By Betsa Marsh
No one needs a calendar to track TGIF in Columbus’ German Village. Just look for the parade of neighbors and dogs headed to the weekend wine bar at Hausfrau Haven. Pups snap up treats and cozy under the tables while their owners crunch popcorn and sip just-in French Rosé.
The weekend wine bar has been one of the most successful innovations at Hausfrau Haven, a Village landmark celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016. Co-owners Faye Muncie and Julie D’Elia have taken the Haven from a beloved, quirky storefront gift shop that sold wine, to one of central Ohio’s powerhouse wine centers.
“It’s been an evolution,” says Muncie. D’Elia, who manages the construction end of their development firm, pours a glass and spins a tale at the wine bar.
“She’s funny and gets the crowd excited,” Muncie says of D’Elia. “Ninety percent of the clients are from the neighborhood, and it’s a very Cheers atmosphere. People may meet up with a friend or meet a new friend.” Muncie selects four wines per week, plus a bubbly, as weekend offerings. She tries to keep prices to about $10 per glass. “I like to introduce new wines, categories and sub-regions at the wine bar,” Muncie says. “I’m glad to share a little bit of education, if people are interested.”
Muncie travels to study wine making from the vine up, researching and buying wines, then returns to Columbus to pour and teach. She’s just back from Champagne, so Hausfrau Haven regulars may soon be drinking more stars, as Dom Pérignon reportedly exclaimed when he first sipped bubbles in the late 17th century.
“Sparkling wine is for every day,” Muncie says dramatically, “not just for celebrations.” Right now, she’s fond of Graham Beck Brut Rosé from South Africa, one of about 40 Rosé selections Hausfrau Haven offers in the summer. Whatever the choices for any given week, they sell out after each weekend wine bar.
German Villagers have known the red brick building for ages, a sturdy 1860s structure on South Third Street that’s been a butcher stop, grocery store and boarding house. It’s one of 1,600 original structures built by German immigrant brewery workers, carpenters, and brick and stone masons in the 19th century. The entire 233-acre district, just south of downtown, is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the White House has named it a Preserve America community. Its residents are proud to tell you that German Village is one of the country’s largest privately funded historical districts.
The creators of Hausfrau Haven in the early ’70s, Fred Holdridge and Howard Burns, were major forces for Village preservation. Great raconteurs, they ran the shop for 25 years, stocking it with novelties, greeting cards and a bit of wine. Customers doted on their feisty signs, such as “We will not be taken over by The Limited.”
Muncie and D’Elia, a longtime German Villager, bought the store in 1996 – on April Fool’s Day – one of more than 20 buildings they own throughout German Village. Muncie also has an upmarket boutique in Upper Arlington.
Do they have titles? “Not really,” Muncie says. “We pitch in and do everything.” Muncie has grown the small Hausfrau Haven wine legacy into more than 5,000 bottles today. The inventory of domestic wines is particularly strong from Napa Valley, while the focus for imported wines is on France, Italy and Spain.
“I was very motivated to make this work,” Muncie recalls of their purchase of the business. “I read about wine, tasted wine, and visited as many wineries as I could. It’s amazing how you can train your palate. I’ve added more and more, inching into other categories. It’s been gradual over 15 years.” While catering to the Buckeye tastes for California and Oregon wines, Muncie has also introduced her clientele to European vintages. “It takes a bit more education because the grapes often are not mentioned on the label. That’s the fun of the wine business, educating customers and keeping me sharp as well.”
She remembers her own European epiphany at a long-ago Thanksgiving dinner. Accustomed to drinking college plonk, she tasted a glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Southern Rhône and has been giving thanks ever since. “I like French and Italian wines, sort of the Old World wines, so I promote them,” she says. “I love Italian white wines, a category that people don’t know a lot about.” She also makes rack room for discoveries from Germany, Hungary, Greece, Israel, Chile and Argentina. More expensive vintages find themselves downstairs in the wine cellar.
Muncie pops “Faye’s Favorite” tags on some of the more esoteric bottles scattered around the shop, to intrigue browsers. “People trust her,” D’Elia says proudly. Wine lovers drive in from Pittsburgh to stock up on their faves and check out what’s new. Muncie prices most bottles at between $10 and $20. Muncie also hosts pop-up wine tastings when winemakers or distributors come through Columbus.
Clients often bring new ideas to the shop, asking Muncie when she’s going to start wine education classes or wine trips. “As you can see, we wear many hats,” Muncie says, “so we’re not doing these things now. But we can in the future, so we have plenty of avenues to keep ourselves busy and educated about wine.”