jean-Marc said, "est vraiment sympa!"

Portes tordues Les Portes Tordues : The scariest way to learn French!

"Five Quarters of the Orange" by Joanne Harris

Has anybody read Five Quarters of the Orange? Would you recommend it?

"When Framboise Simon returns to a small village on the banks of the Loire, the locals do not recognize her as the daughter of the infamous woman they hold responsible for a tragedy during the German occupation years ago. But the past and present are inextricably entwined, particularly in a scrapbook of recipes and memories that Framboise has inherited from her mother. And soon Framboise will realize that the journal also contains the key to the tragedy that indelibly marked that summer of her ninth year. . . ."  See the reviews and order a copy here.


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


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Anne Lester

I read Five Quarters of the Orange a number of years ago, it's a book I have bookmarked to read again, I don't recall a lot of it, just that I really enjoyed reading it, it was the first of her books I came across and inspired me to read everything she has read, mind you I gave up on Blue Eyed Boy after the first couple of chapters.

I have tried the receipt for roasted peppers, garlic and oil, yum, great on it's own and a useful staple for making a sauce by adding other ingredients, my local store often has peppers on offer and this is a great way of taking advantage of that.

Julie Swinchatt

Your blog seems to always just hit the spot! Next week I have two student for english lessons, I'm not a teacher and I'm also thanking and cursing the powers that be at the same time! Just think if you didn't have these trials to overcome how could you give hope to others!

John Viescas

How do we find you on FaceBook? Tried a search on "Kristin Espinasse", but found only a generic page.

Audrey Wilson

A great tale Kristin. They obviously had a great day , rain, sun ,loos & all!
Memories for me too, shepherding groups of students to places like Venice, Paris,Greek Islands Les Hautes Alps & all the pre planning stress that involved. Still we never actually lost one !!!


I am glad those students from Napa got to see what a real vineyard is like and I am glad they got to experience the joys of sitting at the sturdy picnic table under the wonderful mulberry tree looking across the Lunatique vines to see Gigondas nestled in front of the Dentelles while chatting with Kristin and listening to Chief Grape talk passionately about his grapes as if they were nuggets of gold. oh, and they also got to see the recent work of the Dirt Divas. they are very lucky students indeed. sorry they didn't get to meet your bathroom thieves! hope your other big group the Lavender Ladies went as well as the student group!


seventeen years later ...
what an incredible day!!!

******* BRAVO *******

I love the top photo,
your peacefully happy smile,
and the strong hollihock in the background reaching the top of the wall!

Marianne Rankin

I have great respect for Professor Wrenn, who managed to shepherd 47 students around France in a wheelchair!

I've had moments of near-panic as I expected certain guests (most recently was 10 people from my book club, the largest group in several years), but everything always works out in the end.

Nevertheless, good for you, overcoming your concerns and welcoming the students! It's a visit they will not forget.

I hope that someday I, too, will be able to visit.

Bill in St. Paul

Happy anniversary, Kristin and Jean-Marc, brave hosts that you are!! 47 students, 48 wine glasses, 47 places to sit - what an experience, both for you and the students. It's too bad that Smokey and Mom decided to put themselves out of the picture, but then a good roll in a dead something or other is hard to pass up (you'd think Blaise would have had more motherly sense!). We would love to be able to join you for dinner as Colmar is one of our favorite towns, but, alas, not this year.

William Mears (and Lee)

Thank you for a lovely story. We laughed and cried. Also, we have borrowed your quote "Warm Affection...Not Perfection". We can think of a quite few situations where we can use it! Lee is an artist (painter) and is a perfectionist, so she has had all of those anxious feelings too.

Oh yes, Happy Anniversary!

Betty Gleason

Joyeux anniversaire!
And another notch in your accomplishments belt. Please don't let this validate your pre-tasting anxiety.
Anxiety ≠ Success
The repeated validation of the belief "If I worry enough, everything will be OK," leads too many of us to believe it is true. Not so! (Voice of experience here.)
Intellect + Caring = Success
Not a scintilla of worry or anxiety in that equation.
So "Zen Gwen" (My personal favorite)

gail bingenheimer

Bon anniversaire de mariage! Votre amie, gail

louis plauche'

Chere Kristin,

Speaking as a former visitor to your place, I thought I'd confide in you that you may have enjoyed the students' visit, but they will doubtless remember it the rest of their lives. I am certain that I will. You were perfect hosts, and I thank you again for the opportunity to meet such dedicated and talented people.




This was undoubtedly a wonderful experience for the students, and for all concerned.

As a recently retired public school teacher, I marveled at the sight of American teenagers sampling wine on a school-sponsored trip. I'd have lost my job if that were to happen on any trip of mine. The administrators at St. Helena High School are to be commended for their open-mindedness. Bravo!

linda griffin

I found this account so delightful....and felt just what you must have felt ..and the way your husband reacted so adorable and predictable!
Also loved the first photo of you in front of wall with hollyhock...I am a painter!

lou bogue

As a formed visitor, I know the expierence will never fade from thier menories, congratulations on your 17th, two beautiful people who live the beautiful dream, Bonne chance, Lou


If I may say so: "Five Quarters of an Orange" - in my view a typical France-based summer read, marginally better than those "Bruno" books by Martin Walker. Can't help the feeling that these books were put together keeping in mind and a very close watch on bestselling ingredients. Having said that I might add that, luckily, everybody has a different taste;-)
Thanks so much Kristin, for this lovely rendition of that very special day and your insightful story on how things just fell into place after all your worries (which I share and totally understand!). Special thanks also to that incredible teacher who lives the impossible dream and does what used to be unthinkable: wine sampling! Wonderful all around. Thank you!


Kristi, you look so beautiful and your field trip day shows Grand Succes!!! We are about 3 months too late to meet up in Colmar, zut alors.....maybe next time! One of our favorite towns in Alsace, and I cannot imagine sitting down with you and Chief Grape over dinner----what fun! A la prochaine, xoxo

L. M. Davies

Happy Anniversary to you both, Kristin! As for the busload of students, I'm so glad everything unfolded with a beautiful 'rightness' of its own. As my friend might say, 'Cool beans!'
While it may be difficult to settle those pesky butterflies, I think your welcoming smile opens all doors: strangers become guests and guests become friends. Nicely done!

judith dunn

Kristin et marc... Many more happy years of marriage... we have been married for 50 this year! Seems like a blink since we walked down the aisle! You were a perfect hostess... the kids will never forget your kindness! Try the 'tried and true' soi chouette! works for me... a bientot.. I will be in Colmar in spirit!
That looks like fun.... Judi Dunn

Karen Whitcome

"The jig was up".... you are so funny. It's interesting how we see our daily surroundings so critically when trying to see it through the eyes of others. You mentioned "The Beverly Hillbillies" but I was remembering "Green Acres" (farm livin' is the life for me."). THAT's more of what you thought these curious teens and their chaperones would see, isn't it? But, you now know, it's the people who make the home and your wonderful home is about your love and hard work. It reflects REAL LIFE and real life is much more comforting to be around than a manicured scene of perfection!!

I'm so glad you shared this with us. It has the making of a larger story, I think. Were these students on a general school trip or was it a French language trip?

Happy Anniversary (sans toothpaste) to a fabulous couple!

Karen Whitcome

Oh, the author of Five Quarters of the Orange, Joanne Harris, wrote Chocolat!!! I can't wait to read it!

Jules Greer

You are the greatest! Max would have loved all of those California girls...XOXO MOM


Happy Anniversary, Kristin and Jean Marc! You are great balance for each other.

Loved your story about the visit. Those teens were so fortunate to visit you. I am assuming they are French students. Your experience was genuinely French and that is what they went to France to experience. Bravo for you.

Eileen deCamp

Hello Kristin,
You look "Cool Raoul" to me in the top photo!
Love the story and the kids and professor will always remember the welcoming hosts and the fun time they had at your place! Were the kids from a French class at St. Helena High?
Happy belated anniversary!


Coucou! Bon Anniversaire Kristin et Jean-Marc. I so enjoyed your story today. What a marvelous experience for those students. Merci for sharing.

Julie Schorr

Happy anniversary to you and Jean-Marc! In your picture you look very "cool Raoul", Kristin! Venturing off into the unknown is often nerve wracking. I think it is wonderful you welcomed so many students to your place and I know they will always remember this experience. Tourists in France do not typically get welcomed in a home, nor do they get to listen to their hosts welcome them and talk about their profession passionately. You gave them an unforgettable experience!

Mary Jo Nairn

Great story and adventure in hospitality. I always have to remember that hospitality is offering what I have, not what I'd like people to think I have!

Cheryl in STL

Happy anniversary!!
As a former French teacher who guided group after group of her students to France, I wholeheartedly agree that this group of students will treasure the memories you have given them. It's the people they meet and the unique experiences that stay with them. And a bravo to Mr. Wren for taking on the formidable task of 47 students in France! Thank you, Kristin and Jean-Marc, for your hospitality and for providing a priceless memory for those students!

Kate Dawson-Taylor

I never doubted you wouldn't.
Another stepping stone,not only for your anniversary,but for you,learning more about ,you.
What a lot of treasured memories for the students too.x


Bon Anniversaire Kristin et Jean-Marc and what a great 4th with the American students.
Your place is wonderful and you should never feel anything but good about it. It is the French countryside with all of the love and graciousness that you and your family give it. It is too bad that the students didn't get to meet Smokey and Braise. I know that I loved meeting them also as much as meeting you and Jean-Marc.
Mr Wrenn's and his class will have fond memories of their visit. I too commend St Helena HS and their openness to letting the students experience a french vineyard, but since they were from CA wine country, that might have made a difference.
You are one exceptional lady and chief-grape is one great guy.

Julie F in St. Louis, MO

No time to read all the brilliant comments today, but I just wanted you to know that this was an absolutely hysterical (in all senses of the word) post. Loved it. But I didn't love the fact that I have missed you AGAIN. Husband was working in Alsace region but we decided to meet up in Burgundy this week before moving on to Dijon. Très bummer!

Kate Tulp, Boston

Great post!!

Gwyn Ganjeau

I suspect these instances come to us unawares as a way of making us see what our capabilities really are--as opposed to what we think they are. the lens shifts afterwards. now a group of 25 will seem like a piece of gateau!

and a big 'happy anniversary' to you and J-M. i'm so happy that the two of you found each other on this big blue planet.

Carol McFarland, Arcata, CA

A great story, Kristin. Say more about the students' reactions to your wines and to the life you lead. I'll bet there were many making comparisons to life in Napa Valley.

Happy Anniversary, and thanks for sharing so many of those experiences with readers.

Lisa A., CA

Bon Anniversaire Kristin et Jean-Marc!!! 17 amazing for you both. :)

It is always a pleasure to read your stories...and this morning your story was a delight! I think I'm a bit like you...worry first...then it all turns out OK. :) I guess there is really no need to worry when you think about it. Right? Food for thought...this will be on my mind all day now...hahahaha :)

I wish I had had a teacher like Mr. Wrenn. How cool he is to take all those kids accross France like that. He reminds me of my cousin Paul. He too is a High School teacher (History) and takes his kids to London, England every year. We need more teacher like them in the world! Thank you for sharing your day...Hugs!


Joyeux anniversaire, Kristi and Jean-Marc!

Lisa A., CA

Oh...real mom loves your photos and really loves your white blouse. Where did you get it?


Loved your thrilling adventure. Your life is far more interesting than mine!!!!! Great storytelling. I was on pins and needles.
Next year, SIDEWAYS in Sainte Cécile les Vignes.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you for your response to this story. There was so much left out (I'll see about tucking in these parts later...), such as the screaming cicadas that had us shouting over their "voices", and the fact that the students and chaperons were interested in buying books and wine -- we did not expect this (I mean, wouldn't they rather buy a cool t-shirt in Avignon or something else? :-) Lisa A;, speaking of shirts, I bought mine (in the picture) at Carrefour.

Carol, re students' reactions, maybe we'll "hear" a few here. Some students were from winemaking families or knew winemakers personally, being from the area. RE writing, many of the students shared their interest in writing. We talked about blogs and more!

Eileen, I'm not sure if the kids were from the French class only.... I wish I had asked them more questions about themselves.

Karen, maybe "Green Acres" is what I meant (though I've never seen it!) I was referring to the rustic quality of our farm -- which is nothing like a stately vineyard -- though it is a vineyard (Mom hates it when I call it a grape farm, but the word vineyard conjures up another "image").

John, check the spelling. You should find me at FB under Kristin Espinasse.

Thanks, everyone, for the anniverary wishes! And for those who would like to visit Domaine Rouge-Bleu, please email us first for a reservation. We'd love to see you.

Bill Facker

Aloha Kristin .. As always, a truly well written piece. Congratulations to you and Chief Grape for the 17 years you have shared since that day you wed, right here on beautiful Kauai. Wishing you both many, many more happy years together! Bill Facker

Kristin Espinasse

Hi Bill, Chief Grape and I were married in Marseilles (both times... once at the Town Hall, on July 4th, and once at the church, on Sept. 24th) :-) WE did visit Kauai in 96', I think it was...

Bill Facker

Let me wipe the egg off my face :) I've had it in my mind for the last few years you were married on Kauai .. my apologies!

Pat Cargill

Happy Anniversary, K and J-M. Best wishes for many more years of adventure, good times and the sharing of yourselves w/so many visitors. You make an impact on the world - for the better. Cheers,

Jennifer in OR

Congrats on 17 marvelous, overflowing years!! And what a day to choose. ;-) Independence Day, and in a miraculous, mysterious way, I do believe that your marriage has brought you independence you couldn't have imagined! Love to you and your family today!!

susan Carter

Happy Anniversary Kristen & Jean-Marc!!! We are celebrating 45 years by spending the 4th in Paris - the Eiffel Tower lit up is as good as fireworks.

Frances Anamosa

This is so wonderful! I live in Napa, California, and it is trerific to know that high school students from "Up Valley" were there to visit you. Napa County is long and narrow and has 7 towns/cities in it, and Napa is the biggest, followed by St. Helena. What a lovely story. Is Professor Wren a teacher at St. Helena High? Thanks for this great story.

Stacy, Applegate, Oregon

Oh, Kristi!!! Such an uplifting, heart warming story written with true humor and wit! So much I love about it, a reason to smile in every sentence! How I can relate to the difference between your “prep work” and that of Chief Grape. Also, the nonchalant plans of those {now} style-cramping dogs! Ha, ha…have I been there with the entire farm {it seemed} plotting against my best-laid plans.

It is a joy to lovingly wish you and J-M a happy anniversary and many blessed more! Cherish each other and this beautiful life that you have created together. Thank you for sharing it with us; in doing so you cast your lovely ripple of sincerity and beauty out across the world’s big pond.

nadine goodban

Why, have the jitters, chère Kristin, when you know you've seen it all and you've always come through with great ease. Your true beauty, inside and out, brightens anyone's day.
Remember your first talk at Shakespeare & Co in Paris, and the 2nd??? Everybody loooves you, not only for your charm and knowledge, but mostly for being une vraie naturelle au bon coeur et à l'esprit vif et généreux. Et puis, la Foi, la foi qui vous guide.
Alors, à partir de maintenant, no more jitters .... Just leave them to me, I'm taking a group of Adult Francophiles from San Francisco to Morocco this fall. now that is reason to fret about ...
Très bonne continuation à vous tous, nadine

Karen from Phoenix, AZ

Happy, Happy Anniversary to you and Jean-Marc. It looks as though everyone had an wonderful time. Each time I see you vineyard I dream of the day I can visit. xoxo

Janine Cortell

Chere Kristin:
First of all, Joyeux Anniversaire de Mariage.
I am sure you and Jean-Marc were superb hosts.
I used to take my students to Provence every other year and only wish that you had been there at that time. I am sure that the kids learned so much from you. Teenagers are like sponges and seem to absorb it all so well.
Professor Wrenn must be a very special teacher.
Since I took only 20 kids, I can hardly imagine taking more than double. Kudos to him as well. Amities, janine Cortell

Kristin Espinasse

Jennifer, it is so true what you say: the day we marry, or unite with, our "better half" (or "soulmate" or "partner" or...) it is, in many ways, "Independence Day"! It can seem like prison, at times (ha! independence!!), but this is when we are stuck in a rut, and the tendency is to blame the other. And, sometimes, our "better halves" do indeed hold us back (non independence day!), when they are unsure of the outcome of the "fiery project" within us. The trick is knowing how to proceed: for him, for me, or for "we" :-) 'Scuse this mini-rambling, but it is our anniversary week and I'm giving BIG THANKS. As for many, ours was not the smoothest journey up to this point! Time to celebrate.

Nadine, you are right: there is no need to feel nervous about speaking in front of the group. What made me jittery was the other "character" who was standing bare before the audience: our home! It is such an intimate member of our family, that nest of ours. When all the students and visitors left, I stood in our kitchen (hours later) in my bathrobe -- and I had to look out the window more than once and peer around: am I sure that everyone has indeed gone? It is the same feeling on other occasions: have all the visitors gone? One thing I may never ease into is the "semi-public" part of farm life.

Janine, Jean-Marc and I sensed that Professor Wrenn is, as JM said, très très sympa. His class reflected this quality.

Stacy, thank you for your support of 25 years. I am certain that your creative ways whispered to me, chère chère amie.


My daughter was there with this group of 47 and the amazing Mr. Wrenn! Thank you for your kind hospitality and for her very first sips du vin!

Nicola Decker

Dear Kristin,

Our son was part of the student group. Thank you for opening up your home and heart. Your hospitality made a beautiful impression.

Chip telephoned us after his time with you and spoke fondly of his experience. This is more than a french class.

Mr Wrenn is an amazing teacher who teaches all aspects of language and culture. We appreciate his guidance and inspiration. For sure this adventure will forge our sons path in life and fuel a passion.

It is a nice our children who come from a wine growing region are able to appreciate the life style and approach to the industry from another country and viewpoint.

Congratulations on your anniversary, here's to many more filled with happiness.

Much appreciated, Jim & Nicky


I recently co-hosted an event which I expected 10-15 people but the final RSVP list included 46 picnic goers! I had no idea where I would seat so many and provide shade from the California sun. As my smart significant other (himself an ex-pat from France) said, "Don't worry, it will work itself out." He was so right! Everyone showed up, found a place to sit (it was a picnic so the ground wasn't off limits) and all had a good time. Lesson learned...don't sweat the logistics. Simply greet your guests with a genuine smile and a warm welcome. They will figure out what to do from that point on.


Salut, Kristi,

Such courage taking on 47 visitors ... teen-aged visitors, no less! You look very "No sweat, Yvette" in the photo at the top of the post. No way, Jose could I have appeared so at ease.

I was just in St Helena today. Actually, in Oakville at Opus One for meeting. Beautiful place, that valley. I'm so happy the kids were good ambassadors.

Bisous, Corey's cousine, Christine

John Senetto

Did Jean Marc charge a fee to the tour company?
Congratulations Kristen I remember you were worried over purchasing the property and starting a vineyard. It looks as though everything is working out magnificently. All it takes is the passion to do something and keep working at it.

Joan Linneman

Bravo a M. Wrenn, and what a fantastic experience for his students. I bring groups of students to France every other year and know how fatiguing it is, but I've never brought 47! Bless his heart... Bravo a Kristen to welcome his group. Totally cool, Raoul! Joan L.

Michael Wrenn

As I write this, we have now left le Midi and are up in the Alps enjoying a perfect day in sunny Chamonix. Thank you again, Kristin and Jean-Marc for the wonderful visit which the students are still talking about!

Thanks to all the readers for their compliments and accolades. In my teaching career, I find rarely anything as rewarding as bringing a group of students to my beloved France. This is my 13th tour leading a group to France, beginning in 1998. Kristin and Jean-Marc literally opened their arms and homes to us, and it will be an unforgettable part of this year's tour for our Voyageurs.

Just to be clear as this topic was brought up by some readers, this trip is not sponsored by St. Helena HS, or St. Helena Unified School District though most of our participants are students at that school where I am their teacher. As with most teachers who travel with their students to Europe, I have organized this trip on my own as a non-school activity, and thus was able to offer this unique wine-tasting experience which otherwise would not be permitted. However, we do have a rather unique school being from the heart of the Napa Valley, in that we offer a viticulture class through our Agriculture Department!

@Jules: I am sorry that you weren't there as well! I asked about you and Max and Jackie of course. It would have been such a pleasure to meet you as well. Maybe on a future trip up to the Napa Valley.

Suzanne, Monroe Twp., NJ

Those of us who have visited you and Chief Grape at DRB know what wonderful, relaxed hosts you are ... even when I have visited in the midst of la vendange! What a fabulous experience for these students who themselves come from a beautiful part of the world ... St. Helena, CA.

How lucky these students are to have a teacher like Michael Wrenn and parents who allow them to travel through France. I will never forget the times I have spent under that Mulberry tree sipping your wines.

Bonne Anniversaire and let Jean-Marc know that yesterday while enjoying a mini-break in Manhattan, we took the subway to Canal Street and walked over to Vestry Wines to buy a bottle of DRB Lunatique. It is going into the cellar to be enjoyed this Christmas when Margaret and Portia are with us. Can't wait.

Robyn Daniels

Hospitality is a state of mind and slight of hand. You executed it perfectly and I'm sure garnered a few more fans for the grape and the words/images from a foreign clime. xx

Lee Isbell

Late catching up with the outcome of the visit. I may have awakened other hotel guests laughing so loud at midnight. And then the tears, too. More worrisome than the students is wondering how that big bus turned around, having watched the Lavender Ladies having to jockey to turn around mere automobiles. Could give new meaning to crushing grapes. By the way, you're listed in Facebook as Kristin Ingham Espinasse. I remember having some difficulty originally finding you there because of that.

Kristin Espinasse

John, No, Jean-Marc did not charge a fee to the tour company or to the students.


Always a day late, but none the less I am brought to tears when I look at the pictures of these students and how well behaved and respectful they appear. Hats off to them, their parents and their teacher. And to you Kristin and Jean-Marc, what a wonderful thing to do.

Now I need to know how to prune lavender. I have my first plant and I am learning as I go.

Diana Henriksson

Kristin and Jean-Marc--Kindly let me add my thanks for making my son feel so welcome at your charming "grape farm". It was lovely that you graciously opened your home to him and his young friends. He shared with me that the experience was very special for him and one he will always remember.
With gratitude, Diana Henriksson
My son's name? Professor Wrenn


I had to laugh from the very beginning, when you said they were high school students from the US. They were all under 21, no doubt, so you could have served them wine from wheelbarrows while they stood in a hurricane and they would have been excited- THEY WERE DRINKING WINE!!! If I had been able to have a tour like this as a student, I would have loved the casual feel. The mismatched chairs, being outside, under a tree, right where they harvested the grapes. I bet every student will remember the magical moments they shared with you long after their memoirs of all of those guided tours through museums!!

Diane Young

Great memories for you, J-M, the Professor and a bunch of very lucky teenagers.

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