With the Passing of Arnie Esterer, the Wine World Loses a Legend



If you've enjoyed a glass of fine Ohio wine, you likely have Arnie Esterer to thank for it. The pioneering Ohio winemaker was one of the first in the region to cultivate with consistent success European vinifera grapes as opposed to the cloyingly sweet native cultivars. Last night, Esterer passed away at his home in Conneaut.

In 1968, Esterer opened his groundbreaking winery Markko Vineyard after working with the famed Dr. Konstantin Frank. It was Frank who understood that by using proper rootstock, he could successfully grow Old World vinifera grapes in his New World in the Finger Lakes region in New York.

Over the years, Esterer’s chardonnay and Riesling have been hailed as some of the best in the nation, receiving medals in numerous competitions. Tasting wines with the winemaker in his dim, dated and tucked-away “tasting room” in Conneaut was always a unique and informative experience.

It was in that room that Esterer told me, “A wine drinker will never fully understand the variability of wine until they taste a number of different vintages side by side. We are not trying to make our wine taste like Burgundy; we are trying to capture the natural character of each variety and vintage.”

When I asked the winemaker what makes wines grown in Northeast Ohio so special, he simply said, “We make wines here different from every other place in the world.”

We do, and we all owe Esterer a debt of gratitude for the pleasure. 

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