RKS 2023 Travel: One of Those Absolutely Memorable Evenings: Adega Czar in Pico Island in the Azores!

Matters were not proceeding particularly well for many in my group of 10 that were now sitting in Adega Czar at 9940-363 São Roque do Pico in the Azores Islands of Portugal. An aborted landing and mega delays to get to Pico Island. Late nights, early mornings and some 7 flights in 4 days. And you think the life of a wine writer is a walk on easy street. So around 20:00 we enter the home of Adega Czar. Fortunato Garcia welcomes us and is a hearty and hale man with the heart of a lion and if there was a Mr. Personality Award on PICO Island Fortunato would certainly be the winner.

Before the Feast: Photo Robert K. Stephen

It is raining and the wind is howling in true PICO Island fashion as we enter the Adega. An incredibly rich seafood smell caresses the nose. Someone is obviously very skilled at making “fish soup” which sounds awfully pedantic doesn’t it? Does “caldo de peixe á moda do Pico” sound better? It damn well does and does justice to this soup packed with fish eggs, sargo, grouper (garopa) and conger eel (congro). The eel is moist and slightly fatty and tender and massively addictive so much so for dessert my colleagues were eating rice pudding but my dessert was more eel!

Fish Soup Pico Style: Photo Robert K. Stephen

I should mention the Azoreans love their cheese and we have two from the island of St. Georges. Awesome. We have sweet bread, cornbread and flat cornbread always available. We are regaled with countless stories from Fortunato and while all the others are drinking white wine with the soup Fortunato and I are drinking some Isabella wine. A simple local wine he buys for his own consumption but it suits the “fish soup” so beautifully! You add some of the Isabella to your clay cup and spoon in the fish soup. But just the right amount of wine. I am now a PICO islander while my colleagues are tourists!

We have some Arinto dos Açroes, some Verdelho but my grey matter is fixated on the eel and Isabella! And then the Czar wines Fotunato’s forte so as to speak. Czar wine is harvested raisins. Not grapes that have dried after being picked. The wine was so coveted in olden times (and now in California) that it was a preferred wine of the Czar’s of Russia. It comes in at about 20% and is smooth… deceptively smooth and to be consumed with care. The Douro has Port. PICO Island has Czar! But most of the world knows nothing of it. It is like a sherry on steroids with vanilla and orange and his Czar wines sell in the United States for $500 to $1,000 a bottle.

And to top it off Fortunato takes out his guitar and as a PICO minstrel serenades us with traditional PICO songs.

Food Music And Wine! Photo Robert K. Stephen

It has been rough going at Wine and Travel Week but this night has healed all the frustration and pain. It was a memorable night not only of this trip but of my life. Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the Czar wine but I was happy as a limpet with my Conger Eel and that less than sophisticated Isabella red wine! No regrets. You could never buy such an evening even if you are a group of ten and pay 2,000 Euros for a feast like this!

Of course you can always go to PICO Island and try as you may to replicate my evening. Please send me any leftover eel!!!!

You can check out the website at www.czarwine.pt

Published by Robert K Stephen (CSW)

Robert K Stephen writes about food ,drink, travel, film, and lifestyle issues. He also has published serialized novels "Life at Megacorp", "Virus # 26, "Reggie the Egyptian Rescue Dog" and "The Penniless Pensioner" Robert was the first associate member of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada. He also holds a Mindfulness Certification from the University of Leiden and the University of Toronto. Be it Spanish cured meat, dried fruit, BBQ, or recycled bamboo place mats, Robert endeavours to escape the mundane, which is why he has established this publication. His motto is, "Have Story, Will Write."

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