At Papilles, owner Santos Uy has taken the Paris bistronomy movement to heart with this funky but soulful little bistro set in a Hollywood strip mall. The menu from chef Tim Carey is prix fixe and affordable. And the wine list from wine bar veteran Uy (Bacaro, Mignon) focuses mostly on French and/or natural wines from small producers.
What's your favorite wine region to visit?
I don’t really visit wine regions that much. As a restaurateur, it's more important for me and more fun to visit foreign restaurants. I’d rather be sitting at a cafe in Paris drinking a natural wine than looking at rocks. While I enjoy hanging out in the cellar and drinking out of barrel, it can't beat a beautiful restaurant in a beautiful setting. The little time that I get I’d rather spend in a city, picking up ideas from other restaurants' wine lists and menus.
What's the sleeper on your list?
I have this really pretty Sancerre Rouge, a Pinot Noir made by husband and wife team Henry and Cécile Natter. (The label is Henry Natter.) He’s the vineyard guy on the tractor and his wife Cécile is an enologist. Their flagship wine is Sancerre Blanc, which is awesome every year. I don’t have that wine. I have their Sancerre Rouge, which they make miniscule quantity. It's pale in color, almost a rosé, high-pitched, minty. Since we have a prix fixe menu at Papilles, two people often choose one fish and one meat, and this is a wine that goes very well with both. It's just very versatile.
If you could encourage every customer to buy just one bottle, what would it be?
I really like wines from the Loire Valley. They fit our food and they're inexpensive compared to other places. One of my favorite wines to sell was the Domaine de Montrieux Pineau D’Aunis made by Emile Heredia. It's all natural, no sulfites, and he does carbonic maceration like they do in Beaujolais so it has these bright aromatics. It's called "Le Verre des Poètes" and had a little poem written in French on it. That’s pretty cool. But I don’t have it on the list anymore.
What’s the last wine that really blew you away?
I had an '89 Cos d’Esternel at Taix restaurant in Echo Park. That’s one of my favorite places to go because they’ve got great deals on held back wines and older vintages. They have Château Haut-Brion, Lafite Rothshield, seven vintages of Cos. It needed to air it out, so I had it decanted. Even so, it was still a little tight. Thirty minutes into the meal, the fruit started coming out, and it picked up more and more depth. The shame was we were on our way to the Lakers game and so kind of had to pound the bottle.
Who else has a great list?