Viticulture has always been an unpredictable business, but the challenges facing our industry have steadily increased over the last few years. As growers strive to remain competitive in the face of these rising headwinds, Casa Cristal Nursery is committed to helping them succeed. Their long-term strategy combines a commitment to building innovation into all phases of their process coupled with dedication to quality and communication.
“We are committed to innovation,” says Justin Jackson, General Manager. “We’re continually evaluating our product and our process and looking for ways to improve. For example, we’ve switched over entirely to Elle Pots for our potted vines production. At the nursery level this has improved efficiency. At the vineyard level clients are reporting increased productivity at planting and reduced transplant shock, plus they don’t miss picking up and disposing of plastic pots. We will continue investing in new tech and infrastructure because we believe innovation is critical to providing our clients with high-quality grapevines at a competitive price.”
Another improvement is their move toward mechanical disbudding. “Disbudding equipment isn’t new to California. The challenge is adapting machinery designed for rootstock grown in Europe. Some varietals produce larger laterals and buds than their European counterparts. This was a problem for the machines,” explains Jackson. Casa Cristal brought in a team from the manufacturer to evaluate the problem, address and retrofit the machines to achieve optimal results in a single pass. Now that modifications are in place, the quality of disbud exceeds expectations.
Casa Cristal understands the impact of fungal pathogens. All their source blocks are all grown on a raised trellis to improve ergonomics and minimize contact with soil-borne bacteria and fungal agents. This season, they added a water tunnel for an extra level of cleanliness. Prior to grafting, scion and rootstock get a clean water rinse infused with an organic sanitizing agent.
Customers expect and deserve a uniform product and experience. To make certain growers receive both, Casa Cristal invested in a shipping line. Every vine takes a ride down a conveyor for a top trim and bottom soak prior to shipping. This is excellent first step in transitioning vines from their care to yours.
“We seek our growers’ input and combine it with our observations to identify places where we can make advancements,” says Jackson. “We’re listening and actively looking for areas where we can improve.” This is a slice of what their team focused on over the past few years. Each year brings new challenges and opportunities for our industry, but Casa Cristal prefers to take the long view, focusing on innovation and listening to the needs of their clients. “At the end of the day, we produce grapevines, but our objective is to grow long-term, successful business relationships,” says Jackson.