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Masked culprit spills 5,000 gallons of white wine in Washington winery

A criminal wearing a cowboy hat and mask entered Sparkman Cellars in Woodville, Washington and emptied US$600,000 worth of wine onto the floor.

An investigation is underway after an unknown person let themselves into Sparkman Cellars just after 7.30pm on 22 November using an employee door code and drained two tanks, containing 2,500 gallons each of white wine, onto the ground.

Surveillance footage caught the crime on camera, and filmed the individual leaving Sparkman Cellars at 10.40 pm as the wine poured out of the steel tanks.

While the activity did trigger the winery’s internal alarm system it was too late to stop the spillage, causing an estimated US$600,00 loss to the producer, and writing off much of its recently completed harvest.

Sparkman, which is one of Woodville’s largest wineries, only discovered the damage two days later when staff returned after the Thanksgiving break.

The family-owned producer is now said to be “scrambling” to meet orders. It is not clear which of its white wines will be most impacted by the spillage, though the following expressions are currently marked as ‘sold out’ on Sparkman’s website: Pearl Sauvignon Blanc, Apparition Rhône Blend, Lumière Chardonnay and Enlightenment Old Vines Chardonnay. Sparkman also makes an Old Vine Sauvignon Blanc, which retails for US$55 per bottle.

The matter is being investigated by the Woodville Police Department with the vandal having last been seen on camera disappearing into a nearby wooded area carrying an umbrella.

Instagram / @sparkman_cellars

Established in 2004 by owners Kelly and Chris Sparkman, Sparkman produces 12,000 cases of wine per year. Its winemaker, Lin Scott, has been with Sparkman since 2010 and produces wine using fruit sourced from 15 different vineyards, all of which are from Washington – except from one in Oregon, which supplies Pinot Noir.

Sparkman’s philosophy is to “stay open to what can be”, with a statement on its website reading:

“We believe we are evolving and creating better and even more interesting wines as we enter our second decade of winemaking. Part of that is humility and thirst. If we thought we had it all figured out, it might be more manufacturing than art and science.”

In August the drinks business reported that one of Washington’s biggest wineries, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, had delivered a hammer blow to the state’s growers, confirming it would buy 40% fewer grapes than usual.

“Our long-term relationships with our growers are extremely important to us, and while this is a difficult process, these proactive measures are necessary for the ongoing health of our business as well as the health of the overall Washington wine industry,” said Lynda Eller, senior director of communications, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates.

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