This was the second stop as Scott and I crossed the Atlantic on the Oceania cruise ship. The Azores are an archipelago of nine Portuguese islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean–about 950 miles west of Lisbon. We had an opportunity to visit two of the islands–Horta and Ponta Delgada. Faial Island was the smaller of the two and looked like an ideal spot to take a break for yachts crossing the Atlantic in the town of Horta. The sea wall is covered with hundreds of paintings and messages left by the sea-travelers who call in at the port. In 1957 there was a great volcanic eruption and many of the residents were unable to make a living as their farms were covered with ash. Many of the inhabitants emigrated to the U.S. aided by Senator John F. Kennedy. A large number settled in the Central Valley of California. NOTE FROM SCOTT: The California Portuguese are a tightly knit group. When I first started working in the wineries back in 1974, I became acquainted with the Frietas family from West Sacramento. This family along with many other families got together every Sunday. They all made home-made wine together and when they found out I was a winemaker, I was accepted right away. I remember when Mr. Frietas was laid up in the hospital, I would sneak in a bottle of Zinfandel with a couple of jelly jars as wine glasses. It was greatly appreciated. The nurses always wondered why Mr. Frietas was such a jolly patient. Low and behold, the wine they were making was from grapes purchased from my step grandfather in Amador County. I sure have fond memories of that time. The soppa and boiled lima beans along with great Amador County Zinfandel. I hate to admit it but their home-made wine from my grandfather’s grapes was a little better than his. Today, 38 years later, all the grapes from my grandfather’s vineyard go into our Scott Harvey Old Vine Reserve Zinfandel.
Most of the vineyards are on Pico, named after the highest mountain in the Azores. Winemaking came to the Azores in the mid-15th century. It is believed that Franciscan friars brought the verdelho grape here. This variety makes a delicious fortified wine that Pico became famous for. They were even found in Czar Nicholas II cellar after he was deposed and executed. We only tried the dry version and it was very enjoyable in this temperate, maritime climate.