Let’s face it, in a head-to-head competition of which of the St Estèphe estates boasts the most dramatic, unusual or exotic château, Château Cos d’Estournel would win hands down, every time. With its mish-mash of exotic themes, including elephants from India, tiered pagodas from the Far East and intricately carved wooden doors from the palace of Zanzibar, Cos d’Estournel seems to hold all the aces.
If you continue along the D2 past Château Cos d’Estournel and Château Cos Labory though, as the road curves round to the right, your trajectory swinging round to point you north, in the direction of the vineyards of the Médoc appellation, you will see another visually imposing view to the left. This is Château Lafon-Rochet, and although this estate is not adorned with pilfered artefacts to rival those found at the British Museum it does still make for a very arresting sight. It is not just the beautiful sweep of vines that lies in front of the château. Nor is it just the modern sculpture that sits there. No, it is the vibrant yellow colour scheme that will first catch your eye.
How and when did this property acquire such a visually distinctive facade? And, more importantly, what of its wines? Under the management of a branch of the Tesseron family, the same family that propelled Château Pontet-Canet to stardom, the estate saw quality climb, perhaps not to the same level of its Pauillac half-sibling, but it was an undeniable ascent all the same. Today, however, the Tesseron era is at an end, and the property has a new owner. In this profile I provide information on its current proprietor, and set out to answer some of the questions I have asked in this opening paragraphs. First of all, though, I kick off with some detail on the estate and its origins which are, in this case, complex and somewhat convoluted.
Lafon-Rochet: Ancient Origins
The origins of Château Lafon-Rochet date back to the 16th century, when the land here was part of a vast estate, the Fief de la Vallée Roussillon, which came into the ownership of Janot Bernard de Leyssac (died 1593) in 1557. Janot was a wealthy merchant, and he proceeded to enlarge his estate with the purchase of a number of adjacent plots, thus setting the scene for the creation of Château Lafon-Rochet as we known it today. He eventually bequeathed his impressive estate to his daughter Françoise, who subsequently went on to marry Hellies de Lahaye in the latter years of the century. The two settled in and cared for their estate for many years.