Up in Healdsburg this afternoon, a very large blending tank at Rodney Strong Vineyards sprung a very significant leak, dumping some 97,000 gallons of Cabernet Sauvignon into a drainage ditch, out to a nearby creek, and ultimately into the Russian River.
The leak in the tank — which was caused by a faulty or unsecured door at the bottom of it that sprang open — happened around 1:30 p.m. Thursday, and the wine subsequently dumped into the winery's sanitary system before overflowing out to the creek. As the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports, somewhere between 46,000 and 96,000 gallons likely reached the Russian River, and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services was notified of the spill around 3:20 p.m.
The wine had reportedly just been moved into the tank for blending, in preparation for bottling.
The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office took aerial footage of the spill, which you can see below. The dark red wine is hugging one bank as it flows into the Russian River in Healdsburg. The water at this time of year is moving quickly, making containment difficult — though the Governor's Office of Emergency Services said about 20 percent of the spill had been contained.
As KPIX notes, the spill reached as far south as Riverfront Regional Park within hours.
Chris O’Gorman, a spokesperson for Rodney Strong, attributed the leak to a "mechanical failure," and said in a statement that the winery was "working as fast as possible to contain the leak, per our emergency protocols."
Speaking to the Chronicle, O'Gorman added, "We’re deeply concerned... The main thing is to figure out what happened and to protect the waterways. At this point we’re investigating it as a mechanical failure and not an internal mistake."