Employee death at Healdsburg winery under investigation

Pinot Meunier grapes on a vine ready to be harvested for Nyetimber Wines on the Nutbourne vineyard in West Sussex. Picture date: Tuesday October 12, 2021. (Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images)

State workplace safety officials are investigating the death of a worker at a Northern California winery who was found unresponsive near a fermentation tank, authorities said Thursday.

Salvador Plaza-Centeno, 61, of Windsor, died Tuesday while working at Dry Creek Vineyard in Healdsburg, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office said.

Emergency personnel declared Plaza-Centeno dead at the scene. An autopsy to determine the cause of death is pending, the office said.

The state Department of Industrial Relations, known as Cal/OSHA, said it was notified Tuesday of a work-related fatality of an employee at the winery after an outside source reported Plaza-Centeno had been found near a fermentation tank and died at the scene. It said the agency receives limited information from an initial report and officials are now looking into how the incident occurred.

Sara Rathbun, a spokeswoman for the winery, said Plaza-Centeno was standing over the fermentation tank and doing a pump-over, which entails pumping the fermenting grape juice from the bottom of the tank to the top, when he had a medical emergency and paramedics were called.

She said it was Plaza-Centeno's second harvest with the winery.

"Our heart is broken. We lost a friend and we’re doing everything we can to aid all the agencies that are doing ongoing analysis," she said.

The family-owned winery started 50 years ago and it's known for popularizing wines from northern Sonoma County such as sauvignon blanc and zinfandel. Owner Kim Stare Wallace took over her father, David Stare, who founded it.