Former “American Idol” producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick listed their California winery for $22 million earlier this month.
Warwick and Lythgoe bought the 160-acre Paso Robles property for $5.2 million in 2005. Originally, the investment property was supposed to include “American Idol” creator Simon Fuller, host Ryan Seacrest and judge Simon Cowell, Warwick said.
“One by one, they all dropped out, leaving Nigel and me to do what we’ve done most of our lives, work together; we just work together very well,” Warwick said.
Over the next few years, the showbiz pros leveled the small original house, planted 130-acres of grapevines and built the villa. However, making a sun-soaked Tuscan-inspired retreat with a state-of-the-art winery was no easy feat. The duo’s early misadventures and missteps were captured in “Corkscrewed: The Wrath of Grapes,” a 2008 Netflix series.
Lythgoe said for newcomers, the wine business has a learning curve.
“Originally, we had wild boars running through the vineyard, and Ken thought it would be a good idea to help the staff by learning to shoot. We, therefore, took lessons locally. But we were both terrible shots and looked like characters out of a BBC sitcom called ‘Dad’s Army.’ However, the boars disappeared; I think we scared them away without a shot being fired,” Lythgoe recalled.
The property was first named Villa San-Michelle as a nod to the friends growing up while the Beatles were breaking hearts across the globe with “Michelle My Belle” and other tunes.
“We named the Villa after the song, but a Napa vineyard with a similar name came down on us with a cease and desist. And almost on the spur of the moment, we had the idea that the Villa would be Italian and Tuscan style [think Romeo and Juliet], so Juliette was the obvious choice,” Warwick said.
The estate features two 4,000-square-foot, three-bedroom private residences, a swimming pool, panoramic views of the rolling hills, and a state-of-the-art winery and tasting room. VSJ is home to 12 styles of wine and can produce up to 50,000 cases of wine annually.
Warwick said his private residence is “completely done out in Ralph Lauren. It’s luxurious, to say the least. And the reason we bought it in the first place was the views. It’s slightly raised, and it’s beautiful,” Warwick added.
Warwick and Lythgoe opened the Villa San-Juliette as a wedding venue and public winery in 2008. Warwick said VSJ will host 41 weddings this year. However, the Villa has been a place for the famed producers to escape from the fast pace of Hollywood and enjoy time with family and friends.
“My wife and I come here several times a month,” Warwick said.
Lythgoe said he and Warwick have “turned the business into a success” and want to take more time exploring the world.
“I came back from Europe about a week and a half ago. I love it there. But when I was choreographing, I worked all over Europe, in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy. I’m want to go back there and experience that history again. So it is a good time to let go of the Villa,” Warwick said.
“The person who buys VSJ is going to have to be someone of means. There is a private airport about two miles away. So it’s far enough away to not be a nuisance but is convenient for anybody to come and visit. Another plus is that the winery and weddings cover costs every year,” Warwick said.
Lythgoe said the location is the best feature of the property. “Sitting above a water table makes farming a lot easier. It has incredible possibilities for building other residential properties, especially as we have so many weddings to cater. The views are among the most beautiful in Paso Robles. Even though we are in Pleasant Valley, and quiet and secluded, being 10 minutes from the private airport and 15 minutes from the freeway makes it wonderfully accessible,” Lythgoe added.
“It’s crossed our mind now that it would be ideal for a Soho House kind of buyer who wanted to turn the place into a member’s club,” Warwick added.
Lifelong friends, Warwick and Lythgoe met in Liverpool.
“I had just come home to England from Australia. We went to live in Liverpool, where my father originally came from. Because I had been taught a totally different curriculum in Australia, they gave me a test and realized that I knew nothing about the English curriculum. So they put me in the worst school in Liverpool. I walked into the school, and the math teacher said, ‘You can sit next to that bloke. His name is Nigel. We don’t talk to him. He talks too much.’ Nigel asked if I knew the latest Beatles song [‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’]. I said ‘yes’ and hummed a few bars, and we both got into trouble. So that was our initial meeting. We both went into amateur dramatics. We went to a professional dancing and drama school, the Hilton Bromley School of Dance and Drama in Wallasey. Then we joined the BBC’s ‘Young Generation,’ and both became choreographers,” Warwick said.
The friends reunited to work on the original “Gladiators,” and Lythgoe produced Britain’s “Pop Idol” and created Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance,” which recently completed its 17th season. They helped launch “American Idol” in 2002 and served as executive producers until 2013. And Warwick produced “Pop Idol” and “America’s Got Talent.”
Brianna Deutsch and Paul Margolis of Rodeo Realty Beverly Hills have the listing.
“Villa San-Juliette truly is the crown jewel of the Central Coast and has a wonderful reputation in the Paso area. I have visited many wineries in California, and Villa San-Juliette absolutely took my breath away,” Deutsch said. “I immediately felt like I was transported into a beautiful region of Italy when I first arrived.”