Aug 01, 2017


Arietta Wine was founded in 1996 out of a love for wine and classical music. On August 1, 2, and 3, the two passions of wine and music will join together in lavish style during Bravo! Vail’s ‘Classically Uncorked’ series in Donovan Pavilion. With imaginative music ringing out from string quartets on stage and gourmet hors d’eouvres coupled with Arietta’s handcrafted wines, the Classically Uncorked series introduces a one-of-a-kind experience to audience members. But what exactly is so special about the connection between wine and music, and how did one Napa winery come to blend the two together so perfectly? 

Arietta began when wine specialist Fritz Hatton and wife Caren joined in collaboration with winemaker John Kongsgaard and wife Maggy. Their combined passions of the arts of winemaking and music, coupled with an opportunistic 2.3 acre block of vineyard in the heat of Napa Valley, sparked the beginning of the business. As they grew over the next several years, leasing more land and purchasing additional fruit from vineyard blocks around the valley, Arietta came to be known for producing superb red wines. In 2005, the Hattons bought the Kongsgaards’ share in the business and brought winemaker Andy Erickson on. That same year, Arietta’s first white wine was produced, rounding out the successful vineyard’s available options.


Since the beginning of the business, classical music has been at the heart of Arietta’s wines. According to their website, “the name Arietta, meaning short aria or art song, expresses [their] belief that all great wines must sing.” In an interview given to Napa Valley Register, co-founder Caren Hatton explained how the group came to adopt the name in the first place. “John and Maggy loved Beethoven, and so did we. 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.” 

However ingrained in their business, the connection between good music and wine goes far beyond the Arietta founders’ personal interests. Like music, wine often appears to have dominant emotions on the surface, while revealing much more intricate shades beneath. As a piece of music or glass of fine wine is experienced on a deeper level, delicate flavors and feelings begin to express themselves, creating a more nuanced total picture. When experiencing the two together, these distinct touches can come out to compliment each other in a totally unique way, making evident in each other the details that may not be apparent alone. 

As the Hattons and the Kongsgaards, and later Erickson, began to unlock this magical and mutually beneficial relationship between wine and music, they sought to share it in every bottle of wine. Using the winemaker’s notes about the unique wines can help bring out the details that might otherwise be missed, just as learning about a new piece of music can aid in fully appreciating it. Every aspect of Arietta’s business aims to marry the two together for an appreciating audience, even down to the bottles’ labels: 

“Arietta's label features the manuscript of Beethoven's Arietta movement from his last Piano Sonata, Opus 111, written long after the composer had lost his hearing. Opus 111 is one of the most transporting and revolutionary pieces of music ever composed. Serene yet complex, rich yet ethereal, Beethoven’s Arietta provides an inspirational model for great winemaking.“ 

The Classically Uncorked series will feature two of Arietta’s wines: the Red Wine Quartet 2014 and the White Wine On the White Keys 2015. Both clearly named with inspiration from classical music, these wines were chosen to perfectly compliment the string quartets and piano being featured in the chamber-style concerts. Arietta’s winemaker Andy Erickson describes these wines in stunning detail: 

“The 2014 Arietta Quartet, a blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 13% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Petit Verdot, shows energy, brightness, and core strength. Its vibrant red-purple hue and remarkable density reveal the wine’s inherent power. It is aromatically fresh and expressive, while still maintaining a precision and focus. Red cherry, raspberry, and just-picked blackberry are at the forefront when the wine is first poured. Notes of black licorice, cinnamon, and dark chocolate mark the palate, along with red and black fruit flavors. The vintage is evident in the wine’s generous acidity, which punctuates the many layers of fruit and spice in the wine, and adds to its overall structure and ageablity. 

“The aroma and flavor descriptors for the 2015 On the White Keys are straight out of a citrus orchard. White flowers, orange blossom, and lemon peel are some of the aromas that jump directly from the bottle upon opening. As the wine opens up, notes of wet gravel, lemon verbena, and bees wax come into play. On the palate, the wine is mouth watering and expansive, with the citrus notes taking center stage. Key lime, grapefruit, and Meyer lemon are just a few of the many flavors that take hold.” 

Classically Uncorked pairs these two magnificent wines with the unique sounds of Beethoven, Glass, Schubert, and Reich performed by the Calder, Aeolus, and Lyris Quartets and Anne-Marie McDermott on piano. When music and wine are enjoyed together in the serene setting of the Donovan Pavilion, audiences will unlock the same magic of the relationship between fine wine and classical music that Arietta holds in such high esteem. 

Tickets and more information on the Classically Uncorked series, featuring one quartet on August 1, two on August 2, and three on August 3, can be found here. 

Sources: Arietta Wine and Napa Valley Register
Photo Credits: Arietta Wine and Zach Mahone