Zin Zin Zin: Meet Matt Railla, Founder of Wine Guerrilla Winery


Have you ever tried a wine and thought that this is now officially your go-to wine? That’s what happened when I was introduced to Zinfandel. After falling madly in love with the Malbec, I was utterly shocked and impressed by the California wines I tried and Zinfandel was like Malbec’s sophisticated, yet fun, cousin. This past summer when wine tasting in a teeny little town called Forestville, I stumbled into the dog-friendly tasting room for Wine Guerrilla. Immediately I was drawn to how laid back the place was and how creative the artwork was on the bottles (all different for the various labels). Naturally, I struck up a conversation with Matt from Wine Guerrilla to tell us a bit more why his family started the winery and what makes Zin so darn special. 

1. How did a Southern Cali athlete break into the world of wine in Forestville, CA?

My father had started Wine Guerrilla a few years before and his business partner at the time was handling the sales and distribution of the wine in Sonoma County.  In 2013 he decided he wanted to open the tasting room here in Forestville to establish the winery in a more substantial way and that’s when he came to me.  I actually had just gotten injured in a soccer game a few months before he made the decision, so I wasn’t playing at the time and he asked me if I wanted to move up north and help get the tasting room started.  I’m a firm believer in leaving your comfort zone and trying new things, so a few days later I called my dad back and made the decision to move.  I had no knowledge or insight into the wine industry and very little experience drinking wine, but that made it more exciting for me.  

2. Wine Guerrilla has a strong emphasis on Zin, what’s the  biggest misconception you get regarding zin? What’s your personal favorite thing about the varietal? 

Zinfandel is a very interesting grape, it was one of the first grapes that was planted in California and has been referred to as the first true “American Wine”.  For the most part, Zin was looked at as a red table wine, a hardy wine with lots of fruit and a bit of sweetness. I would say there are a few misconceptions about Zinfandel; 1 is that when many people hear the word ‘Zinfandel’ they automatically think of ‘White Zin’ which is a very sweet Rosé.  2 is that Zin is just a table wine and shouldn’t be taken seriously, but there are many fantastic Zins from all over California that are elegant, complex, and bold.  Probably my favorite aspect of Zinfandel is that it’s a great food pairing wine.  Zin pairs really well with anything hardy, spicy, or savory.  Probably my favorite meal to pair with Zinfandel is grilled lamb chops with mash potatoes and vegetables.  

3. Each label features new original artwork, what inspired you to take the route of originality vs. a standard label for each bottle? 

We really wanted to focus on differentiating each vineyard that we purchased grapes from.  We felt that each vineyard where the grapes came from produced completely different types of Zinfandels and the artwork would represent that.  Plus it gives us an excuse to make new artwork to keep things fun and interesting!

4. For those interested in starting to collect wine, do you have any advice on price point, aging, etc? 

If you are interested in collecting wine I would definitely recommend going to the wineries directly and getting that experience of being in the tasting room/vineyard and learning about the wines top to bottom.  And then when you purchase those wines, a year or two later when you open that bottle you will remember that experience and it will have more meaning than just a bottle of wine.  As for price points, it’s completely up to your budget.  But if you do go to the tasting rooms be prepared to spend between $20 to $80 per bottle.  Aging is dependent on the varietal of wine, my advice is to ask the winery staff what they recommend for aging when you purchase the wine.  

5. As a Six Degrees Society manbassador, how do you hope to do your part in bringing people together?

As a Six Degrees manbassador I hope to bring people together by providing some education and insight into wine and Zinfandel while creating discussion on the wine and art on the bottles as well.  Also, I hope to get together creatively and look at opportunities to do things differently or go against the grain.  

Also, check out our San Francisco Wine Tasting 101 Event with Matt on February 27th and visit his tasting room at 6671 Front Street Forestville, CA.

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