On our first day in Sanya, we had asked Becky if she knew where we could find a nice bottle of wine. Unfortunately, in China most everything is pirated: DVDs, computer software and even alcohol. Yes, that bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label is probably produced in China and even the stickers and bottle match the real thing. You have to look for subtle differences in packaging to know if you have the real thing or not. In choosing a bottle of wine, you can’t just go to the grocery or liquor store if you want an authentic bottle. Wendy knew just the place. A prominent business man who owned some restaurants and a coffee shop had a wine club and cellar. We visited the wine shop and purchased a bottle or two.
The “wine club” was in a makeshift wine cellar in a coffee shop and had quite a selection of wine. I was most impressed with Anya’s wine taste and knowledge and I had a crash lesson in wine tasting and appreciation. The waitresses at the coffee shop, one who was studying to be a sommelier, took especially good care of us. We tried several different wines and they even served us some cookies and fruit. Later, Wendy called back and said that the owner of the establishment had heard that some westerners had come to call on his business and he wanted to meet us. He asked us to come over for an ad hoc Christmas Eve party at his wine cellar.
Of course we agreed to come. As I think about it, this kind of thing never happens to me. I’d have to say that Anya is responsible for the invitation. She didn’t “do” anything per se, but I suppose that either her stars are aligned just right or her magnetic personality just draws people towards her. I have made a mental note that I must be more friendly and open when I travel so that I don’t miss unique experiences like this.
When we arrived, we met Winston. Not his real name of course, but it seems that everyone in China has a western name to make it “easier” on us westerners. I thought about that, how considerate is that, everyone taking a second name for our comfort. Can you imagine suggesting that we take Chinese names when we received visitors from China? No one would even consider it. Again, the Chinese have impressed upon me a certain level of graciousness that will not soon be forgotten.
Winston met us eagerly and escorted us into his cellar. He had already made some wine selections for our tasting and in no time we were all in a festive party mood. Winston was also well versed in wine knowledge and he was impressed with Anya’s understanding of wine. The two talked on and on about this wine and that and its characteristics and flavors. Winston spared no expense and uncorked bottle after bottle of wine and popped a few champagne corks as well. This is someone who we don’t even know and he is treating us as honored guests. Yes, the Chinese to impress me.
With each round of drinks came more and more refreshments. One in particular, a beautifully arranged bowl of local fruits was brought (above) and we tried some fruits that were new to us. I’d had Dragon Fruit before, while in Vietnam; it has a hard purple skin with spines on it, the inside fruit is white with black seeds and to my taste it reminds me of a mix of honey-dew melon and kiwi. In the photo below, you can see a yellow fruit that is shaped like a star. This fruit, the star fruit, was not cut like this, it is its natural shape. It reminded me of an orange but more tangy in taste.
Again and again, we had more and more drinks and appetizers and snacks and I was so impressed with Winston’s hospitality. He really made us feel like we were at a Christmas party – he had even sent one of the girls out to get us Christmas hats which we wore with some embarrassment – but all in good cheer.
Just before midnight, Winston made a toast and asked each of us to make our toasts. We finished just before the stroke of 12 and from the balcony above, confetti and glitter started raining down on us. Winston had directed some of his employees to be standing above us on the balcony and to drop the confetti right at midnight. He had missed nothing and again we were impressed.
Later, Lulu, Winston’s wife (second from left) joined us and we continued to laugh and make toasts for Christmas happiness. The party went til quite late and we laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. Winston had a fun hearty laugh and we enjoyed his company and that of the other employees and his wife. When it was time to go home for the evening, Winston sent us home with a half case of wine and refused any payment at all. I really, really couldn’t believe the hospitality. We came as customers and left as dear friends.
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