In the Middle of Nowhere, Five Minutes from Everywhere
hey say a goal is a dream with a deadline. Christopher M. George had a dream of owning and living on a ranch, and he was anxious to check that goal off of his bucket list. Born and raised in Martinez, son of schoolteachers and brother to five, Chris dreamt of one day owning a piece of the American dream, a sprawling property hidden away in the golden hills of Northern California. The kind of place you could find some peace and quiet, possibly get lost, share stories with friends and enjoy a beverage or two around an open fire. After settling in Pleasanton, raising four boys with his wife and growing two successful businesses, Chris stumbled upon his future waiting for him in the hills of Fremont-Sunol. On it lays grassland tundra with hidden oak groves and spring-fed creeks, wild boar, mountain lions, coyote, turkey and deer as well as a panoramic view of San Francisco Bay. If it wasn’t heaven, it definitely shared the same zip code. Before long, Chris moved his family up to the ranch – in the middle of nowhere, five minutes from everywhere.
The Best Ideas Come from Inside of a Barn
Brewing beer had always fascinated Mark Flaherty. A do-it-yourselfer, business major and engineer by trade, Mark had always taken satisfaction in building, fixing, and improving most everything. While he understood the basics of brewing equipment, the process of transforming barley and hops into a drinkable product was a mystery to him. But a mystery he was determined to solve. His love for the Nor-Cal craft beer-making culture drove him onward and like many start-ups, with the support of his wife and children, began practicing the art of brewing out of Chris’s barn. (Picture Richard Dreyfuss with mashed potatoes in Close Encounters). It didn’t take long (or too many pints) before they set forth on a journey to create their very own craft beer to enjoy with friends and family. Through endless banter, along with abuse that only two friends would be able to heap on one another, their recipes began taking form. “We definitely had alcohol but getting the process just right required a lot of tasting,” describes Mark. “We like to think of this process as striving for perfection.” The 54 beer and wine taps at the bar represent not only the number of times they reinvented their process but also the amount consumed in frustration over failed attempts. “I would have preferred to continue to fail at getting it right, but my liver talked me out of it,” adds Chris.
If We Can’t Bring Everyone to the Ranch…
Initially the idea was to open something simple. But as they say, this led to that and sooner than the accountants could talk them out of it, Sunol Ridge Restaurant and Bar was born. The goal was simple: create an inviting place, with modern-rustic appeal, where a guest could select from the widest variety of craft beers and wines from the region, enjoy traditional American cuisine around a fire pit, private table or at the bar, and engage in conversation with others who enjoy the local culture as much as they themselves do. In other words, bring the ranch and all of its spirit to Walnut Creek.
There’s that moment when you know something amazing is about to happen. All your senses are heightened. Time seems to pause in anticipation. This is exactly what I feel at the ranch. Every single day. – CHRIS