Thornton Pillay

The Drift Estate
Thornton Pillay works as an assistant winemaker at The Drift Estate, Black Oystercatcher, and Bruce Jack Wines.

From humble beginnings, I was fortunate to have both my parents involved in the fruit and vegetable distribution sector and this is what sparked an interest in me to pursue a career in agriculture.

I attended an agricultural college known as Weston Agricultural College. Upon matriculating I enrolled at Elsenburg agricultural college to study for a Bachelor's degree in Viticulture and Oenology.

As a young 20-year-old qualified winemaker, my journey had only just begun. I realised that I am the first South African winemaker of Indian origin. Something my forefathers would never have thought possible, something my loved ones are proud of me for.

Upon graduating, and the moment I met my wife Lee-Ann, I was chosen to be a part of the Cape Winemakers Guild Protégé Programme. I was provided the opportunity of working alongside South Africa’s greatest wineries and winemakers. My journey began at Ernie Els Wines, Groot Constantia, Burgundy harvest in France, to becoming the assistant winemaker for KWV The Mentors before heading back to KZN where I established vineyards and wines at Highgate Wine Estate.

Lee-Ann and I decided to create our own brand called Thornleigh. Today I am the assistant winemaker for The Drift Estate, Black Oystercatcher, and Bruce Jack Wines.