It’s difficult to believe at the end of many years of drought that this year local winemakers say, “We’re just about back to normal.”

You may ask, Is that possible?

It speaks to the superior quality of grapevines that can stand up, despite struggling, to survive a very tough growing season and/or numerous drought years. It’s a fact that grapevines produce better winegrapes during seasons that are difficult to survive. From experience, I have garden plants that haven’t done nearly as well. They just shut down and went out.

Imagine this: A difficult year almost always produces superior wines.

I have tasted many extraordinary wines from poor growing seasons that were downright awesome. When learning about wine in the early 1980s at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, I had an amazing wine teacher -- author Norm Roby. He taught us that even in a bad vintage, we should stick with the wine brands we loved most. That said, I can’t wait to taste the samples of 2017 wines (many already aging in barrels) during the coming spring festivals in 2018.

Publicist Sean Christopher Weir, who represents SLO Wine Country, noted in a recent report that there has been “a near return to historic averages in the ultra-coastal region in the southern San Luis Obispo County.”

Quoted Edna Valley winemakers included:

Nathan Carlson, general manager at Center of Effort Winery in Edna Valley: “This is about as ‘normal’ as we have seen for a long time.” His commentary told of a common theme among the region’s winemakers about the long, drawn-out drought. It speaks to my notes about the wine grapevines ability to withstand conditions that are intolerant for other plants. Another thing that helps Edna Valley is its proximity to the Pacific Ocean: They’re only 5 miles away from the coastline without hills or low mountains to restrain the usual cool coastal winds.

One of the closest vineyards to the Pacific Ocean, just 1.2 miles away, is Bassi Vineyard in Avila Valley, owned by winemaker Mike Sinor, of Sinor-LaVallee, who has a tasting room in Avila Beach.

Recently, Sinor admitted it has definitely been an unusual growing season for vineyards.

“We had a cold summer, then a heat wave, and then rain, the vines have been shown all kinds of environmental changes. But we’re in a cooler spot in the region. It’s always a curveball with Mother Nature. You just have to keep your head on straight. The crop load was average to above average for chardonnay and slightly lower for pinot noir. Yet the potential is there for an exciting vintage (the year the grapes were grown).”

There’s one thing all of the region’s winemakers seem to agree on: the chardonnay in vineyards improved but the pinot noir was down this year.

The forecast for the Central Coast looks fine for most varietals, thanks to these hardy vines.

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Harvest on the Coast in South San Luis Obispo County will be held Nov. 3 to 5.

I loved the annual event even before my husband Dan and I moved to the Central Coast in early 1996 (although the festival has had different names).

It kicks off Friday evening at Lido Restaurant, in the Dolphin Bay Resort in Shell Beach, with a collaborative winemakers’ dinner featuring four wine and food courses with live music.

On Saturday, the grand tasting and wine auction takes place at the Avila Beach Golf Resort, which includes wine tasting, artisan foods and live music. An array of “rare wines and culinary treats” is promised.

The live auction will provide many opportunities to snag a broad selection of collectible wines, enjoy culinary treats and pick up SLO Wine Country destination experiences. Buy coveted library wines and other packages in the silent auction. This is where Dan and I have scored awesome collectible wines as well as vacations.

On “Surf’s Up Sunday,” your SLO Harvest wristband and souvenir wineglass gets you free wine tastings at participating winery members. Sometimes they have appetizers, special deals on wine purchases (a great time to stock up on your favorite wines) and live music as the grand finale.

For more information, visit

Kathy Marcks Hardesty can be reached at