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From France to New Zealand: Jean-Marc's Big News!

French winemaker Jean-Marc Espinasse blind tasting degustation
From the Mediterranean to Nouvelle Zéalande--Jean-Marc will be a traveling winemaker once again. After making wine in Italy (Sicily), The United States (Oregon), and around France, ce vigneron will now experience a longtime dream of blending grapes in New Zealand! We would like to thank Whitehaven Wines for this amazing opportunity! Read my husband's update, below, for more details.
    : winemaker, winegrower

by Jean-Marc Espinasse

For a very long time, I have dreamt about visiting New Zealand. But family obligations, work, Covid, and the country's location (at almost 2 days' travel from France), have made this fantastic voyage quite impossible so far.
I have so much affinity for these two islands because they are...islands and I have always felt good being surrounded by oceans and seas. New Zealand is also a country with a strong identity, some amazing sports, like rugby or sailing, 1000 years of history, and it's a land with deep farming values, producing the famous lamb but also many other crops and, of course, wine.
In 2009, as I was touring the States to promote Domaine Rouge-Bleu, a very good friend of mine (Jeffrey) invited some friends over for a blind wine-tasting party. He gave me the keys to his unbelievable wine cellar with a carte blanche to pick out any bottle in order to organize a fun game. After looking around, I decided to do a horizontal blind tasting of Northern Rhone 2003. Chave, Guigal, Gangloff, Jaboulet... all the big names were here and it was an honor to be able to select them. Exploring a bit more, I saw a New Zealand section where I had heard that some Syrah (which is the grape used by Northern Rhone wines) was producing interesting results. When I saw a Syrah from Craggy Range "Le Sol" 2003, I decided to add it to the line-up, as an intruder. Guess who won the contest--and by far? This definitely contributed to my growing interest in this magical land.
In 2014, Kristi and I celebrated our 20th anniversary and our friends offered us a trip to New Zealand. This voyage never happened but I continued to be interested in this marvelous country and started to follow some vineyards on Instagram. Long story short, I have some very exciting news for you today… I am thrilled to announce that I have just been hired to work as an assistant winemaker in the cellars of Whitehaven Wines, Marlborough.
If you have any connections over there, I am searching for a room in a house or a studio—or why not a camper—to rent (in/near Blenheim), starting March 1st for 7/8 weeks. I would also appreciate any contacts you may have in New Zealand as I plan to tour both islands by bike and camping car, before and after my work contract.
Thank you in advance for your help. I can't wait to tell you all about my experiences on this magnificent island.


[email protected]

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Ahulani Brooke McAdam

I'm so excited for you, Jean Marc! I think New Zealand has such amazing energy and beauty that will resonate with your soul!
Have a marvelous adventure.

I'm sure that all the friends you have near and far (plus all of their friends!) will help you create an experience beyond imagining.

Do be sure to leave lots of unplanned and unscheduled time so you can say "Oui" to the serendipity that the Universe will offer you. Following those tender hints will lead you "home".
I don't know anyone there, but I will be on the lookout for you!
Much love and joy in dreams coming true!

Tom Berry

Best of luck and safe travels, Jean-Marc! What an exciting opportunity for you! We never know the path ahead of us. May it be exciting and fulfilling.


congratulations Jean-Marc it is wonderful news for you. How about you hop across the Ditch and visit Australia while you are in the area? We have some wonderful wines as well :)

Sandy Zeoli

Wow! What a great opportunity. Best of luck and enjoy your new adventure

Catherine Berry

How wonderful, Jean-Marc. You must come to Australia at the same time. All that way, it'd be a shame not to. And, of course, with Kristi too.

Sharon L Marchisello

Congratulations to Jean-Marc on this fantastic opportunity. New Zealand is a beautiful place. Kristi, I hope you'll be able to see it too

christine jones

So happy for you!


ThIs is tremendous! Bon courage. It’s a whole different English down there! 😁

Walter Martindale

Try meeting up with Ivan Sutherland at Dog Point vineyard.. competitors to the vineyard you're going to.


Wonderful for Jean Marc, will also give you both a new outlook mentally and physically


Quelle bonne surprise! When I lived in Oakland my neighbors were from New Zealand. He was a Director of the Public Health Department at UC Berkeley and his wife was a reading specialist. I learned a little about New Zealanders and their love of the outdoors from them. I hope you will send some photos of The Milford Track. Bon voyage et Bonne Chance!

Joanne Fischer

Congratulations Jean-Marc! You will love New Zealand! Still hoping someday you will come to New Mexico.

Leslie, Singers Glen Va.

Dear Jean Marc,
This sounds like an excellent adventure.
Enjoy your time there!


Congratulations - a wonderful new experience in wine and a dream come true for you. I like New Zealand whites - will check these out if I can get them here.

Sherry Frank

What exciting news. I just found an empty Mas deBrun rose' bottle. Have been keeping the bottle because the design was so beautiful and the wine was so good. You are an excellent winemaker, Jean Marc. Can't wait to see what you do in New Zealand. Congratulations!


Félicitations, Jean Marc! Nous sommes tellement heureuse pour vous et la realization de vos rêves. Vous nous manquez!!! Bisous à Kristi aussi. XO - Linda et Nancy

Karen Cafarella

That is fantastic. Best of Luck on the new adventure.

Sue Lennox

What a fascinating opportunity, JM! New Zealand is a beautiful country—I envy you.

Patricia Sands

Quelles bonnes nouvelles! Congratulations JM ... and Kristi, surely you will visit! Keep discovering the abundance of every day magic in life as we share our heartbreak for others less fortunate. How wonderful to see dreams coming true. Bisous

Ann M. Tubbs

This is so exciting! They will be lucky to have your expertise, and you will have a wonderfully rich experience! Quelle bonne chance!


This is wonderful Jean-Marc. Whitehaven is one of my favorite Marlborough wines. I have a couple of contacts, one on the South Island and one on the North Island. I’ll send a message to Kristi with the information.


Sounds wonderful.....happy for you.

A question arises....this piece was quite well written. Was this all "you" or did you get a little assistance? Most Americans don't write as well.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Marshall. Jean-Marc wrote this piece. I did a very little editing. He is a good writer and does not struggle too much during the process. 


Kia ora! That's the greeting of New Zealand and translates as both "hello" and "to your health." What an exciting opportunity for Jean-Marc! I wish I were still living in New Zealand. It would be a pleasure to meet you in person. It's a truly beautiful and special country, with incredible wine. If you will have a chance to travel around the country when not working, I would be more than happy to share a few "insider" tips. :)

Frances in Napa, CA USA

This is fantastic news! That country is so gorgeous - I hope to go there some day.

I do have contacts in New Zealand. What is the best way to directly contact you, Kristi?

Marianne S. Rankin

Felicitations, Jean-Marc, et bonne chance! I wish you a safe and rewarding trip. Maybe after your time in New Zealand (please take some pictures), you can grow a few special N.Z. vines back in France and create wine from them. Someday I hope you will visit the States again (within reasonable driving distance of Washington, DC), and I may have a chance to taste the New Zealand wine. Regards to your whole family and to Ricci.

Kristin Espinasse

Thank you, Frances. Could you contact Jean-Marc directly at [email protected] ? Much appreciated!

Caryl Talcott

Congratulations Jean-Marc on such a fantastic opportunity. As a long-time US-based kiwi, advocate for NZ wines AND 15+ years follower of Kristi's blog, I was delighted to learn that you will be "working a harvest" as an Assistant Winemaker in Marlborough. I'm afraid I don't have any personal contacts that could help with accommodation etc but I do sincerely hope that you will find support within the local community. We are fortunate in North Carolina in being able to access Whitehaven's wines so will be looking out for your vintage in the future.
Warmest wishes
Caryl KT


Congrats on your dream come true... have a great time!!

Diane Heinecke

How exciting for you! Congratulations. You must be over the moon. "Good things happen to those who wait." Since Kristi has readers all over the world, I'm sure you'll get some leads for rentals, advocates, and anything else you might need. I know it will be difficult to be apart, but with prayer, faith, video and phone calls you'll make it.

Julie Crowe

Wonderful. NZ is a beautiful country and kiwis are super friendly and obliging. I’m an Aussie so they are close neighbours. I don’t know Whitehaven wines, but NZ makes some stunning wines -new world, so somewhat different to the wines you would generally be used to. I wish you well.

Beverly Fletcher

I'm not surprised Jean-Marc enjoyed Craggy Range wine - they make some fabulous wines on soils known as Gimlet Gravels in Hawkes Bay in the North Island - and they have a great restaurant too.. Hawkes Bay wines are generally very different from Marlborough wines - which can be equally good in their different way. There are some French winemakers in Marlborough - Clos Henri - from a winemaking family near Sancerre.

Laraine Lippe

What wonderful news! Congratulations and enjoy your new adventure and work!
Many many good thoughts,
Laraine L

Patricia Nelson

What an experience for you . Ao opportunity of a lifetime. Bon voyage and keep us up to date all the way. Take care Patricia nelson

Della Gehl

NZ is great and their Sauvignon Blanc is unmatched anywhere. Good luck always

Judy Feldman

New Zealand is a wonderful country! I hope you get to visit, Kristi!

Karen Whitcome

This is wonderful news! I spent 3 weeks in that magical country in the early '80s but have no contacts. Soak it all up! Both of you!

Mary Ann Boysen

Congratulations, Jean-Marc! As a child I always wanted to visit New Zealand, but have never made it there, and now, at 85, it is less likely to come true. I know you will be successful there, so enjoy every minute and every mile of that beautiful island!

Chris Allin

Yet another amazing adventure.
May this one prove to be fun and rewarding. Keep up your adventurous spirit, Jean-Marc!

Alice Shupe

Félicitations, Jean-Marc, on a great opportunity! Dear friends run a hostel in Kaikoura on the east coast of the south island called the Lazy Shag. It's a great area for outdoor activity and David and Inga cater to hikers, etc. I haven't been there yet but other friends have and found it to be great. I know that they would welcome you warmly. I hope your time in NZ is rewarding on many levels!

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