California‘s Russian River is running a little redder than usual after a major spill at a vineyard in Sonoma County, where a broken vat dumped nearly 363,000 litres (96,000 gallons) of wine into a nearby waterway.
The spill happened at Rodney Strong Vineyards on Wednesday, according to a report from the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. The report says a blending tank door popped open, triggering a red tide of wine that swept into a nearby creek and flowed into the Russian River.
State officials say about 20 per cent of the spill was contained, but anywhere between 174,000 and 363,000 litres may have reached the Russian River. That’s the equivalent of up to 484,000 standard bottles of red wine.
The spill turned the river into a freshwater-cabernet sauvignon blend, despite efforts to vacuum up or dam the flow of wine. The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office tried to follow the flow in a helicopter, but the fast-moving river quickly pushed the wine downstream within a few hours.
Footage captured from the helicopter shows dark red streaks running at the edges of the river.
The winery is conducting an internal investigation and cooperating with authorities, Rodney Strong spokesman Chris O’Gorman said Thursday.
“We are deeply concerned and are doing everything in our power to protect our waterways,” he told The Associated Press.
Investigators with the Sonoma County Water Quality Control Board and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife were inspecting the area on Thursday to assess the environmental damage, the Press Democrat newspaper reports.
No fish die-offs have been reported yet, but major alcohol spills have proven disastrous for the environment in the past.
Jim Beam was recently fined US$712,000 after a fire at its distillery in Kentucky caused bourbon to spill into the nearby Kentucky River last July.
Approximately 9 million litres of bourbon were involved in the fire, and an unknown amount bled into the river.
Scores of fish died as a result.
—With files from The Associated Press