History of Nova Wine Bar in Hudson, Wis.

The Nova Wine Bar in Hudson offers a history lesson for aficionados.
Behind the Bar: Tyrrell Gaffer has spent the past 14 years honing the craft of good drinks.

In 1871, it opened—a brewery called Yoerg. It’s not called Yoerg anymore. It became the Casanova Brewing Co. in 1897. Then a Coke bottling company, then a liquor store—and today a liquor store, Casanova Liquors, the same building since 1871, at the end of the parking lot off Coulee Road in Hudson.

When John and Jana Gaffer took over the historic site in 2002, they pushed its story along by opening the Nova Wine Bar off the west end, honoring the brewery’s original name. Through college, the Gaffers had owned a barbecue restaurant in Mankato, and Jana—a first-grade teacher in Hudson for 17 years when the bar opened in 2004—wanted students on whom the finer points of wine would not be lost.

At Nova Wine Bar, they want to teach you—about any alcohol, really. January comes with craft beer releases; February demands a new curriculum.

“We try our hardest to either know the product before we bring it in or sample it so we can help our customers make an informed decision,” says Tyrrell Gaffer, who took over the business from his parents in 2003.

Nova’s 21 brands of beer and its glass menu of 30 wines keeps pace with seasonal entrées. “Our chef, Paul LaPean, loves to play with what’s available from our local farmers.”

February sees a vernal shift: from hearty meats to fish options, to a fig salad—and more white wine, sauvignon blancs and rosés.