When I think of the thousands of bottles of wine that I have had the privilege to drink. None have been better than the 1982 Chateau Lafite Rothschild paired with the absolute best Roasted Chicken I ever had!
It was July of 2001 and my brother had made the decision to move back to Los Angeles. For anybody in the wine industry, leaving San Francisco to come to LA would be career suicide, but our Mother was dieing of Lou Gehrig's Disease and my brother wanted to spend the remaining months of her life by her side. In 2001, I was still a novice when it came to understanding "WINE" completely. I had made several trips to San Francisco and the wine country before. Plus, I had already began to collect wines for several years under my brother's guidance of buying the best. This trip would turn out to be the last I ever make to San Francisco with my brother. There have been so many great wine memories in this city with my brother like my birthday dinner party where I insisted on eating Seafood Risotto even though I was drinking 1997 Bryant Family Cabernet. Would I love to get that memory back today and eat the right meal with that wine. An absolute YES! Unfortunately, there is no Bryant Family wine left in our collection.
So we come to that warm summer day in 2001. Where my brother Michael this time would insist that I must have Roasted Chicken from Zuni Cafe. The problem was he also wanted to open 1982 Chateau Lafite. By 2001 I had learned what to do and not to do when it comes to opening a nice bottle of wine, but this was Michael's farewell meal and he insisted that we go to his favorite restaurant in San Francisco of all time.
Zuni Cafe is located at 1658 Market St (between 12th St & Page St) which was walking distance from my brothers loft. When we arrived we quickly ordered the Roasted Chicken being that the dish requires 1 hour of cooking time. The dish is cooked in a brick oven and comes with a warm bread salad with red mustard greens, scallions, currants and pine nuts. As shown in the photo above.
We actually started the meal with a cocktail while the wine opened up. Both our thoughts at the time were of sadness for our mother's health and for my brother leaving San Francisco which I still believe is a much better food city then Los Angeles ever will be.
There are just a few words to describe 1982 Chateau Lafite Rothschild. Perfection would be one of them. But I still remember telling my brother as that first sip of wine hit my lips was how much better this wine was than anything I had ever tried before. The wine showed finesse and elegance that I had never seen before in red wine. Plums, Cedar, Liquid Smoke, and Earth are what a remember. Who cares that I had it with Chicken. Yes! it could of benefited from a rack of lamb, but now that I think of it, I would of drank this wine with dessert if I could. It is just that good.
PERFECTION! It has never been duplicated again!
As for the famous Zuni Roasted Chicken. It was the most succulent bird I ever had. The brick oven gave the chicken a beautiful smoky flavor that worked very well with the wine. The skin was a Utopia of crunchy perfection. The salad is a warm mix of crispy, tender and chewy chunks of bread. It had little slivers of garlic and scallions. Just the right amounts of currants and pine nuts with a handful of greens all moistened with vinaigrette and chicken drippings.
Today my mouth still waters when I think of that dish. The greatest white wine I ever tasted was 1992 Louis Latour Corton-Charlemagne. I had that wine twice. Both times with roasted chicken dishes, but on that day in San Francisco having to settle for Lafite at Zuni Cafe will do just fine.
As seen in the first photo at the top of this story. I own Judy Rodger's Zuni Cafe Cookbook. In the book, is the famous recipe. Temptation has always driven me to try and duplicate that dish.
Why mess with one of my most memorable "Wine Moments" of all time.