When Lauren and Bob Bullock were brainstorming in 2009 how to go about their new wine business, they knew that they wanted to do something differently. Bob, a wine veteran in Washington State, had grown tired of traditional business models and knew that with “oceans of wine sitting in tanks,” there was plenty of space in the wine world for the couple to make their mark. They decided to take the French based négociant approach: cultivating various wines from different makers before blending it together to create a final product under their own name.
The inspiration for the winery’s name, Eye of the Needle Winery, comes from the Stevie Wonder song “Living For The City” where he sings “to find a job is like a haystack needle.” In the Bullocks’ case, their needle in the haystack is finding wines and turning them into the award-winning blends for a reasonable price.
Five years into the venture, Bob emerged from his office with what Lauren describes as “a sparkle in his eye.” His idea was to create a wine that would support the sports fan in everyone. The image for the label came to Lauren — the company’s marketing, public relations and creative driver — in a vivid dream where she imagined the numbers bursting through a banner just as football players often do before running out onto the game field.
The wine is an ode to all sports fans who create tight-knit communities that look out for each other. Lauren, who had always had the idea to do a “give back” wine, saw this blend as the perfect chance and thus, the *12th Blend was born.
“If we’re not using our platform to do good, to give back, then what are we doing this for?” Lauren says, noting that being in the wine business creates an excellent opportunity for philanthropy. The Bullocks decided to advocate for hunger relief because, as Lauren says, “everybody needs food,” a fundamental right in their minds.
For every bottle of the 12th Blend sold, two meals are donated to Northwest Harvest, a nonprofit organization working with 375 food banks in Washington to provide hunger relief throughout the state. In 2017, Washington was ranked as the 24th “hungriest state” in the country with one out of eight households struggling to put food on the table. To this date more than 160,000 meals have been donated through purchases of the 12th blend and there’s no sign of slowing down.
The 12th Blend comes in three variations: a red blend, a Chenin Blanc single varietal bottling and a rosé. The Chenin is an off-dry white that loves spicy food and is perfectly paired with tailgate favorites like buffalo wings, tacos and even nachos. The red is a blend of 90 percent Sangiovese and 10 percent Merlot, resulting in a juicy sip with hints of berry, best consumed along with sliders, coleslaw and bratwursts. The rosé is a 2016 vintage and all Cabernet Franc, showing flavors of ripe red fruits supported by a crisp acidity balancing out with a long, rich finish. All three are sold for $15, the red and white throughout Washington and Oregon, with the roseé only available in the cozy Woodinville, Washington, tasting room.
The response to the 12th blend has been incredibly positive as drinkers are more than happy to get behind a delicious drink that directly benefits in their own communities. The Bullocks’ goal is to make it to more than 175,000 meals donated and with football season now being in full-swing, they are well on their way.
*The 12th Blend is an officially trademarked name and Eye of the Needle Winery holds no official affiliation with the NFL or any team in the association.