BY BRIAN HAYTCHER
Arnulf “Arnie” Esterer, co-founder of Markko Vineyards and a driving force behind the wine industry in northeast Ohio, has died, according to the Ohio Wine Producer’s Association.
Esterer pioneered growing vinifera, a variety of European grapes, in the area after studying with Konstantin Frank, a Russian immigrant who sought to grow those same grapes in New York, said Donniella Winchell, executive director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association.
Esterer founded Markko Vineyards in Conneaut in 1968 with Tim Hubbard, according to the vineyard’s website.
Winchell said she initially believed it was impossible to grow vinifera grapes in Ohio, but Esterer proved her wrong.
“He always said wine should be as affordable as milk, and accompany every meal,” Winchell said. “And I thought we’ll never get to that place in northeast Ohio, and I was wrong. He showed us that we could grow great, world-class grapes.”
Esterer was passionate about his vision, and made skeptics of that vision into believes, Winchell said.
Esterer received the Legacy Award for Markko’s long-term success from the Conneaut Chamber of Commerce in 2018.
“He was a wonderful, smart, committed, passionate man who believed in his grapes and in his wine and in the future of this region,” Winchell said.
The Ohio Wine Producer’s Association has received condolences from a wide range of people, Winchell said.