Chateau La Roncheraie
Cotes De Castillon, Bordeaux 2005
Written by Cynthia Hurley

The right bank vineyards around Cotes de Castillon

I had a glass each of Roncheraie Sereine and Roncheraie Prestige from the 2005 vintage last night while watching Sixty Minutes. Did Roger Clemens take steroids? Was he clean? I couldn't know, but I did know that the wine in my glass was pure, fantastic, gorgeous Bordeaux. And, that's no lie.

And, I am speaking of both cuvees - the Sereine with its bright, popping, deep fruit and the Prestige with its smooth, rounded structure. Franck and Laetitia Toquereau are making some magnificent wines. There is just no denying it!

We all are waiting for our famous Bordeaux 2005 classified growths to arrive. Bordeaux 2005 has been called "The Best Vintage Ever" by critics (and is now priced to prove it). Believe me these are worth the wait but right now it is time to start enjoying the best made, smaller estate 2005s. They are much more ready to drink now and priced for everyday drinking. La Roncheraie (as low as $17.99 a bottle), made by Franck Toquereau is one of the best examples of these wonderful "petit chateau" wines.

My mind flashed right back to the moment not too long ago when I was lunching at Hostellerie de Plaisance - that exquisitely beautiful little gem of an eatery in St Emilion owned by Gerard Perse of Chateau Pavie. The dining room hangs over the village with a panorama of vineyards and hillsides. The décor is opulent, but in an ethereal, not ponderous way.

I was due that afternoon for my first visit at Chateau La Roncheraie. I had read about the wine in La Revue du Vins de France , the French Wine Advocate , but had stopped for the obligatory, fortifying two-hour lunch before the tasting. There on the menu among the Bordeaux Greats was La Roncheraie.

I ordered the Cuvee Sereine . The sommelier confirmed that Franck Toquereau was doing everything right at Chateau La Roncheraie. This was quite an endorsement. Believe me, it's hard to snag a spot for your wine on the carte du vin at La Plaisance. I couldn't wait to meet him.

And, now as I settled back into my globes of Roncheraie, I realized how lucky I was to have connected with Franck and Laetitia Toquereau.

Cotes de Castillon. Remember that name because you will be hearing It more and more. Cotes de Castillon is, quite simply, my favorite place to avenge big Bordeaux prices. The wines are aromatic and soft and have all the great material that very expensive Bordeaux have.

Cotes de Castillon is very beautiful with green rolling hills. The chateaux are more modest than in the Medoc. The owners wear the rubber boots and work in the fields and make the wine. The region is on the cusp of becoming well-known because the area has all the same agricultural conditions of St Emilion, its very famous neighbor just to the west. It's got the great clay-limestone soil and the fabulous exposures. THIS PLACE HAS IT ALL and it shows in the wines.

Many of the most famous growers in St Emilion like Nicolas Thienpont (Le Pin) and Comte Neipperg (Canon Gaffeliere and Clos de l'Oratoire) and Gerard Perse (Pavie, Pavie Decesse, Monbousquet) realized the potential of the area many years back and bought properties in Cotes de Castillon. Stephane Derenoncourt, Bordeaux's top tier wine consultant chose to create his Domaine here (Domaine de l'A). The list is long and growing of smart vineyard owners buying up Cotes de Castillon terroir .

Chateau La Roncheraie is a small domaine of 7 hectares (about 15 acres). Franck's total production is about 3,000 cases. The soil is that dream combination of clay and limestone (limestone on the top for drainage and clay near the roots for water retention). This is the perfect insurance in case of drought. The cepage of the wines is about 80% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and some Cabernet Franc for a beautiful aroma. The average age of the vines is 20 years.

Franck makes two cuvees: Sereine which is aged in 20% new oak and 60% one-year-old wood and 20% two-year-old wood. The aroma is that of wild red fruits with a dash of vanilla, smoke, and leather. Prestige is the other cuvee. It is aged in 100% new oak. Prestige is a powerful, structured wine with aromas of wild red and black grilled fruits. It is full- flavored with a hint of licorice. Both wines have long finishes and are reminders that there are no better sources for affordable wines than the nooks and crannies of Bordeaux where the standards of winemaking are higher than anywhere in the world. Cynthia Hurley

Château La Roncheraie Sereine Cotes de Castillon  2005

On Sale $17.99
Buy Château La Roncheraie Sereine Cotes de Castillon

Château La Roncheraie Prestige Cotes de Castillon  2005

On Sale $19.99
Buy Château La Roncheraie Prestige Cotes de Castillon