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History of

the Grounds

William Minchin 1819-1859

On his retirement from the army in 1819 William Minchin was given a grant of 1000 acres by Governor Macquarie. The property was 41 kilometres from Sydney. Governor Macquarie granted Minchin’s estate a further 200 acres at Minchinbury which was not deeded until Minchin’s death.  Minchin was prominent in the early history of the colony and was involved in the Governor Bligh court martial. In April 1820 he was appointed Principal Superintendent of Police. He died on 26th March 1821, leaving Minchinbury to his only child, Maria Matilda born 1810.

On 28th April 1823, Minchin’s widow Ann married Captain Eber Bunker.  Minchin’s daughter married Henry Howey, Bunker’s young shipmate in 1836. In 1838, Howey, his wife and family all perished at sea, when Howey’s schooner, ‘The Sarah’ disappeared between Sydney and Melbourne. Hence, no descendants of William Minchin exist today. Minchin’s brother, George, who resided in Canada, inherited the property.

The Minchinbury property was largely undeveloped and primarily used to graze cattle by the Minchin family and various lessees.

Charles McKay 1859 – 1885

In 1859, George Minchin, appointed John Nodes Dickinson, a NSW Supreme Court official as trustee. In February the Minchin estate, totalling 1220 acres was sold to Dr Charles McKay, a practitioner from Kilrea in Ireland, for £2100.  McKay was already a landowner of 20,110 acres.  During the 1860s he became the largest landowner in the area and it was under his ownership that the grape vines were first planted on the Minchinbury Estate.

During the 1860’s, the McKay family established a vineyard on the site as well as cultivating silk worms.  By 1879 the wines from Minchinbury received three awards at the Sydney Garden Palace Exhibition.

In 1881, Dr McKay listed his extensive properties in the Minchinbury area for sale, due to financial difficulties.  The advertisement by Charles Moore & Co Auctioneers described the property as follows;

“…600 hundred acres in various sizes could be sold in sections if desirable.  Minchinbury embraces 60 acres of enclosed land, and planted with about 50,000 vines in full bearing…A trap dike of blue metal runs through the Minchinbury from west to east which will be invaluable to parties contracting for blue metal for Sydney Streets.  There is also a hill of trap tuff, the deposit from an extinct volcano.

This is hard and durable stone used for some years on a portion of the Great Western Road.  A tramway could be inexpensively made from the quarries to Rooty Hill Station. Fine clay for brick making and good building sandstone can also be obtained.  There are three wine cellars, two sixty feet by twenty, on sixty by thirty, capable of storing one hundred thousand gallons of wine and wells, tanks and lagoons with never failing water supply.”

Despite this publicity the land did not sell until 1895, when Dr McKay was able to sell all of it to James Angus.

THE DISTILLERY WOODFIRE RESTAURANT - Minchinbury Wine Cellars Electricity substation

Minchinbury Wine Cellars. Electricity hub (right) about to receive electricity installed in 1933. Left, the receiving area for all bulk wine deliveries.

THE DISTILLERY WOODFIRE RESTAURANT - prior to development into housing complex

In 1913, Penfold’s Wines purchased the estate and operated the winery until June 1978, when the cellars closed and transferred into Penfold’s Wine Cellars at Tempe. The Estate became known as a housing complex.

_article_0043_THE DISTILLERY WOODFIRE RESTAURANT - Winemakers Leo Buring

Winemaking at Minchinbury between 1904 and 1906.

_article_0038_THE DISTILLERY WOODFIRE RESTAURANT - Manager Don Nieass June 1978

Manager Don Niess in Minchinbury Wine Cellars in 1978.

_article_0046_THE DISTILLERY WOODFIRE RESTAURANT - Minchinbury Wine Cellars June 1978

Minchinbury wine cellars 1978.

_article_0040_THE DISTILLERY WOODFIRE RESTAURANT - Grape picking season 1928

Grapepicking in approx 1928. Pickers received tuppence, 2 cents per bucket. Photo: Mrs Joan Macurayne, and son Dennis.

_article_0039_THE DISTILLERY WOODFIRE RESTAURANT - Grapepicking season at Minchinbury Vineyard in 1982

Grapepicking season at Minchinbury vineyard in 1928.

_article_0048_THE DISTILLERY WOODFIRE RESTAURANT - Minchinbury Vineyards bottle washing section 1920

Minchinbury Vineyards. Bottle washing section in the late 1920s.

James Angus 1885-1913

The vineyards continued to be cultivated and produced high quality wines. The new owner, James Angus, continued to expand the wine production, and he also established a quarry, a piggery, dairy and olive trees on the land.

James Angus and Sons were railway contractors.  They expanded the vineyards and developed the first Minchinbury ‘champagne’ for their sparkling wine. Angus applied the most up to date scientific knowledge and technology for all aspects of the estate.  He was prolific in his interest as a director of many major enterprises and a foundation member of Blacktown Shire Council.  He also held a philanthropic interest in the Burnside Homes at North Parramatta.

An article which appeared in the December 1900 Town and Country Journal praised the “sensible methods and profitable results” of the Minchinbury Estate.

In 1902, James Angus appointed Leo Buring as the manager of Minchinbury Winery.  Herman Leopold Buring was born in 1856 in Germany.  His family immigrated to Australia where he trained at Roseworthy Agricultural college in Adelaide, before returning to Germany to be a wine researcher and then to France.  In 1898, he returned to South Australia and became a cellar man before moving to New South Wales.  At Minchinbury he managed to persuade James Angus to embark on the production of sparkling wines, which were successfully launched on the market six years later.   Leo Buring produced the first Minchinbury Champagne in 1904, which with other table wines of the same firm, obtained six gold medals at the Brewers and Wine Exhibition in London in 1906.

During his years at Minchinbury he planted 100 olive trees, which lined both sides of the driveway to the winery.  The olive oil produced from the trees was used by Buring to prevent oxidization of the wines.  Some of these trees still remain, and the avenue of olive trees is currently protected as a heritage item by Blacktown Council.

In 1898 the vine disease Phylloxera hit the vineyards, destroying the plants and the grapes.  The vines were burnt and the vineyards replanted with Phylloxera resistant stock.  James Angus began to expand the winery and continued to until the sale of the property in 1913.  Angus sold the vineyards and cellar complex to Penfolds Wines, but retained a major portion of the estate for his family.  James Angus, who built his wealth on his success as a railway contractor, was killed when he was hit by a train at Rooty Hill station in 1916.

Penfolds Wines 1913-1978

Penfolds is an Australian wine producer, founded in 1844 by Dr Christopher Rawson Penfold, an English physician who immigrated to Australia, and is still in operation today.  Christopher Penfold was a believer in the medicinal benefits of wine and before immigrating to Australia, obtained vine cuttings from France which he planted at Minchinbury.  The Penfold family successfully cultivated vines in South Australia, becoming commercially successful vintners in the 1870’s.

Minchinbury was the second vineyard bought by Penfolds in New South Wales, the first being Dalwood, near Branxton in the Hunter Valley.  With properties in New South Wales and South Australia they were claimed to be the largest wine producer in the ‘British Empire’.

Minchinbury was Penfolds’ first venture into sparkling wines.  

Penfold purchased the Minchinbury estate of phylloxera-resistant vines, stock including 100,000gallons (380,000L) and several thousand bottles of wine for about £50,000; a record in the Australian wine trade for that time. With the outbreak of World War I and the introduction of six o’clock closure of hotels and the looming alcohol prohibition, Penfolds did not undertake any expansion or alteration to the Minchinbury property.  By 1922 they had begun a major expansion, increasing cellars, as well as the storage, bottling and fermentation areas of the complex.

During this time, Penfolds’ dominance of the Australian wine market reached a peak, with reports indicating that approximately one out of every two bottles of wine sold in Australia in the 1920s had the Penfolds name upon it.

With further expansion in 1939, Penfolds were well positioned for the post World War II immigration boom and the changing attitude to table wines in Australia.