Pit Stop: Vintner Hopes New Tesla Charging Station Revs Up Business

by Gabe Saglie, Senior Editor, Travelzoo
story published in the Santa Barbara News-Press on 7/29/16

Rick Longoria moved into his brand new winemaking and wine tasting facility in Lompoc just last week.  It’s a pit stop for wine aficionados to be sure: Mr. Longoria’s premium reds and whites have been among Santa Barbara’s most sought-after wines for almost 35 years.  But there’s something else onsite that’s got customers all charged up.

This Tesla charger makes Longoria Winery a destination
The Lompoc Winery Tasting Room at 415 E. Chestnut just became the only location in Lompoc, and one of a few in the Santa Ynez Valley, where Tesla car owners can charge their vehicles.  As part of Tesla Destination Charging, the 9000-square-foot facility is outfitted with a high-power wall connector and appears on a GPS-powered interactive website that Tesla Model S drivers can navigate through a touchscreen on their car’s center console.

“We’ve always been eco-conscious,” says Mr. Longoria, so the charging station is really an extension of the way he and his wife, Diana, run their business.  In fact, “when we were developing this property, I had space in the parking lot pre-wired to accept a charger.”  The Longorias then applied to have Tesla Motors approve their tasting room as a charging destination.  Approval, based on hours of operation, location and amenities, meant that Tesla picked up the costs for the charging unit and half the installation.  And now, “we’re the only spot along Highway 1 between Goleta and Arroyo Grande where Tesla owners can stop for a charge.”

The convenience has the potential of generating business.  The stations add 58 miles of range per hour, just enough time for drivers to stretch their legs and visit the Longoria facility.  “Tesla owners are well- heeled, so they’re the key demographic for wines in our price range,” says Mr. Longoria, whose wines range from $19 to $55, with most vineyard-designate pinot noirs priced at $50.  “They’re the perfect group for us to get in front of.”

The dual charger at Bob's Well Bread in Los Alamos, one for Teslas
and one for everything else, like this BMW i3
Longoria joins a rapidly growing network of Tesla charging locations on the Central Coast.  Only one other winery in Santa Barbara County has one: Presqu’ile in Santa Maria.  Spots in Santa Barbara include hotels like The Canary, the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore and The Fess Parker – a DoubleTree by Hilton Resort.  In North County, the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott in Buellton, ForFriends Inn in Santa Ynez and public parking lots in Solvang have them.  And the only Los Alamos spot, Bob’s Well Bread Bakery, has provided a dual charging station – one for Tesla Model S cars and a universal plug for all other electric car types – for the last 10 months, with most all installation costs picked up by Tesla Motors. 

Rick Longoria welcomes the Taylors to charge and sip
“The only thing I’m responsible for is promoting it, and for the electric bill,” says owner and master baker Bob Oswaks.  With monthly power costs that amount to less than $20, and with the foot traffic the charging outpost drives to his doorstep, this is also about smart business for him.  “They hang out here and eat, so it gives us a chance to make a good impression,” adds Mr. Oswaks, “especially as more and more electric cars hit the road.” 

Since last week’s opening, the Longorias have welcomed just one couple who found their tasting room on the Tesla website.  They expect many more Model S owners to follow, though.  As Mr. Longoria puts it, “It’s good for us just to be on the map.”


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