Fritz Hatton and Arietta Wines: Harmonizing Life’s Passions

| May 1, 2017

The Arietta family of wines.

The Arietta family of wines.

Classical Music And Opera Inspires Winemakers

By Denman Moody
A mong charity wine auction attendees, Fritz Hatton is well known for his booming voice, bowties and jovial manner as he rhythmically tallies up millions of dollars for worthy causes like Auction Napa Valley, L’Ete du Vin in Nashville, the Detroit International Wine Auction, and a dozen other charity wine auctions across the United States.

In-the-know wine lovers also recognize Fritz and his wife Caren as the vintners behind Arietta, a luxury Napa Valley winery celebrating its 20th harvest this year.

Hatton has actually spent the greater part of his life in wine. Following college and graduate school he joined Christie’s to help launch its Wine Department in the United States. Subsequently trained as an auctioneer and promoted to director of operations for Christie’s in North America and Asia, he spent a dozen years in the fine art auctioneering business while keeping an eye on Christie’s small but growing wine auction department.

In the early 1990s, he took a sabbatical from Christie’s to refocus his energy on his first love: music. He moved to San Francisco, where he could easily stay connected to wine country, and resumed the study of piano.

Through his charity auctioneering activities in Napa Valley, Fritz met noted winemaker John Kongsgaard, a passionate lover of classical music and opera, and his wife Maggy. Music bonded with wine throughout the course of their friendship and for many oenologically inspired “musical bacchanals” including delicious meals, some epic bottles of wine and visiting classical musicians. Fritz, an accomplished pianist in his own right, would also take a turn and play.

“We’d be together enjoying wine, and it could sometimes get very late. At 1:11 in the morning, John would call for Beethoven’s ‘Arietta, Opus 111,’ to be played.”

Arietta came to be in 1996, well after this friendship had harmonized. “John Kongsgaard called me up during the harvest of 1996 and asked if we wanted to make some wine together. How could we say no?’” Hatton said. Their friend Lee Hudson had given them access to fruit from his spectacular two-acre block of Cabernet Franc in Carneros.

Years later, when that first 1996 vintage was ready to release, music once again provided inspiration.

“We were going back and forth with names, but nothing seemed to fit,” Fritz said. “Caren, exasperated, said ‘Look in your music books; that’s where you’ll find it.’ And she was right. There in my lap was the music score for the Arietta. We all agreed immediately that it was the perfect name.”

The fruit from this original block still provides the melodic core of the Arietta H Block Hudson Vineyards Red Wine. Additional blocks of Merlot and Syrah on the Hudson Ranch enabled Arietta to expand with two additional wines: Arietta Variation One Red Wine, an innovative blend of Merlot and Syrah, and Arietta Hudson Vineyards Merlot, a single-varietal offering produced regularly since 2011.

Arietta expanded its offerings slowly, committed to sourcing fruit only from truly exceptional sites that as wine, revealed that sense of ethereal. In 2006, Arietta began leasing a remarkable 1.6-acre vineyard block of Cabernet Sauvignon in Napa’s Coombsville district for the Arietta Cabernet, and also introduced Arietta Quartet, a seamless ensemble of four red Bordeaux varietals. Since 2009, the fruit for Quartet has been sourced primarily from a vineyard in Coombsville painstakingly designed and planted by iconic viticulturist David Abreu in 2003.

In 2005, Fritz and Caren took over as sole proprietors of Arietta, and John handed over the winemaking reins to Andy Erickson, who has worked at such prominent Napa wineries as Dalla Valle, Harlan, Screaming Eagle and Staglin.Erickson created Arietta’s first white wine, Arietta On The White Keys, for the 2005 vintage, inspired by hillside blocks of Sauvignon Blanc on Sonoma Mountain and two tiny blocks of old-vine Semillon within the Hyde Vineyards in Napa Carneros.

Arietta Wines Recently Tasted And Highly Recommended:

H Block Hudson — Arietta’s flagship blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot is sourced from the unique 2.3-acre vineyard block on Hudson Ranch in Napa Carneros that started it all. Cassis and dark chocolate ($150).

Variation One — An innovative, improvised blend of Syrah and Merlot from Hudson Ranch. Supple, yet powerful ($100).

Quartet — A dynamic ensemble of four classic Bordeaux varietals—Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot — sourced from Coombsville. Fruit-forward, approachable ($65).

Cabernet Sauvignon — Powerful and evocative single-varietal Cabernet Sauvignon from the up and coming cool Coombsville district in eastern Napa. Complex with layers of flavors ($125).

88 Keys — This micro-production of 100% Cabernet Sauvignon represents the absolute pinnacle of the vintage. Iron fist in a velvet glove ($275).

On the White Keys — An elegant, lyrical blend of hillside Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma Mountain, and old-vine Semillon from Hyde Vineyards in Carneros. Vibrant, delicious ($65).

On the White Keys Artists’ Reserve — An assemblage of the finest lots of Sau­vign­­on Blanc and Semillon each year. Hedonistic ($85).

Fritz and Caren continue to compose elegant Bordeaux-style blends, and participate actively in the musical activities and charitable causes of Napa Valley.

Arietta conducts a limited number of private tastings by appointment at Chateau Boswell, located on the Silverado Trail north of St. Helena. By advance reservation through Arietta only. Arietta’s wines are available via the winery’s mailing list and in select markets nationally.

For more information or to order Arietta wines, visit or call 707-968-5918.

Category: Wine Reviews by Denman Moody

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