American Idol kingpins Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick have spent US$6m on their new property in Paso Robles – and confess they are ‘smitten’.

The Liverpool-born Hollywood producers are responsible for a string of

Global TV hits such as Gladiators, Survivor, Blind Date, Popstars, and Pop Idol, and its US version American Idol.

In December 2005 they fulfilled a long-held dream by buying a vineyard, the 61ha Villa San Juliette just outside Paso Robles on California’s south central coast.

And getting their first harvest in – the 2006, 5000 cases of a high-end Merlot-Cabernet blend – is now the subject of its own TV series, Corkscrewed, which will air on Sky in the UK in the spring.

The pair reckon they were ‘naïve but passionate’ when they embarked on the venture but are now ‘smitten’, and have fallen in love with Paso Robles.

‘The film shows our naivete and complete stupidity, and all the problems we got into and how we got out of them.’

Both multi-millionaires from their TV projects, they say they have made no money from Corkscrewed – which they did ‘for recognition’ in the region where Sideways was filmed and where locals have become sceptical of Hollywood names.

‘Being accepted here makes us proud. They thought they were getting big Hollywood producers, but we’re not in that mould. It’s nice to be able to put the misconceptions to bed.’

And they are serious about Villa San Juliette, with plans for a new house and winery on the land. They are replanting 7ha of Cabernet and are putting in cover crops and adopting new pruning techniques. Their vineyard manager also worked under the previous owner.

The estate’s grapes were previously sold to Kendall-Jackson, Triana and Constellation. Lythgoe says that both the latter have renewed contracts.

‘But Kendall-Jackson dropped us and we’ve never heard from them again.’ All the grapes which they are not using for their own blend have been sold.

Villa San Juliette Cabernet Merlot will be bottled at the end of the year and will be on sale for around US$35-40.

As for other TV plans, the producers will say nothing except two projects were ‘picked up’ by networks yesterday. ‘In April we’ll be able to say more – they

will be enormous.’

Written by Adam Lechmere