Rod and Mirani Keillor are a renaissance couple — painting, fashion design, gardening, photography, medicine and gourmet cooking are several of the passions that inspire them and make them unique in the wine world.
The Keillor family purchased the 20 hectares that make up the Black Quail Estate in 1999. They believe that is the symbiosis of the land with it’s history, challenges and all it can produce, married with the talents, character and history of the Keillors themselves. They want the Black Quail Estate to be a place where you will always experience the vibrancy, warmth and inspiration brought about by that unique synthesis.
The land the vineyard sits on played an integral part in the Otago Gold Rush in the mid-1800’s. By the thousands, new settlers from around the world arrived to search for their fortunes in the hills and rivers surrounding the estate.
The Keillors were charmed by the old stone fireplace found standing on the property. Local historian, Roberta Laraman determined that it may have been part of a dwelling that had been set up in the 1860s—1870’s as a shelter for a family or a wayside-house for miners. Most likely, the rest of the dwelling had been made of canvas over manuka wood frames. “This area would have been quite isolated in those early days but its construction indicates a possibly busy period with rich gold discovered in the area, especially the Scotland Point near where the gorge begins.”
The Keillors chose to forgo planting their vines in the area of the fireplace to preserve it. It is now a focal point of celebrations—a gathering space especially at harvest time. There, tables laden with food —and of course , wine— seat friends, family and workers; surrounding them with the rich, earthy smells of the vineyards and history itself.
The Keillors have an enduring family history with the land. Rod’s parents were market gardeners. His grandparents were farmers in South Canterbury and Otago. Grandfather Tom’s well used plow has a place of honour near the old fireside. Rod's great grandparents farmed in Australia, and he is a direct descendent of William Cargill one of Dunedin's founders. Mirani’s family of engineers and teachers emigrated from Sri Lanka to Invercargill the 70’s.
From old and new settler families of Scottish and Sri Lankan origins, the Keillors are respectful of the traditions that forged them while being excited about taking up new challenges that allow them to showcase and share their passion for their land and it’s produce.