By Robert Haas
Just after Christmas, Jason and I had the fun and honor to be invited to pour Tablas Creek for guests at the last 49ers game of the season. The sparkling new Levi's Stadium has built-in wine bars incorporated into their club boxes, and the team invites eight wineries each week to show their wines to the fans sitting in that section. We poured before the game and during the half, and were able to watch the 49ers win from one of the boxes, whose owners we'd met during the pouring. Yes, it was a down year for the Niners, but still, what a treat!
It is wonderful to see how the 49ers have built their connection to California's wine country, and how they celebrate it at the games. The program started, in a small way, with an invitation to the owner's box at Candlestick Park on the occasion of their first home game in the fall of 2002. We were thrilled that, way back then, Tablas Creek was the winery chosen to inaugurate the tradition. Over the next decade, a different winery was chosen to present its wines at each subsequent game.
On that first occasion, my wife Barbara and I (right, with team owner Dr. John York) joined Jason and his wife Meghan on the trip. We watched the game from the York family box and got to join a tour of the field where we watched for a few minutes from the sidelines. I strongly remember Terrell Owens catching a pass and heading my way with terrifying speed and power. I stepped way back. And oh yes, by the way, we met other invitees Senator Diane Feinstein, chef Thomas Keller, Mayor Willie Brown, running back Roger Craig, and baseball Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda who also dropped by. Quite a day, and a pleasure to get to spend some time with the 49ers owner, John York.
Last year, the 49ers commemorated Candlestick Park's final season with a "greatest hits" recap of the wineries who'd been invited over the previous decade. We were again honored to receive an invitation from Dr. York, and I made the trip up with Jason and Meghan, and their son Eli (right) to watch the team defeat the Arizona Cardinals.
Since the team's move to Levi's Stadium this year, the program has been expanded and acquired a name: Appellation 49. With eight wineries showing wines in the atrium at the club level, wineries get to meet several hundred fans at each game, and over the course of the season, owners of the boxes get to taste the wares of 80 different wineries. If they like something, they can order it from their box. A portion of the proceeds go to the 49ers Foundation, which does great work in the Bay Area community year-round. Different than before but still great fun, and probably more valuable promotion for us as a winery.
It's clear that this connection with the local wine community is something that the York family values and is looking to build. Any time they ask us to help with this particular bit of bridge-building, we're happy to oblige.