By Heide Aungst
When I finished reading Magic in a Bottle: The Untold Story of Arnie Esterer and Markko Vineyard (Outskirts Press, $16.95), I just wanted to have a glass with Arnie and toast him for his unparalleled contribution to Ohio wines.
And, yes, I admit, I was a little jealous that author Clifford G. Annis Jr. had done just that for four years to gain Esterer’s trust and to collect the material for the book.
Magic in a Bottle focuses on the history of the award-winning 87-year-old vintner who co-founded Markko Vineyard in Conneaut, Ohio, in 1968. Markko became the first winery in the state to use vinifera “Old World” European grape varieties. This 50-plus year wine history — and the personal history of the “father of vinifera in Ohio” — needs to be preserved and honored.
Reading Magic in a Bottle is like eavesdropping on a very personal conversation with Arnie. The approach drew me in.
Esterer ends up in the Ashtabula/Conneaut region after taking a job with Union Carbide. But at a family reunion in Germany, his mind turns to wine. He begins researching if it would be possible to grow grapes and make wine in northeastern Ohio.
The one thing the book makes clear – and Esterer emphasizes – is that making great wine takes a team. Annis captures Esterer’s words to honor those who helped Arnie, make Markko a success. This includes pioneering Finger Lakes vintner Dr. Konstantin Frank and Esterer’s business partner, the late Tim Hubbard, who brought “moral and financial support” to launch the vineyard.
Some of the most interesting (and, ultimately, poignant) history focuses on the late Linda Frisbie, whose 40-year commitment to Markko, no-nonsense character, and excellent palate impacted the winery greatly.
Annis ends the book with chapters that capture the funny stories Arnie Esterer told the author along the way and examine the future of vinifera in the Great Lakes Region. The book’s final photo shows Arnie Esterer toasting with a wine glass.
As a reader and Ohio wine enthusiast, I wanted to toast back: “Here’s to another 50 years!”
NOTE: Magic in a Bottle is available from Outskirts Press, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.