The Russian River in California's Sonoma County gushed a deep red colour for several miles after nearly 100,000 gallons of wine filled the area's largest tributary, potentially endangering local fish and wildlife.

On Wednesday, a 100,000 gallon blending tank at Rodney Strong Vineyards burst open, sending approximately 97,112 gallons of cabernet sauvignon — enough to fill 500,000 bottles — into nearby waters, according to the Governor's Office of Emergency Services. Aerial footage showed foamy red ponds and waterways near the vineyard.

The accident is expected to be one of the area's largest wine spills, according to Don McEnhill, executive director of nonprofit Russian Riverkeeper, the area's conservation advocacy group. 

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In a statement on social media, the organisation said its "disappointed by this spill, but glad that the vineyard notified officials and tried to clean up its mess. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". The group met with winery staff to "to ensure this doesn't happen again".

Water quality and wildlife officials are assessing possible damages to river habitats and whether any environmental violations occurred.

Winery representatives told the local ABC affiliate that they believe only 25 per cent of the tank's capacity made its way into a nearby creek and the river.

Rodney Strong's Christopher O'Gorman said the company is investigating the rupture as a mechanical failure, though the company is "not entirely sure of that at this point".

He said: "We're deeply, deeply concerned about this leak and protecting our waterways here in Sonoma County."

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