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Large wine spill in California as winery vat bursts open

Staff and authorities have raced to limit contamination of waterways after a vat containing enough red wine to fill hundreds of thousands of bottles burst open at a Sonoma County winery.

Cabernet Sauvignon gushed from a vat containing up to 97,000 gallons of wine – equivalent to 367,000 litres – at Rodney Strong Vineyards near to Healdsburg in Sonoma County.  

Wine escaped after a vat door popped open at around 1:30pm on Wednesday afternoon (22 January), according to local newspaper The Press Democrat.

Some of the wine was reported to have leaked into a creek and there was immediate concern about possible contamination of nearby Russian River.

A helicopter from the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office was called in to monitor the spread of wine.

An incident report from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services on Wednesday afternoon (22 January) said 97,112 gallons (367,000 litres) of wine was spilled and that between 46,000 and 96,000 gallons may have made it into the river.

However, Rodney Strong spokesperson Chris O’Gorman told the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday (23 January) that winery staff had captured around half of the wine, meaning less than 45,000 gallons (170,000 litres) escaped the property. 

‘Our best estimate is that at least 50% of the wine was diverted from waterways,’ said the winery in a statement on 24 January, adding that it had notified authorities immediately following the ‘apparent mechanical failure’.

It confirmed that some wine had made it into the river, but it said the winery team was was working with authorities to help prevent damage to waterways and wildlife, as well as to understand how the accident happened.

‘Most of us here grew up swimming in the Russian River, and it is a vital part of our local eco-system,’ the winery said. ‘We are deeply concerned and are doing absolutely everything in our power to protect our waterways.’

Family-owned Rodney Strong Vineyards began after Rodney Strong retired as a professional dancer and founded a winery 1959 in Sonoma County in 1959, alongside his ex-dancing partner and wife, Charlotte Ann Winson. Today, the group has 14 estate vineyards.

Updated on 25/01/2020 following a situation update from the winery.


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