Once home to a famous Penfolds sparkling wine, Minchinbury Winery is being brought back to life after decades of dereliction.
Owen and Reema Aoun and business partner Eddie Dib are transforming the Minchinbury Winery Gardens into 54 residential lots, an onsite museum and a heritage walking track stretching about 1km.
The jewel in the site’s crown is the old distillery building, which was part of the former Minchinbury Winery.
The winery was a significant part of the viticultural scene in Sydney between 1821 and 1977, and Penfold’s Minchinbury sparkling wines helped put Australia on the world stage.
Penfolds bought the winery and vineyards in 1912 and added many of the existing buildings. It shut down operations in 1978 and much of the site had fallen into disrepair.
Mrs Aoun said it had been “heartbreaking to see history crumble”.
“But keeping the history alive would give comfort and closure to those in the community who had family members who once worked the old winery,” she said.
“We’re reinventing history here … This is the fruits of the community’s labour and it is somewhat more exciting for them than it is for us.”
Restoration of several buildings is underway, including a large shed which will be used as a Mediterranean wood-fired pizza restaurant.
Original bolts, screws, timber beams and corrugated iron sheets have been reused on the site, keeping it as authentic as possible.
Mr Dib said the restored 1880s building housing the restaurant was full of ambience.
“The way I look at it is, Minchinbury was originally known for its winery so why get rid of it?” Mr Dib said.
“The restaurant was a natural marriage of wine with Mediterranean food that’s all about family, laughter and love and we want to bring that back.”
The restaurant is expected to open in September.
William Minchin was granted 1000 acres of land in the area named after him, now known as Minchinbury. When he died, the land passed to his daughter but she was lost at sea in 1838 leaving no descendants.
In 1859, Dr Charles McKay bought the site and turned it into a vineyard and cellars. He planted the first grapes there using convict labour.
In 1895, James Angus bought McKay’s property and he began making sparkling wine under the direction of Leo Buring.
Penfolds were so impressed with the Minchinbury wines the company bought the wineyard in 1912. By 1949 over 100 ha of vineyards were in production, but encroaching urban development made the land so valuable that pieces were progressively sold off until the site closed in 1978.
Captain: Eddie Dib with Reema Aoun outside the old distillery, which is being turned into a restaurant.
Written by Philip Ly Mt / Picture John Fotiadis / 21.08.14
Originally published (DAILY TELEGRAPH) DRUITT-ST MARYS STANDARD