Upper Yarra Secondary College’s very own wine hitting the shelves

The bare vines at Upper Yarra Secondary College have been poured into the newly-released Junction Street Vineyard Pinot Noir. Picture: CALLUM LUDWIG

By Callum Ludwig

Upper Yarra Secondary College’s (UYSC) practical project to offer an educational experience in the viticulture industry has born fruit, with the school’s own wine hitting the shelves.

Being stocked at BWS and Dan Murphy’s, the Junction Street Vineyard & Co Pinot Noir comes from the school’s on-site vineyard with the help of Oakridge Wines.

UYSC Principal Scott Tully said when it started it was all about what opportunities the school could create for the students.

“To see their hard work now in a store and to see it come to that end product, it’s just really amazing,” he said.

“We wanted to provide meaningful work for kids in the community, there’s not a lot of industry left out in the Valley but the wine industry is still a really important part,”

“We just wanted to make sure that we were leading to pathways where our students could live and work where they were born and raised and not have to travel for work.”

Students completing the VET Certificate Two in Wine Industry Operations in Year 10 tend to the vineyard throughout the year before students from all year levels are welcomed to pick grapes on the annual Harvest Day, held whenever VET Specialist teacher Marcus Cook gets the go-ahead for picking, usually at short notice.

Mr Cook said the release has created an enormous sense of pride for the school community.

“Speaking to the students this morning, they were just so excited that we’ve got a product that they’ve helped pick, helped with the fermentation and that can be sold in a store,” he said.

“The learning is authentic and it just can hit so many avenues, there’s all the viticulture that we learn, there are parts of fermentation and then there’s a whole other world of marketing and labelling, which were driven by the students,”

“I think it allows students to think big, have big dreams and goals and say ‘Why can’t I do that? Why couldn’t I run something like that or start a business?’ and supports them to have bigger and bigger futures.”

Students created the labels on the bottles using Canva and also had the chance to view and learn more about the fermentation process through a partnership with Oakridge Wines and their Vineyard Manager Steve Faulkner.

The first harvest in 2021 resulted in about four tonnes of grapes, followed by a tougher year in 2022 with between two and three tonnes, bouncing back to four and a half tonnes in 2023 and three tonnes in this year’s harvest on Wednesday 21 February.

Mr Tully said it’s getting to the point where the program is self-sustaining.

“You start to worry a little bit less about the program and you know they’re getting high-quality tuition through Marcus so it’s just going really well,” he said.

“I was a little bit naive to it in the beginning but the industry is really broad, we haven’t had a kid turn out to be a winemaker yet but kids that are working anywhere from front of house to vineyard maintenance to marketing, all of these things are associated with the industry even if they don’t end up working for a winery or as a winemaker, the exposure they’re getting through that course is leading to jobs.”

UYSC representatives will also be holding tastings at BWS in Yarra Junction on Friday 31 May and at Dan Murphy’s in Chirnside Park on Saturday 1 June.

Mr Tully said the vineyard is a really great metaphor for students to see how when you work hard now, you can see the fruits of your labour later.

“It’s really nice that some of the kids that involved at the moment might still be in school when their product is released,” he said.

“One of the things we hoped when putting the vineyard in was to show them that it’s important to take risks and also work they put in now might not get realised for eight months to two years, which is a good metaphor for school and work in general.”

The wine will be available for purchase at the Chirnside Park and Yarra Junction BWS as well as Dan Murphy’s stores in:

Chirnside Park, Boronia, Ringwood, South Morang, Bulleen, Eltham, Doncaster East, Fishermans Bend, Brighton, Ascot Vale, Hawthorn East, Alphington, Malvern East, Prahran, Richmond, South Melbourne, Kew, Malvern, Camberwell, Brunswick East, Prahran Cellar, Collingwood, Spotswood and Balwyn.