‘We talk about the future and how exciting it is’: The Boutique Wine Cellars Inside Pentridge Prison

Dec 14, 2020

People talk about the beauty of Pentridge Cellars but – according to Michael Woodworth – he doesn’t receive too many questions about the building’s past.

Passionate oenophiles Mr Woodworth and his partner and Co-Director, Paul Tardivel, run the bespoke wine cellars – which hold up to 2000 bottles of wine – in the former ‘D’ Division, inside Pentridge Prison.

Mr Woodworth tells Fine Food Australia that the rooms were incredibly well preserved, with great potential for wine cellars.

“When the building was decommissioned in 1997, a couple of developers bought the complete site, which included [the different] divisions. D Division sat idle for a few years [and] the idea of wine cellars came to the forefront. Fortunately, the council agreed to it as well,” Mr Woodworth says.

“Heritage Victoria did not want the building bastardised or changed, and wanted [the site] to remain as original as possible. When we told them that we would retain the heritage value [while still] converting each old cell into a cellar, they loved the idea.”

While there is discussion about what’s next for the cellars, Mr Woodworth says prospective clients are rarely interested in discussing Pentridge Prison’s history.

“We are happy to tell [these] stories and discuss the history of [Pentridge Prison] but it has been repurposed. Yes, it was a jail, and today it is [being used as a] wine cellar,” he says.

“We are trying to create a wine emporium here, which is only about 7km from the CBD, [and] it is the only place in the world where you can physically own a wine cellar [like this].

“We tend to talk about the future, and how exciting it is here.”


With no touch and feel, everything went very quiet

The former prison complex accommodates more than luxury wine cellars.

Opening to the public on November 26, Pentridge Coburg is now a multipurpose facility featuring apartments, restaurants and cafes, a 6,500 sq m piazza, a museum detailing the history behind Pentridge Prison and a modern shopping centre with Palace Cinema upstairs.

Mr Woodworth, who is launching Pentridge Cellar’s first wine-tasting event following the release of COVID-19 restrictions, says it’s personally been a year to forget.

“We started the year off positively in January and February [but] people [want] to come here, touch and feel the building [and] understand what it is all about. With no touch and feel, everything became very quiet, [and it was harder to] fall in love with the cellars,” he says.

“However – as each cellar is strata titled – the owners had complete access to it [throughout the year] via their swipe card.”

But, Mr Woodworth says that there has been a rejuvenation of interest as Melbourne has begun opening up.

They have a range of events planned for 2021, including a full year of wine tastings and a multitude of wedding, birthday and engagement parties.

“We have wine tastings coming up where you can explore top-notch wines that are varied compared to what you’d find in a normal bottle shop. We like to give people a complete range; from bubbly wines to your good quality reds, shiraz [and] pinot. Things like that,” he says.

“That includes our wines as well as [those of the cellar] owners’, who are more than happy to showcase their wines. It goes back to that wine emporium concept, to see whose wine is best.

“You grab a wine from downstairs, have a drink together and explore each other’s wines.”


It would be great to have a cheese room here

While Pentridge Cellars has officially been approved for wine storage, Mr Woodworth says that they have received a selection of questions about how the cellars could be used in the future.

“Because temperatures are so tightly held here, you could store things like art, and it would be great to have cheese rooms here down the track. However, [our focus] is to create a wine emporium,” he says.

Mr Woodworth adds that, as all the cellar owners share a similar passion, there is a sense of affinity between the different owners.

“There has been the development of a community, and establishment of strong relationships [inside Pentridge Cellars],” he says.

“We are repurposing a beautiful building into bespoke wine cellars, and we hope that continues into the future.”

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