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Rodney Strong Vineyards is investigating what caused the tank to dump thousands of gallons of red wine into the Russian River

Ellen Fort  – January 24, 2020 | Updated January 27, 2020

A 90,000-gallon blending tank filled with Cabernet Sauvignon sprang a leak at Sonoma’s Rodney Strong Vineyards on Wednesday afternoon, releasing thousands of gallons of the wine into the Russian River waterways.

When the leak was discovered, employees immediately called the Healdsburg Fire Department and the California Office of Emergency Response. According to winery spokesman Chris O’Gorman, the leak is being investigated as a mechanical error, rather than a human error.

Either way, it’s a huge loss of wine for the company, who had moved the Cabernet Sauvignon blend to the tank ahead of bottling. For reference, a gallon equals five 750 ml bottles of wine, meaning a 90,000 tank would hold about 450,000 bottles of wine. The winery has not released information on the price per bottle of the wine that was spilled, but at a minimum, it will result in millions of dollars in lost sales.

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The winery estimates that at least 50 percent (about 45,000 gallons) of the wine was diverted from waterways as the result of their efforts. The majority was captured by winery pumps and drainpipes leading to vineyard ponds, as well as pumping of the creek by a third party company and Rodney Strong staff.

Some wine did make it to the creek, however, a tributary to the Russian River and Pacific Ocean. Recent rains have increased the levels and flow of the river, making it difficult to contain the spill. According to a statement released on Friday, January 24 by Rodney Strong Vineyards, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Russian Riverkeepers organization “both reported that four separate indicators of system health – frogs, water strider bugs, steelhead trout, and local birds – were all present and appeared unaffected 24 hours after the spill, with no further impacts expected.”

Following the spill, the winery will work with the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife to clean up the riverbanks as carefully as possible, to prevent disturbing the river’s ecosystem.

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