The White Keys Artists’ Reserve: Delighting in Differences

The White Keys Artists’ Reserve: Delighting in Differences

By: Fritz Hatton

When Caren, Andy, and I were working out the style of Arietta’s White Keys during its first harvest in 2005, we debated the issue of time in the barrel.  Should it be as long as the grandest of the White Bordeaux wines, like Haut Brion Blanc, bottled the second summer after harvest?  Or the first summer after harvest, as most are?  In the end, we decided to lean towards freshness over what we believed would be the complexity gained with more time in the barrel.  But the issue of extended aging kept rearing its head, in part because in the early vintages we were depending on the native yeast for fermentation and it was sometimes a struggle to get all barrels to finish fermenting before it was time to blend.

In the 2006 and 2007 vintages, we held one barrel of White Keys for an additional year of aging and bottled the wine in magnum.  The wines were so good that they kept the flame of extended aging alive.  Prior to blending the 2010 vintage, we selected seven barrels that were candidates for further aging, and from them created a four-barrel blend the following year.  This became the first commercial release of the Arietta White Wine On The White Keys Artists’ Reserve.

We chose the designation “Artists’ Reserve” to honor the tradition, established and practiced by our founding partners the Kongsgaards, of encouraging and rewarding great musicians with the fine and rare wines of Napa when they visit the Valley to perform. The creation of the Arietta White Wine On The White Keys Artists’ Reserve has unfolded as an odyssey—a journey of experimentation and exploration.  While these Reserve wines are all barrel-fermented blends of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with extended aging, the variations are considerable. Differences in vintage conditions, choice of barrels to be held back, the amount of new oak, and percentage of Semillon in the blend account for flavors that range from nearly bone dry to opulent.

Summer 2020 Artists' Reserve Offering

We invite subscribers to take this journey and make their comments when winemaker Andy Erickson joins us for a Zoom vertical tasting of the Reserve White Keys vintages 2012 through 2017 at 3 pm PST on July 18. Subscribers may purchase individual Artist’s Reserve vintages or the 6-pack verticals. At checkout, you’ll be prompted to add the complimentary Zoom virtual tasting to your order.


About Fritz Hatton
Fritz has over four decades of experience in the fine and rare wine business and in addition to being a vintner is the nation’s foremost wine auctioneer. He serves as principal auctioneer for Zachys Wine Auctions, and as auctioneer for many charities nationwide, including Auction Napa Valley.