Constant competition used to be a way of life for Carmen Policy. The former CEO of the San Francisco 49ers is responsible for one of the greatest eras of football in the Bay Area, taking the team to five Super Bowl Championships in 1981, 1984, 1989, 1990, and 1994. Any and every football-loving San Franciscan sings Policy’s praises. He is endearing, disarming and a world-class gentleman who shares a special connection with the city of San Francisco.
Today, Policy spends the majority of his time in Napa Valley, but he isn’t entirely removed from the city. He is a part-time dweller of the Four Seasons Hotel and of course, he still loves, follows and participates, to some degree, in his beloved sport. But life has taken a most satisfying, and more settled, turn for Policy since indulging in his other lifelong passion: wine. As the founder of Casa Piena, Policy, alongside wife Gail, is a hands-on vintner who has been producing exceptional and vibrant Cabernets at his Yountville vineyard since 2006. Last year, Policy earned yet another coveted honor: he and Gail were named the Chairs of the Live Auction Committee of Auction Napa Valley 2014. Days before the Napa Wine Auction, Policy sat down with Haute Living to give us a detailed account a day in his life preparing for Napa’s most significant event of the year.
6 a.m. I generally get up on my own when I wake up in Napa Valley. I almost never have to set an alarm; the only time I do is when I have a really early appointment and want to make sure I’m up at a certain hour so that I can get things done. The moment I get up, a cup of coffee is made and I hit the computer. I first check through all my emails that came in from the night before; I try to deal with those as quickly as I possibly can. Then I prioritize what I should deal with. I always try to get news and sports clips read or scanned as soon as I can so I start the day knowing what has occurred. I then follow through with some of the items that are on some of the websites that I check out. I’d say that I’m at the computer about an hour and a half and have three cups of coffee after I wake up.
7:30 a.m. I start going about my day. That might be meetings that relate to the wine business or meetings that relate to community matters. I’m on the Board at UCSF and I chair a committee for UCSF’s Foundation board, so I’m on the phone handling some meetings and doing other things in connection with that.
9 a.m. I take care of the maintenance aspect of the house. Our property is spread out and there are four buildings on our property, so I make sure I supervise that. The vineyard is fun to walk in the morning and I’ll go out and usually meet with the foreman or one of the partners on our site. They’ll just tell me what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. There are times when I meet with them much earlier, like during harvest, when I’m meeting with them at 6:30 a.m. Then I engage in the process of working with our marketing and sales person and some of the people who are helping me in the wine business, which include our winemaker and his staff and our vineyard manager and his staff. If you’re in the wine business, you’re in the people business, so you’re out dealing with restaurants, hotels, you’ve having lunch and you’re tasting wine.
1 p.m. – 5 p.m. I’ve had a lot going on relative to Auction Napa Valley 2014. My wife Gail and I have been asked to participate in Auction Napa Valley as the Chairs of the Live Auction Committee. The live auction is the sparkle and zest of Auction Napa Valley. That’s when everything comes together at the great luncheon at Meadowood. This year we’re going to have 50 lots, and they include everything from trips to London with a dinner and viewing of the Royal Jewels of the British Monarchy to a couple of trips to France with a phenomenal exposure to Bordeaux, Burgundy, great chateaus and great wine tasting. There also are many exciting excursions to Asia. Domaine Chandon and Newton Vineyard are putting together what I call the “Indiana Jones” type lot. You’re flying into inland China and you’re going to be part of the experience of the Chandon—Newton winery project in China. It’s wild! There’s going to be a restaurant tour of Shanghai with Formula One interaction. Naoko Dalla Valle will be escorting people to Tokyo and Japan. It’s just wonderful dealing with all of these people.
I must tell you, I used to work continuously and very hard. In the business of the NFL, I was on 24/7. At this point in my life, I’m very, very busy, but I’m not really “working” hard. There’s a difference. Most of the things I do require time effort and in some cases, money, but by in large, are fun. I’m interacting with others who are fun. It’s a whole different lifestyle. Sometimes I have to look in the mirror and say, “You know how lucky you are?” It’s very difficult to differentiate portions of your day. It all kind of comes together – morning, lunch, afternoons, wine tasting, dinner and all of a sudden you go to bed. And the nice thing is that we have a wonderful form of diversity with our ability to spend a couple of nights a week in the city. That enables Gail to do the things she likes to do the city, and it enables me to handle some business and social situations because we are connected to the city and we always will be. It enables me to do UCSF business in the city as well because we’re strategically located at the Four Seasons and it’s very convenient for what we do. Plus, at the right time of year, it’s fun to go to Giants games. We walk there and walk home. We love restaurants, so a good deal of our planning for city stay involves which restaurants we want to go.
7 p.m. We love entertaining, so we’re either out every night or we have dinners at our house. I’d say we’re out six nights a week. We like a 7 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. reservation with cocktails, and preferably don’t start eating until 8:00 p.m. Some of those nights, we take the kids; some of the grandchildren have already mapped out their restaurants. One has Bistro Don Giovanni, one has Redd Wood. So it’s kind of fun. And I think it’s good to take them out young and early, get them used to dining out. I find that my days fly by every bit as fast in the lifestyle I’m involved in now as they did in the days when I was super busy. In the NFL days, you’re putting out fires every day. You’re dealing with serious matters that have to be dealt with in serious ways – financials, competitions, image of the team, marketing and player and community relations. But now, it’s so much simpler. Your decisions don’t have the impact that they used to. You’re basically dealing with a business that’s an extension of a lifestyle.
11 p.m. If I’m up at midnight, I feel like I used to when I was up at 4 a.m. If I’m out beyond 11:00 p.m., that’s a late night for me.