Some addresses are just easy to find. A quick GPS search should suffice — follow the signage, keep your eyes peeled and you're there.
Woody and Helena Hambrecht's restored Healdsburg farmhouse is not one of those homes. But nothing this good comes easy.
Its A-frame roof and vaulted ceilings now awash in fresh white paint and planted squarely among 200-something acres — 68 of which are grapes — this reimagined family home is comfortably off-grid. Crooked letterboxes and weathered signs plastered with "Welcome to Wine Country" guide the way. It goes without saying that the Hambrechts are well-versed in dishing out directions.
Once you do arrive, though, it's worth the inevitable detour for the drink on arrival alone — the couple officially launched Haus in the summer of 2019, quickly touted as the low-sugar, low-ABV millennial's answer to boozier cocktails. Theirs is the kind of house party you want to RSVP to, surrounded by lemon trees, sprawling olive groves, and plenty of vines. It's little wonder why these two found themselves in the apéritif game — a natural byproduct of living in a fortress of flavor.
"As someone who spent the last decade living in downtown San Francisco and traveling a ton for work, this place is a welcome refuge," explains Helena, the marketing and brand brain behind Haus. "There’s no better way to get some distance from the hustle and bustle than to travel two miles down a dirt road in rural California."
It seems fitting that the Hambrechts' is a love story that began over drinks. It didn't start over cocktails at a speakeasy or seated at a dimly lit table in a happening dive bar, but rather over "beers, consumed in the park while watching hip-hop videos on our phones."
Many moons, two Bernese mountain dogs, one daughter, and a successful direct-to-consumer business venture later, the Hambrechts are now rooted in wine country, splitting their time between Healdsburg and — about as far away as you can get from it — New York City.
Despite enjoying access to a sprawling family vineyard, it's not Syrah, oaky Chardonnay, or crowd-pleasing Pinot that they're pedaling, but rather a low-ABV liqueur, infused with everything from bay leaves to elderflower and ribbons of fresh lemon, harvested right here on the grove. Woody brings a wealth of winemaking and harvest experience, while Helena — formerly in tech — knows how to sell it to a digital-first audience who read the fine print.
"With one third the alcohol of whiskey or gin, we’re all about more hangouts and less hangovers," the Haus mission statement reads. "Our apéritifs are designed to be enjoyed throughout the evening — as the base to your favorite cocktail or simply on the rocks."
The duo admit that their product — much like their relationship — requires a steady blend of skillsets, the patience for collaboration, and the drive to actually make it work. It's a finely balanced business model that looks to the land and employs age-old techniques to produce something refreshingly new and surprisingly low in sugar — a liqueur that's totally devoid of hidden nasties.
"We were looking for a better way to drink," begins Woody, when prompted for the origin story. "I have spent the last decade working in wine and spirits, and I know just how bad wine and liquor can be for you. It’s not just the alcohol making you feel bad — that nice bottle of wine might be full of fruit concentrate, artificial flavors, acids and sulfurs, even milk, eggs or clay," the entrepreneur explains. "Your favorite liquor might have more sugar than you’d feel comfortable consuming in a week. The truth is, most people have no idea."
Inside the couple's live-work farmhouse, frosted glass bottles of Haus sit neatly on display, peppered around the kitchen and living spaces, nestled between bottles of local wine. Larry Burrows: Vietnam and a retrospective by Annie Leibovitz sit stacked on open shelves, neighboring The Modern A-Frame and Andy Warhol's Exposures. A live-edge accent table sits beside an original wood fire stove, a feature that Woody admits he's proud to have retained. Rocco lays lazily outstretched on the fray of a vintage Moroccan rug, letting out an animated, full-body yawn. It's all picture perfect — yet undeniably authentic.
"Woody and I have both spent the last decade as entrepreneurs — and we have always been career-oriented people," Helena continues, matter-of-factly. "Drinking, for better or worse, is a big part of that. There are happy hours at work, networking events, business dinners — and while we love the ritual of drinking (we are winemakers, after all) and how it brings people together, there were a lot of downsides. It was affecting our sleep, our health, how we felt the next day. We thought to ourselves, "we know a lot of people with this dilemma — why wasn’t there a better way to drink?""
Being the kind of couple who aren't afraid to bite off a little more than they can chew, the duo set to work, squaring off against the alcohol industry's seedy status quo. In the midst of all this, the Hambrechts began renovations on their neglected farmhouse — an inherited slice of California country that had been in Woody's family since the 1970s. The project panned out to be a full gut-renovation, 750-square-feet of labor and love. In the fog of a new business venture and with a baby on the way, the Hambrechts lived through the entire thing — temperamental weather, patchy cell service, missing floorboards, et al.
"It’s been a part of my family since I was born, so it’s always felt like home," explains Woody. "We gut-renovated the house right before our daughter Sophie was born, so it’s been pretty amazing to retain the things I grew up with — like our original fireplace — while updating some of the house to make it a little more modern and safer for our family."
The couple demolished the out-of-date kitchen, looking to British favorites DeVol to inspire their Carrara marble, and brushed-brass design, awash in Benjamin Moore's Yorktowne Green. A custom stone backsplash and deep butler's sink (vintage, sourced on Craigslist) elevates the space, swapping traditional "farmhouse" for contemporary country chic. It's a small-but-accommodating family home, fit for recipe testing, entertaining friends and evenings spent parked up in front of a roaring fire, pining over batches of Haus-spiked mulled wine, melting s'mores, or imbibing something a little less lethal.
"My favorite place to spend time in is our kitchen," Helena muses. "Cooking and hosting is a core part of our life, and all of my favorite rituals happen in this room — making my morning coffee, prepping meals for our daughter, and cooking collaboratively with friends."
Original floorboards were swapped out for panels of real engineered wood, an alternative that Helena admits keeps the couple's low-maintenance farmhouse ultimately cozy, year-round. In the bathroom, the couple opt for a glossy green Heath Ceramics tile and an oversized copper waterfall faucet for a French provincial finish. The duo tell of how they poured over the space, with equal parts pride and disbelief, a home with an open door policy and a wraparound porch, providing ample space for the biannual Haus Harvest Party.
"We love to lean on our outdoor space when we host gatherings," explains Helena. "The sunsets are beautiful and it’s easy for us to host larger groups on our porch or in our yard, which looks out toward the ranch. When it cools down in the evening we move inside for games by the fire and a nightcap."
"[Moving here] was definitely a different experience and nothing like my modern apartment life in the city," Helena continues. "But like Woody says, the rough parts are outweighed by the beauty of where we live. And life is much easier now, post-renovation," she smiles. "Having insulation is lovely."
Under the one peaked roof, it's work, play, rest, repeat. The couple enjoy their downtime time, rugged up on a Restoration Hardware corner sectional (slipcovered, should any spills or two-year-olds occur). They decorate white walls with a blend of vintage and contemporary pieces, a print by Nick Meyer, artwork by Tauba Auerbach, vintage Andy Warhol, and quirky signage — a tacked sign by Heather Hardison, a wedding present, reading "this way" sits squarely above the back door, leading out to a porch that offers uninterrupted views of sprawling vines. What started with a sprig — a Syrah cutting smuggled back from France during the early '70s — stretches on for what feels like forever. Only a handful of weeks before our interview, the couple were forced to evacuate due to the looming threat of wildfires. While their home remained unscathed, it's "the new normal" that Helena says is always front of mind, made all the more real when the land is your livelihood.
For the most part, the entrepreneurial couple keep their home life as simple as possible, converting the white-washed mezzanine level into an airy master bedroom, a pared-back space with stacks of books doubling as nightstands and accessed only by ladder. In daughter Sophie's nursery, an oversized print by Jimmy Marble and a hand-me-down walnut crib completes a soft '70s look and feel, steering clear of fleeting trends or conventional styling.
"We joke that it took a techie marrying a winemaker to start Haus," laughs Helena. "We have wildly different professional backgrounds, so our strengths really complement each other. Woody knows everything there is to know about production, compliance, logistics, and distribution, while I handle everything related to brand and getting the product to market."
A careful and considered blend of style and substance are what industry insiders might deem Haus' defining characteristics, the secret ingredients behind the start-up's growing success — and Woody and Helena's unwavering partnership, in every conceivable sense.
"We were already very involved in each other’s work before Haus existed, so this doesn’t feel like a huge lifestyle change for us," Woody notes.
"For us, work and life blend together," Helena adds. "This is the case for many millennials. We live where we work, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. The brand is quite literally our life — and we think it shows."
As the sun sets on an afternoon in wine country, a pink sky quickly bleeding into a starry night, it's hard to imagine Woody and Helena Hambrecht doing life any other way. For these two, a joint business venture, starting a family, and completing a total gut-renovation made perfect sense. When life gives you lemons, vines, cinnamon, and cloves — make Haus.