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Like most Central Coast residents, I love the fall and winter holiday season for the many fabulous wines and foods shared during our celebratory meals.

When you live in a wine country that’s as great as the Central Coast, finding the perfect wines for your holiday meals is easy. You’re off to a great start simply by visiting your favorite tasting rooms, where everyone from the winemaker to the staff pouring tastes can recommend excellent suggestions for your menu, whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve dinner or everything in-between.

This year, I received many winery newsletters with suggestions. I’m sharing the best food and wine pairing notes, along with some personal comments about their favorites. For wine clubs members, keep an eye open for your favorite winery’s newsletters for wine and food pairing tips.

Santa Barbara wine country

We spend a lot of time here and never miss the Tercero tasting room in Los Olivos for winemaker Larry Schaffer’s beautifully crafted Rhone varieties and blends.

Schaffer invites you to make Thanksgiving “a feast to end all feasts.” Whether you’re having turkey, goose or lasagna (as his family has requested), he has something to offer that pairs beautifully with a variety of foods, while fitting your budget.

Even better, he’s combined several of his wines to satisfy every size party at sweet prices, whether you’re buying wine for two or an extended family pack. Discounts range from 25 percent off for nonwine club members to 33 percent off for members. His value packages extend through the holiday season, if you’re a local who can pick them up. What a deal!

Among Schaffer's choices for the holiday table is the 2014 Outlier, described as "a dryish gewürztraminer packed with flavor but truly is not sweet. It’s the perfect wine to start the meal off, and continue to all the way through, if you do not prefer reds.”

Among his red choices are his Mourvedre Rose, which I love for it’s excellent texture and elegant fruit flavors. But I must admit to leaning to the Verbiage Rouge, a blend of grenache, syrah, mourvedre, and viognier for the Thanksgiving feast.

Of his 2011 Verbiage, Schaffer noted, "It’s as bright and young as any younger vintage you will try. It goes great with a variety of foods, and on its own as well.”

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San Luis Obispo wine country

During the recent harvest celebration in San Luis Obispo, we checked in at Stephen Ross Winery, a favorite for two decades.

Owned and operated by Stephen “Steve” Ross and Paula Dooley, theirs a small artisan brand. Yet winemaker Dooley has an impressively long history on the Central Coast with his classic chardonnays and pinot noirs as well as exceptional albarino, grenache and zinfandel.

This year, Dooley created a display table of her favorite wines for Thanksgiving dinner: rosé of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot noir. For those who believe only an American classic is right for Thanksgiving dinner, their zinfandel is a great choice.

They’re open for tasting four days a week, but seven days a week for sales.

“Holidays are the time to open a bottle of wine that’s truly spectacular, and generously sharing it at family gatherings,” Dooley added.”

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I received a newsletter from Baker & Brain in Los Osos, another of my favorite small artisan brands, with these interesting food and wine pairing ideas and recommendations:

“Drink gruner veltliner while the bird roasts, drink chardonnay (their first with the 2016 vintage), pinot noir or grenache while you savor dinner and sip syrah while you rest and make room for dessert. Regardless of your choice, take the time to enjoy,” vintner Melanie Brain wrote in her newsletter.

Over the phone, she explained: “The gruner is a good, food-friendly wine that’s great at waking up your palate. I also want my favorite wines on the table during Thanksgiving. I love our syrah, but it’s so big I prefer it on its own. That’s why I recommend it after dinner and before dessert.”

She concluded: “With the flavors all over the board on Thanksgiving -- oyster dressing or cornbread and jalapeno stuffing -- you should have chardonnay and pinot noir on the table. Our 2013 Escolle Pinot Noir, my favorite right now, is perfect for Thanksgiving dinner.”

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During my family’s holiday meals, we provide three glasses for everyone so they can taste different wines and see which ones pair best with specific foods, like apple stuffing, turkey and gravy or green bean salad. It also helps your guests decide whether they prefer only white or red wines throughout the meal. Do treat yourself, your family and friends to a special wine to make the meal an unforgettable event.

Bon appetit!

Kathy Marcks Hardesty can be reached at