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November, 2019

CSA Produce Box


California wineries go to great lengths to nurture relationships: with customers, employees, suppliers and communities. They may not broadcast it, but California Certified Sustainable wineries take concrete steps to keep these constituents happy. Some wineries encourage employees to volunteer in the community on company time. Others raise funds for charitable causes, such as community health and research, breast-cancer research, music education in schools, or the local volunteer fire department. And all generously donate their wine to numerous local and national causes. Investing in employees is also a priority at Certified Sustainable wineries.

Turley Wine Cellars pays college tuition for the children of employees who need assistance. Talley Vineyards grows produce for a CSA box and offers the box to employees at cost; unsold produce from the winery’s farm stand is free to employees. Spottswoode Winery covered the costs of restoring an ailing creek in St. Helena. In ways large and small, visible and not, sustainable wineries strengthen communities.

The Pour

Which Wine?

When it comes to red wine, Merlot is the go-everywhere grape. It’s sturdy enough for steak, but with tannins gentle enough to make it work when vegetables are center-of-the-plate. It’s a prized blending grape with Cabernet Sauvignon, softening that variety’s robust tannins, but also approachable and aromatic on its own. With this thyme-scented vegetable soup, pour a Merlot from one of the California appellations known for it, such as Napa Valley, Central Coast or Sonoma County. For the white wine drinkers at the table, add a bottle of Chardonnay; its creamy texture will complement the velvety soup. 

Meet the Grapes: Explore more wine pairings

The Recipe

Roasted Butternut Squash and Fennel Soup with Fried Sage

Butternut squash and fennel make a compelling duo in soup. The licorice-like fennel adds an herbal dimension and keeps the puree from being too sweet. Serve in small portions at Thanksgiving or to launch any autumn meal. Or pair with a hearty salad and a cheese course for a simple dinner.

Wine suggestion: California Merlot or California Chardonnay


  • 1 small butternut squash, about 1-1/2 pounds (675 g)
  • 1 large fennel bulb, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ large yellow onion, minced
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
  • 4 to 5 cups (1 to 1.25 l) chicken or vegetable broth
  • Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Fried sage:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 dozen large fresh sage leaves, stems removed
  • 1/3 cup (80 g) crème fraiche, yogurt, or sour cream for drizzling

Serves 6


Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Slice off both ends of the squash, then cut the squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds and stringy flesh. Cut each half in 3 or 4 pieces. Choose a baking dish just large enough to hold the squash and fennel and coat the bottom with the 1 tablespoon olive oil. Arrange the squash and the fennel in the baking dish cut side down, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until a knife pierces the squash easily, about 45 minutes. Let cool, then scoop the squash flesh out of the skin and discard the skin. Chop the fennel roughly.

In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft and sweet, about 10 minutes. Add the thyme and cook 1 minute. Add the squash, the fennel, and 4 cups (1 l) broth. Bring to a simmer and cook gently for 5 minutes. Puree in a blender, in batches if necessary. Return to the pot and reheat, thinning with broth to the desired consistency. The soup should not be thick. Season with salt and pepper.

Prepare the fried sage: In a very small skillet, melt the butter with the oil over medium-low heat. Add the sage leaves and cook slowly, turning with tongs, until they darken and begin to crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt. You can prepare the sage leaves up to 2 hours ahead.

Put the crème fraîche in a bowl and, if necessary, thin with water until you can drizzle it with a whisk. Divide the hot soup among 6 bowls, then drizzle each portion with some of the crème fraîche and garnish with 2 fried sage leaves. Serve immediately.

Wine Institute is an association of nearly 1,000 California wineries and affiliated businesses from the beautiful and diverse wine regions throughout the state. Wine Institute works to create an environment where the wine community can flourish and contribute in a positive fashion to our nation, state and local communities. For information please contact