By Holly Secon /
January 24, 2020
Credit: Philary/Getty Images

This story originally appeared on

Employees at a vineyard in the heart of California's wine country discovered with dismay on Wednesday that one of their giant tanks had opened — and Cabernet Sauvignon was gushing out.

Just over 97,000 gallons of the wine — enough to fill eight tanker trucks — spilled after the door of a blending tank popped open at the Rodney Strong Winery.

Some of that alcohol has entered the local water system, Chris O'Gorman, a spokesman for Rodney Strong Winery, confirmed to Business Insider.

It flowed "out of the building, with a portion entering a creek at the winery," he said. That waterway, Reiman Creek, feeds into the Russian River — a popular recreation destination and wildlife habitat.

O'Gorman said the cause of the leak was "apparent mechanical failure."

The exact quantity of wine that entered the Russian River is unknown — city officials are still assessing the impact. The Sonoma County sheriff's office is even using a helicopter to track the spill. Early estimates suggest, however, that between 46,000 and 96,000 gallons of wine reached the river.

"The uncertainty was how much of that made it into the creek and how much into the sanitary sewer system inside the facility," Sonoma County Fire Battalion chief Mike Elson said, according to the Press Democrat. "But there was a large, substantial amount into the creek and river."

According to the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, which was notified of the accident via an official hazardous material spill report, about 20% of the spill was contained as of Wednesday. O'Gorman said the winery had "saved over half of the wine," however.

He added that Rodney Strong Winery is working closely with various government agencies, including the California Office of Emergency Response, the Healdsburg Fire Department, the Sonoma County Sheriff, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"We are deeply concerned and are doing everything in our power to protect our waterways," O'Gorman said.

In the spill report, city officials noted that the winery is also working with contractors to "conduct the cleanup."

According to the Press Democrat, Rodney Strong hired two vacuum-truck operators to attempt to clean up the spill on site. It also tried to erect a temporary dam in Reiman Creek, but the creek is experiencing high flows due to recent rains.