What is in this article?:
- Washington winery succeeds with affordable vino
- Roundabout route to winemaking
- Eye of the Needle winery buys surplus wine from premium wineries and blends, ages and bottles it under their own label in an effort to create a flavorful wine for $10-$15.
Roundabout route to winemaking
Shelton says the Bullocks make a great team: "They are positive, generous, dedicated business owners who are fun to work with. I couldn't ask for a more rewarding experience than being a small part of their journey to success.”
With Shelton’s help, in 2010 the Bullocks were able to get an SBA Patriot Loan through Banner Bank for equipment and working capital, and then they got a line of credit.
True, the Bullocks were new to winemaking, but they weren’t just starting out. Eye of the Needle was born of second chances.
A veteran of the Vietnam War, Bob Bullock began distributing wine in western Washington in the early 1980s, which was an exciting time to be involved in Washington wine. But after about a decade he was looking for a change, and he ended up in the medical insurance industry in 1996.
In 2001, he suffered a major stroke that left him paralyzed on the left side. His prognosis was uncertain, Lauren Bullock says, but he surprised his doctors by walking out of the hospital just eight weeks later. With a lot of work, he eventually was able to walk an entire marathon averaging 16-minute miles.
"I always think I can do something until I know that I can’t,” he says with a smile.
Recession opens a niche
Never one to get stuck in a rut, in 2006 Bob Bullock decided it was time for a change. He looked into a couple things, but finally decided he wanted to return to the wine business.
In 2008, he became an independent wine broker, once again working with premium Washington wineries. But the recession hit. Where others saw obstacles, the Bullocks saw an opportunity - premium wineries had surplus inventory just sitting in tanks but the market was strong for mid-range wines at an affordable price.
In late 2008, the Bullocks formed Pacific Wine Enterprises, LLC, and started doing business as Haystack Needle Winery, which later became Eye of the Needle.
As a negociant winery, Eye of the Needle buys grapes that it crushes and bottles, but more than three-fourths of its inventory is bought as finished wine from other suppliers. By buying finished wine, the Bullocks avoid the cost of owning winemaking equipment and are able to use their capital to buy the best wine they can get.
Then their artistry begins, as they begin blending tastes - and price points - to get a good wine at an excellent value.
"I tell our team to leave their egos at the door,” Bob Bullock says about the group that gathers for blending trials. "It’s not about our palates; it’s about a specific taste profile that defines what our customers are looking for.”
For more information about the Washington SBDC, go to http://www.wsbdc.org.
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