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Our Story

Eye of the Needle

Blending wine, people, and community.

IT'S ALL ABOUT ENJOYMENT

At Eye of the Needle Winery, owners Bob and Lauren Bullock are all about discovery and community. Wine just happens to be their transportation of choice. The full-service tasting room is meant to be an extension of the Bullock living room – a place humming with good vibes and generous hospitality. Wine snobs need not apply. “It’s not who we are, not our game,” says Lauren. “We don’t have airs or pretenses and neither does our wine. It’s all about enjoyment.”

Thankfully, good hospitality and good wine are not mutually exclusive. Eye of the Needle wines are sourced from the state’s top wineries and vineyards – the kind of quality that earns big points from national critics. It’s not “everyday” wine even though the prices are at “everyday” levels. “It’s all about taste and value to our customers,” says Bob. “Everyone wants to come home from work and pull a cork. We want to help make that possible.”

BLENDING WINE, PEOPLE, AND COMMUNITY.

DEEPENING RELATIONSHIPS

Bob built solid relationships with key retail buyers on the distribution side of the wine industry in the early 1980’s. At that time, there were a mere five wineries in the entire state! When he returned to the industry in the early 2000’s following a nearly fatal health crisis, moving wine from maker to consumer helped him stay mentally and physically fit but it also broadened and deepened his relationships with his winemaking customers.

Then 2008 came along with its financial woes and people stopped buying expensive wine. Bob noticed that there were “oceans of wine” just sitting in tanks with another harvest coming. He went to his man cave for some think time and hatched a business plan to buy up all this excess finished wine, bottle it, and move it to consumers at a deep discount. “Anytime Bob comes home from his man cave and says, ‘I have an idea,’ I hold my breath,” laughs Lauren who chose to look at the bright side – if worse came to worse and they couldn’t sell all 440 cases of wine, they would have a lifetime supply of gifts for friends and family.

BLENDING WINE, PEOPLE, AND COMMUNITY.

GOOD VIBES, GOOD WINE

Bob approached his wine business with the same tenacity as his recovery from brain surgery in 2001 when he willed his body to overcome partial paralysis and walked out of the hospital a month later. He reached out to all his friends from back in the day at vineyards and wineries procuring the best juices for Eye of the Needle wines. Half of the first lot was sold before he even had it bottled. He’s not called “Bull Head” for nothing!

The Bullocks give more than great values to consumers and good vibes in each bottle. Since 2014, Eye of the Needle has partnered with Northwest Harvest to give meals back to the community through its 12th Blend™ line. For each bottle purchased, Eye of the Needle will donate two meals to Northwest Harvest, an organization that provides nutritious food to those in need across the state. To date, they’ve been able to donate more than 150,000 meals. Bob formulates 12th Blend™ wines to be paired with “fan food” – wings, nachos, burgers. They love to make wines that can be opened at any time, for any reason.

THE FINE ART OF BLENDING

WHAT IS A NÉGOCIANT?

Though “farmer” and “winemaker” are the two best known job titles in the wine industry, there are a plethora of other players that keep the industry afloat. Loosely translated as “merchant” from the French, négociants traditionally acted as a middleman between wealthy Bordeaux chateau owners and customers ensuring the two disparate classes never had to rub elbows. Chateau owners tended the vineyard, made the wine, and put it in barrel, then passed it off to the négociant to age, bottle, market, sell, and distribute the finished product. The system is still in use though the term can refer to a wider range of business models including those that purchase excess grapes or juice and make their own wine to those that buy finished wines and blend them before bottling to companies that don’t alter the finished product in any way and simply put their own label on the bottle.

THE FINE ART OF BLENDING

QUALITY WINES FOR MUCH LOWER PRICES

If it sounds a little like cheating, think again. Négociants serve an important purpose both to the wine industry and to consumers. Wineries usually contract with vineyards before the growing season, locking in the best prices when they commit to buying, for example, a whole acre or maybe even the entire lot. This gives the grower a guaranteed income and offsets farming expenses. If Mother Nature gives the vineyard a particularly robust harvest, winemakers may end up with more fruit than they have room to process or store. Enter the négociant who may purchase excess grapes. Or perhaps the winery makes all that juice into wine and only needs a portion of one lot for its signature blend. Enter the négociant who may purchase the finished wine at a fraction of the cost freeing up tank and barrel space for the winery and providing extra income to invest in other projects or equipment (like very expensive French oak barrels or a new crusher). Négociants help prevent all that perfectly delicious finished product from being dumped, provide an additional revenue source for wineries, and offer top quality wines to consumers for much lower prices than the original winery would have charged (costs are lower when expensive equipment, barrels, and storage real estate are removed from the equation).

THE FINE ART OF BLENDING

THREAD THE NEEDLE

Modern day négociants are like the super sleuths of the wine industry – hunting down the best fruit, building and utilizing relationships with vineyard managers and winemakers to procure excess top quality wines, and understanding what consumers want to drink at certain price points. Many of Burgundy’s best (and best known) wines are produced by négociants including Jadot and Drouhin. Eye of the Needle partners with some of Washington State’s absolute best vineyards and wineries; producers that Wine Spectator consistently rates in its Top 100 list. Bob and Lauren blend each wine until it “threads that needle” – easy to drink, pairs well with food, and provides a great value for the quality. “Our winery was founded on blending wine for the Sunday through Thursday drinker,” says Bob.

The négociant model is far more pervasive than many Washington consumers may realize. True, most wineries start out producing all their own wines, but often discover they need a more “liquid” revenue source and opt for a second label. Enter the négociant method. One more winery stays in business and the whole industry expands.

From Bob and Lauren

TO OUR TEAM

We couldn’t do this alone & are so grateful for our enthusiastic winery team and STACKteers!! You ARE the best!