Russell Nichols

Back Writer

Russell Nichols is a freelance writer who focuses on technology, culture and mental health. His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Governing Magazine and Government Technology

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Stuart Spencer is the owner of St. Amant Winery in Lodi. He and eleven other local winemakers have joined together to launch the Lodi Native Project, an effort to produce all-natural Zinfandels that highlight the truest flavors of Lodi’s oldest vineyards.

Going Native

A breakdown of the Lodi wine scene

Zinfandel from Lodi’s Mokelumne River American Viticultural Area comes in two main styles: west side and east side. West-side vineyards, with their shallower soil, have lusher growth and tend to be earthier or loamier, sometimes pungently compost-like. East-side vineyards have a lower water table, producing smaller clusters and smaller fruit, which generally have more color, tannin and acidity.

Dec 9, 2014 Russell Nichols
(Shutterstock)

Taste the Vineyard

Lodi vintners are taking a minimalist approach to create all-natural Zinfandels from heritage vines

You might say the old grapevines look otherworldly. With their contorted limbs and thick trunks, these Zinfandel vines look more like squat alien-trees, twisting up out of a sandy 3-acre spit of land in southwest Lodi. “Look how this vine is growing here,” says Stuart Spencer, owner of St. Amant Winery. He’s standing in the dirt at nearby Marian’s Vineyard, pointing to a vine with a hole as big as a fist. “The vine just splits over time.”

Dec 9, 2014 Russell Nichols
Illustrated by Zuza Hicks with elements from Shutterstock

On the Cover: Web of Thieves

Big-name cyberattacks make headlines, but smaller businesses have more to lose.

In cyberattacks against multimillion-dollar companies, computer criminals break in and steal personal information from millions of customers. Though there will be big losses and maybe a high-profile resignation, the reality is, these retail giants will live to sell another day. But the stories that won’t make the front pages involve the most frequent targets, whose survival isn’t guaranteed: small businesses.

Nov 18, 2014 Russell Nichols
(Illustrated by Zuza Hicks with elements from Shutterstock)

Bank Role

3 ways financial institutions can safeguard against cyberattacks

Compared to other industries, banks operate from a unique position, in that they have to focus intently on their own security, but also make sure their clients have the knowledge and tools to protect against computer criminals. Providing that protection usually comes down to a matter of security versus convenience.

Nov 13, 2014 Russell Nichols
Berryessa Brewing Co. is as much a community center as it is a taproom. Patrons can regularly find fresh produce for sale near the food truck and pickup Wiffle ball games.

Winters Brew

Berryessa Brewing Co. reaps the benefits of committed regulars but may soon face growing pains

On hot summer weekends, a 20-barrel brewery west of Winters overflows with patrons. They flood the taproom and crowd around shaded picnic tables, sipping beer while soaking in live music. A few kids play baseball in the gravel lot. Others pull wooden blocks from an oversized Jenga set by the food truck. Some are locals, but many come from Davis, Sacramento and beyond to get a taste of whatever Berryessa Brewing Co. has on tap for the week.

Oct 20, 2014 Russell Nichols
(shutterstock)

Homegrown for Your Smartphone

3 handy apps with local roots

For the past few years, Sacramento’s been trying to boost its tech cred. That’s not easy when you’ve got Silicon Valley for a neighbor, but one thing the Capital Region can boast is deep agricultural roots. These notable apps prove that innovation can be born right in our backyard. So if you want to support this region’s tech/food movement, be sure to buy local.*

(*The apps are free.)

Oct 15, 2014 Russell Nichols
(Zuza Hicks)

In the Dark?

6 steps to navigating Title 24’s new lighting standards

The updated Title 24 energy efficiency standards will greatly impact how property owners design, construct and renovate buildings. Bernie Kotlier, co-chair of the nonprofit California Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program, shares the best ways to navigate the changes:

Oct 9, 2014 Russell Nichols

Creative Spacing

4 factors to consider

VSP wanted The Shop in Midtown to be flexible, buildable and breakable, a learning space and a prototype in itself (form following function). With that in mind, architects put wheels on the tables and on corrugated cardboard walls to make everything portable and adaptable.

Sep 3, 2014 Russell Nichols
Ongoing drought conditions have cost rice farmer Mike DeWit 30 percent of his crop. He's not alone. This year, California's rice farmers will leave nearly 100,000 acres unplanted due to lack of water.

Of Rice and Men

On the Cover: Parched by years of drought, thousands of California’s rice fields lie barren

In the Sacramento Valley, where 97 percent of the state’s rice crop is grown, family farmers have been forced to fallow cropland they have worked for generations. The economic hit has been hard and true, affecting not just farmers, but seed distributors, equipment dealers and anyone else with a thumb in the rice business. The drought could cost Central Valley farmers and communities $1.7 billion this year and may lead to more than 14,500 layoffs.

Aug 19, 2014 Russell Nichols
Summer hops and amber malt

(shutterstock)

Go Brew Yourself

Video: How to make homemade beer away from home

The whole DIY video tutorial trend might be good if you want to concoct a hair conditioner with condiments, practice putting on lipstick with crayons or make pencils float in midair. But if you’re trying to brew your own beer at home, you’re going to need a bit more than a six-minute YouTube clip.

Aug 12, 2014 Russell Nichols

Tapped Out

Is Sac's craft beer bubble on the verge of bursting?

When downtown Sacramento’s Brew It Up poured its last beer in 2011, owner Michael Costello lost more than his business. “I lost everything,” he says. “Nobody really knows the whole breadth of it. It’s not an easy thing to go through.”

Jul 1, 2014 Russell Nichols
www.shutterstock.com

Relationship Troubles

Are state workers the best pick for upgrading California’s massive IT systems?

In 1984, California’s Department of Technology didn’t exist. Information technology consultants were rare, and there were fewer contractors involved in state services. For the most part, the state developed government systems with in-house resources. From development and analysis to budgeting and implementation, it was a full-service operation. 

That was then. 

May 1, 2014 Russell Nichols
O'Connor Woods in Stockton

Better With Age

Emerging trends offer senior living with style

Retirement communities are facing the challenges that come with catering to seniors in the 21st century. These consumers — and there are a lot of them — are demanding greater access to technology, life-long learning programs and attention to overall wellness.

Apr 1, 2014 Russell Nichols

Due or Die

Redevelopment agencies are ransoming their projects

If Gov. Jerry Brown had his way, the redevelopment agencies throughout California would be history. Not only would he demolish all of the nearly 400 active agencies, Brown would also use the billions they earn in property taxes to plug the state’s massive deficit and support schools and public safety services.

Nov 1, 2011 Russell Nichols

Character Building

Local development melds history with modern luxury

Three years ago a wrecking ball known as the subprime mortgage meltdown slammed into Sacramento’s real estate market, kicking up a dust cloud over the city’s urban development plans. But rather than dwell on the financial obscurity of the future, David Miry and Steve Lebastchi kept their eyes on the past.

Nov 1, 2011 Russell Nichols

Proper Precautions

Preparing for and responding to unpredictable disasters

The last sound anyone wants to hear is a firetruck siren. But last fall, that unsettling sound rang in the middle of the night as a three-alarm fire leaped from an apartment building in midtown Sacramento to the roof of J Street Recorders, home of the multiplatinum blues metal band Tesla.

Mar 1, 2011 Russell Nichols

Personal Training

Learning how to live independently

Somebody stole Derek Finstad’s backpack.

He left it in the locker room at a gym in Yuba City, where he works. But when he went to retrieve it, the backpack — with his keys, checkbook and other materials — was gone. Finstad wasn’t happy.

Dec 1, 2010 Russell Nichols