Alfred and Melanie Tesseron of Château Pontet-Canet have taken their first steps into Napa Valley by purchasing the Villa Sorriso wine estate formerly owned by the late American actor Robin Williams.

Pontet-Canet Napa Valley adventure

Villa Sorriso, in the Mayacamas mountains along the west side of Napa Valley, first came on the market four years ago and was re-adverised after Robin Williams’ death in 2014.

Decanter.com understands that the Tesserons paid US$18.1m for the property, which is their first California wine estate. The estate was initially advertised for $35m when put up for sale by Williams himself in 2012, but later reduced to $29.5m and then again to $22.9m last year.

According to the estate agency listings, it comes with a 20,000-square-foot house with a screening room and a climate-controlled wine room.

Pontet-Canet's Villa Sorriso property in Mt Veeder

Pontet-Canet’s Villa Sorriso property in Mt Veeder also comes with a swimming pool and a 20,000 sq-metre house with 15 bathrooms. Credit: Joyce Rey (estate agent)

Villa Sorriso has a total surface of 259 hectares, with 7.3 hectares of vines planted on Mt Veeder up in the cooler terroir of the Mayacamas.

It is planted with the Bordeaux red varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

While previously the grapes were sold to local growers, the Tesserons will now take the production in-house, introducing the same biodynamic vineyard practices as in Pauillac, Bordeaux.

‘We arrive with heads down, ready to learn’

Technical director Jean-Michel Comme will oversee the winemaking at both estates, but there will be a winemaking team full-time also in Napa.

‘Alfred and Melanie have been searching for the right estate in Napa for some time,’ Comme told Decanter.com.

‘The soils here correspond perfectly to the style of wine that we hope to make. Finding the right team might also take time, and we will of course ensure the same philosophy and approach as at Pontet-Canet.

‘I have loved Napa for the past 30 years, since working as a trainee at Pine Ridge Vineyards in 1986, but we arrive with humility, heads down, ready to learn.’