97,000-gallon tank of red wine leaks, spilling thousands of gallons into California river

ByKate Larsen KGO logo
Saturday, January 25, 2020
Nearly 97,000 gallons of Rodney Strong wine spills into Russian River after leak, report says
Nearly 97,000 gallons of Rodney Strong cabernet sauvignon is now in the Russian River after one of its tanks sprung a leak, according to an OES report.

HEALDSBURG, Calif. -- A 97,000-gallon tank of cabernet sauvignon at a California winery sprang a leak Wednesday afternoon.

"We're investigating what appears to be a mechanical failure, we're not entirely sure of that at this point, but were deeply, deeply concerned about this leak and protecting our waterways here in Sonoma County," said Christopher O'Gorman, of Rodney Strong Wine Estates in Healdsburg.

O'Gorman said once they noticed the leak inside a building on the property, they pumped the wine into another tank. However, much of it spilled into drains and vineyard ponds, which were foamy with red wine Thursday.

Once the ponds overflowed, the wine made its way to a creek, which flows into the nearby Russian River.

It's unclear exactly how much wine spilled into waterways. The OES report says all 97,000 gallons, but Rodney Strong says that only 20-25% of the tank capacity made it into the creek and Russian River

"We feel like not that much wine got into the waterway. We are investigating the other tanks. We've moved wine out of that area to prevent any future leaks as well," O'Gorman said.

"I'd say this is a case of dodging the bullet," said Don McEnhill, the executive director of Russian River Keeper. The non-profit has had 50 volunteers keeping an eye on the waterway since the spill.

"We're lucky in that it's winter, the river is high, there's a fair amount of dilution. We haven't had any reports of fish kills, certainly the biochemical oxygen demand and the acidity of the wine is going to kill some smaller insect type things that are fish food. This could have been a lot worse."

Rodney Strong and a third party contractor also pumped wine out of the creek after the leak.

The spilled cabernet sells for $27 a bottle, so it's likely millions of dollars worth of inventory was lost.

California's Department of Fish and Wildlife has been on scene investigating.

They say it's possible Rodney Strong could be facing some misdemeanor charges and penalties.