When Corrida opened in its exquisite downtown aerie a little more than a year ago, I thrilled to the concept — a Spanish steak house, with lots of tapas — and genuflected upon first encountering the jewel-box space, with its enormous rooftop deck and staggering Flatirons view.

I also wondered about the wine list. How could a restaurant as ambitious as Corrida carry nothing but Spanish wine? It’s primarily a steak house, after all. Most steak house wine cellars sag beneath the weight of Napa cabernet sauvignons, French Bordeauxes and Italian Barolos. The expense-account-blessed demand them.

It only took an hour with Corrida co-founder Bryan Dayton, however, to understand the advantages of Corrida’s approach. As we sipped different reds and sherries, and nibbled Spanish ham and almonds, I kept bumping into flavors that invoked grins and gasps.

I previously had dabbled in Spanish wine, but without focus or guidance. Since my time last month yakking and drinking with Dayton, however, I have moved beyond haphazard frittering, and into the realm of studied exploration. This is my kind of adventure.

Dayton’s enthusiasm for Spanish wines matches what I routinely encounter in the wine press and among Boulder’s wine intelligentsia. The message: Spain today is one of the most exciting wine countries in the world. The wine press even uses the term “New Spain” to highlight how today’s wines increasingly are breaking away from a Spanish past that, in some cases, vaulted volume over quality and innovation. Thank the Franco era (the dictator ruled the country between 1936 and 1975) for the pressure to make so much wine in bulk.

“You see it across the country,” said Dayton. “Winemakers who are super hungry, and humble. I’ve never encountered so much passion.”

An exquisite albariño. (Doug Brown / For the Camera)

As Dayton extolls Spain’s wines, grape names pour forth: whites like godello, verdejo, albariño and treixadura; for reds, mencia, garnacha, tempranillo.

“Think about Cava,” he said, referring to the sparkling wine made in northeast Spain’s Catalunya region. “I had a meeting with a Champagne company yesterday, and I said some of these Cavas are going up against your wines. They are just as good and half the price.”

And value among Spanish wines — a Drinking With Doug lodestar — shines with lighthouse-like intensity. Bottles of outstanding wine for less than $100 crowd Corrida’s list; good luck finding a list with these kind of prices at a similarly enterprising steak house. Stalk the aisles at worthwhile liquor stores, and compare prices between the Spanish, French, Italian and California sections. Your wallet will anchor you beside the Iberian peninsula.

“In many pockets of Spain we are seeing a renaissance,” said wine savant, educator and sales rep Ashley Hausman, Colorado’s only Master of Wine. “The energy. The youth. The hope and optimism. The dynamic risk-taking. We are discovering vineyards that are more than 100 years old. We are finding vineyards supporting dozens of different grape varieties. It’s just so much fun. And value is part of the attraction.”

Among other things, Hausman works with one of the most elite importers of Spanish wines in the United States, Jose Pastor Selections. And even there, in a book filled with boutique artisan winemakers, many of the wines sell at retail for between $20 and $35.

Spain is an enormous country, with vines sprawling across every region. Instead of going wide with this look at Spain, let’s instead study more closely the region that most excites Hausman — Galicia, in northwest Spain.

“Galicia is where it’s at,” said Hausman. “It’s a great region to focus upon for summer. Galicia is affected by the Atlantic, and because of that the whites have great acidity and texture, and the reds are lighter and refreshing. They are wonderful with a little chill on them.”

It just so happens I had been sipping my way across this mountainous, lush, green-as-Ireland patch of Spain when Hausman helped direct my attention towards it with more oomph. Thanks for the nudge, Ashley.

Let’s focus on some principal grapes: godello and albarino for whites, and mencia for reds. Hausman is right — wines made from these grapes are made for summer drinking, although they work in all seasons.

Godello: “If somebody loves white Burgundy (chardonnay grapes grown in the Burgundy region of France), we might turn them on to godello,” said Dayton. “It’s got the weight, the texture. An amazing grape.”

I’ve sipped quite a bit of godello during the past few weeks, and I can tell you it’s a new go-to at Drinking With Doug World HQ. It’s pleasingly tart, with hints of grapefruit. And it’s got a saline quality that speaks to me. Last week, in fact, we paired it with clams and pasta for my early birthday dinner. The experience was like eating and drinking the ocean. I approve of this pursuit.

Savoring albariño in Drinking With Doug’s favorite new bar, South Boulder Stump Bar (aka, Doug’s front yard). (Doug Brown/ For the Camera)

Albariño: Like godello, albariño offers a tantalizing saline quality that improves dining — especially when seafood adorns the plates. Both Hausman and Dayton trumpeted albariño, and me too. It’s light — Dayton says he encourages diners who gravitate towards pinot grigio towards albariño — but not dull. Packed with lemon and orange citrus, and laced with things like honeysuckle and nectarine, it will become another standard at World HQ.

Mencia (pronounced men-thee-ah): “Let’s say somebody wants a Santa Barbara-style pinot noir, something a little bit richer than a traditional red Burgundy. In that case, we might got to mencia,” said Dayton.

He’s spot-on. Like more fruit-forward versions of pinot noir, mencia comes fully perfumed in essences of strawberry, raspberry and cherry, with hints of licorice and gravel. Stick in the fridge for 20 minutes prior to opening, and savor it with some grilled chicken, beef brisket, carne asada or pizza. This is one versatile red wine.

Godello is a fantastic food wine. One night, we drank it with a favorite appetizer: pieces of buttered bread adorned with anchovies. (Doug Brown / For the Camera)

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