Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Kika Tapas and Tapena Wine

Spanish tapas and wine? ¡Si, Por Favor!

A representative of Tapena Wines invited a couple local bloggers to try some of their wines over lunch at Kika Tapas in Cambridge. Kika Tapas, which opened last December, is owned by the proprietors of Dali, one of my favorite Spanish restaurants. So, I certainly had high expectations for this restaurant. And overall, my expectations were met and I would recommend that my readers check it out.

The restaurant has more of a modern, hip look and the curved booths are very comfortable. It has a different ambiance than Dali, but still is appealing. Much of their food menu is similar to Dali, with plenty of tapas, but they offer some different dishes as well. In addition, they are open for lunch, and serve bocadillos, sandwiches, for lunch. Tapa prices generally range from $5-$10. Their wine list has plenty of Spanish options, and they serve authentic Sherry as well. Plus, you will find a variety of cocktails, beers and Sangria.

The Pão de Queijo is Brazilian Cheese & Tapioca Flour Bread, kind of like a thicker and cheesier Gougere. Tasty and I wish I had even more of these.

The Queso de Cabra Montañes is Baked Goat Cheese in Tomato Basil Sauce, a creamy and tangy dish that is especially good spread over a slice of bread.

The Patatas Bravas are Spicy Potatoes, giving a nice kick to roasted potatoes.

One of my favorite tapas is the Gambas al Ajillo, Sizzling Garlic Shrimp, which is another great place to dip your bread, as well as slather on the garlic slices. A simple but compelling dish.

The Albóndigas de Cordero, Lamb Meatballs in Truffle Cream Sauce, were also delicious, moist meatballs in an intriguing sauce with hints of earthiness. Once again, said some bread for dipping into the sauce.

The Lomito al Cabrales, Pork Loin with Cabrales Blue Cheese Sauce & Mushroom, satisfied with its tender, thin pork slices, tangy blue cheese sauce and earthy mushrooms. I would have loved a Kimoto/Yamahai Sake with this dish.

Service was excellent and I will definitely return here to check out more of the menu. Dali will remain my favorite of their restaurants, but Kika will solidly take the second position.

"What's the secret of good wine? There isn't one. The land and the vines give us their best, while we contribute all our skills of refinement, along with experience and ingenuity."
--José Ferrer Sala 

The Freixenet company, which produces the Tapeña Wines, is a Spanish company which has expanded to include wineries in California, Argentina and Australia. Freixenet has been producing wine since 1861 and its first export market was the U.S. back in 1935. The name "Freixenet" derives from a term referring to a place where ash trees grow. They have been producing Cava since 1915 and their black bottled Freixenet Cavas are a common sight in many wine stores, though only two countries actually sell the black bottle still, the U.S. and Japan.

We started off our meal with glasses of the Freixenet Cordon Negro Extra Dry, a blend of the three usual Cava grapes, Macabeo, Paralleda, and Xarello, and made in the Methode Champenoise. It takes about 3.5 years from harvest to the release of Cordon Negro. This was a pleasant Cava, very dry but with some nice fruit flavors and lacking the yeastiness of some other sparkling wines. Clean, crisp and refreshing, it was a nice apertif.

Tapena Wines was started five years ago, with the intent of creating fruit forward, food-friendly Spanish wines. The term "tapeña" is a mix of "tapas" (small dishes of food) with "peña" (slang for a group of close friends). They make four wines, a Verdejo, Rosé, Tempranillo and Garnacha, and they are Vinos de la Tierra de Castilla, which means production is more flexible than under the regulations of the Denominacion de Origen system. The label is designed to look like a chalkboard, the type you would see at a Spanish restaurant presenting the daily specials, and the fork represents that they are food friendly.

All of the grapes are purchased, and no oak is used in the production of the wines. I like the fact that they only use indigenous Spanish grapes for their wines. They produce about 40,000 bottles each year, about 40% of them being Tempranillo, and they will be changing to screw caps in the near future. A 750ml bottle sells for about $8-$10, making these very affordable wines. But, are they also good values? Too many wines in that price range are simple wines without any character, drinkable but nothing special. So how does Tapena compare to these others?

The Tapena Garnacha was quite compelling, a delicious blend of bright red fruits with spice notes and smooth tannins. Very easy drinking but with plenty of character for a wine at this price point. It was not a simple, one-note wine, and was such a pleasant surprise. It is the type of wine which can be enjoyed on its own or paired with food. It would be great with burgers to pizza, BBQ to pasta. Definitely a very good value.

The Tapena Tempranillo, a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Garnacha, was also tasty, showing more plum and black cherry flavors with milder spice notes but a bit more earthiness. Its tannins were a bit stronger than the Garnacha but still well within control. It too possessed more character than many other wines at this price point and also presents a very good value. I would generally prefer this wine paired with food due to its tannins.

Tapena is producing some excellent value wines, and these should appeal to many consumers. Wine lovers should enjoy these food friendly wines. They exceeded my expectations and earn my recommendation. Now I just need to check out their Rosé!

Kika Tapas on Urbanspoon

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