Arietta – Napa Valley Wines That Sing

By / Wine + Drinks / December 3rd, 2010 / 2

Deep in the heart of Napa Valley is a winery with a musical soul. Arietta, the brainchild of Fritz and Caren Hatton, was born of a lifelong passion for music and fine wine. Together with winemaker John Kongsgaard and his wife, Maggie, the longtime friends decided that there was no better way to showcase their appreciation for quality wine and cultural pursuits than to pour their hearts into a winery.

Arietta opened in 1996 with an offering of the Arietta H Block Hudson Vineyards red wine that, to this day, remains Fritz’ favourite. Blending “two thirds Cabernet Franc from the Hudson H Block and one third Merlot, the wine…displays forward aromatics and lively acidity…. It is the only Arietta to include a hint of eucalyptus in the aroma.” Fourteen years later, and with winemaker Andy Erickson, Arietta has expanded its production to include a variety of reds and one white. (See the tasting notes below.)

Before opening Arietta, Fritz already had a successful career as a fine and rare wine expert and as a wine auctioneer, not to mention being an accomplished pianist. I wondered what could possibly entice him to delve even deeper into the mad world of the wine industry. The answer is passion. Fritz has always managed to ensure that his love of music and wine intersect in his life.

The name chosen for the winery is a nod to a piece of music written by Beethoven. An arietta is a short aria, and in Beethoven’s interpretation, a piece done in progressively complex variations. To Fritz, the arietta holds particular significance. He believes that it’s an invitation to produce high quality wines that sing. “Both wine and song should ‘take flight’, in the course of which the qualities of balance, vibrancy, depth, overtones, and complexity resonate and give us a sense of exaltation.” The label affixed to the wine bottles depicts a section of Beethoven’s original manuscript.

The label on the 2007 vintage was designed by one of Fritz and Caren’s daughters, Libby. Although only eight years old at the time, she decided she’d heard enough of her parents’ discussions about whether or not the label even needed a redesign and decided to take matters into her own hands. She produced a drawing of the four instruments of a string quartet – two violins, a viola and a cello. Fritz put together a review committee made up of friends who were presented with a series of design possibilities along with Libby’s. The committee chose Libby’s label blind.

As for the future, Fritz is perfectly content to keep the winery small and manageable, and producing high quality wines in the hopes that, one day, his daughters will be as passionate about the business as he is.

Tasting Notes

Arietta Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Aromas of graphite, sage, and cassis, and flavours of rich currant and slight minerality.

Arietta Quartet 2008
Made up of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cabernet Franc, 10% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot, it displays aromas of blueberry, raspberry, flint and baking spice.

Arietta Red Wine H Block Hudson Vineyards 2008
Fritz says that this is the first ever release of a 100% varietal Cabernet Franc. It shows lots of complexity, roasted coffee, lavender, pencil lead, and ripe fruits.

Arietta Red Wine Variation One 2008
55% Syrah and 45% Merlot. Look for aromas of roasted meat, black cherries, and menthol.

Arietta White Wine “On The White Keys” 2009
Hints of orange blossom, lemon oil, and cardamom, grapefruit, lemon peel, and lychee.


Rosemary Mantini has always loved words. When she isn't working as the Associate Editor at Tidings Magazine, she's helping others achieve their writing dreams, and sometimes she even relaxes with a good book and a glass of wine.

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