In great vintages like 2005, wine from small Bordeaux chateaux like Chateau Lagarosse makes smart buying.

Going off the beaten path of the classified chateaux and prestigious appellations is the way to get great value for your money in the 2005 vintage, as wines from minor appellations cannot command a primary location price tag no matter the quality.

Nature gave vineyard owners and winemakers a bounty of ripe fruit with good acidity and tannins. All they had to do was complete the harvest, make the wine, and book their winter trip to Martinique. In 2005, if you didn’t make good wine, you should have become a sausage maker.

Located in the Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux appellation, Chateau Lagarosse is certainly off the beaten track. Don’t mistake the title “Premieres Cotes” for being a quality designation; its meaning is the first hills of Bordeaux. The Premieres Cotes de Bordeaux is about 25 miles long on the right side of Garonne river, eventually reaching the city of Bordeaux.

Chateau Lagarosse dates to the 17th century, but the American entrepreneur extraordinaire Stephen Adams purchased it at the beginning of this century. From his checkbook flowed renovations to the chateau, an upgrade of the vineyards, installation of a new winery, and the services of Michael Rolland, Bordeaux’s controversial and high-profile winemaker.

Rolland’s winemaking is criticized for producing a uniformed wine style regardless of region and country. It’s a formula of plush, fruit-forward wines infused with the vanilla and coffee-like aromas and flavors that come from aging wine in new oak barrels. From many tastings of Rolland’s wines, it is a justified criticism.

The 2005 Chateau Lagarosse avoids the excesses of that winemaking style. Made of 80 percent merlot and 10 percent each cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, the wine reflects the richness of the 2005 vintage more than the hands of the winemaker. Its pronounced black cherry and blackberry aromas and flavors are immediately appealing. There is a touch of chocolate and coffee in the nose and on the back of the palate; however, it’s done gently, adding to the attraction of the 2005 Chateau Lagarosse.

Like nearly all 2005 Bordeaux wines, nature blessed Chateau Lagarosse with soft tannins and excellent balance. Allow the wine to aerate in the glass for 20 minutes or decant it, and its appeal is instant. In 2005, the combination of its Bordeaux outer-rim appellation, a skilled winemaker, and an owner who spared no expense to produce quality wine gives you the recipe for a good value wine.

The 2005 Chateau Lagarosse retails for approximately $15.