Great Wine, Hold the Intimidation: Chateau Maplewood Swirls onto Manchester
Brian Hobbs knows his wine. The Bar Les Freres veteran has been in the beverage industry for over a decade, a journey that’s taken him from his native Illinois to New York City and back, before landing him the heart of downtown Maplewood. But what’s fascinating about Hobbs’ story—and about his business, Chateau Maplewood—is the vision for the perfect wine bar and store that he’s developed along the way.
It’s not what you’d expect. And it’s not exactly what Hobbs expected either.
“It’s really turned into a place for families,” Hobbs says. “It kind of surprised me.”
Opened in April of 2019, Chateau Maplewood was originally envisioned as a tightly curated rotating selection of 75 bottles in the retail half of the shop, with some of Hobbs’ favorites offered by the glass at the bar. But the cozy scale of the space—it’s really only about five steps between the shelves of Pinot Gris and the smiling bartender—and Hobbs’ uniquely approachable philosophy to fine beverages have meant that Chateau Maplewood has quickly amassed a community of regulars. And sometimes, they bring the little ones.
“We’ll never have a kids menu,” Hobbs laughs, gesturing towards words like “charcuterie” and “manchego” on the chalkboard wall. “But they’re certainly welcome here, yeah.”
Hobbs is a family man himself—his wife is a co-owner of the business in addition to her career as a teacher, and you can find their 11-year-old daughter grinning on the website. He also clearly understands the average family’s budget (most of his bottles retail for under $20, and you can get a flight of three glasses for just $15 at the bar) as well as their busy schedules. Every Sunday sees the Chateau transform into a temporary yoga studio, so busy parents and singles can combine their exercise with a little down time over a glass of Riesling.
But that approachable sensibility is counterbalanced by a commitment to quality and a deep knowledge of the craft of wine-making that makes Hobb’s business truly unique. Ask him anything about why your South African Chardonnay is aged in stainless steel, or how he thinks small shops like his can make the St. Louis wine scene better, and he’ll gladly tell you.
“When wine reps come here, I don’t want them to pour me 15 samples and give me a free wine key and a big discount to stock their worst stuff,” Hobbs says. “I want them to show me one really, really good wine. That’s what St. Louis deserves.”
7326 Manchester Blvd.
Images courtesy of Lisa Cichon.