Tin Lizzie operates under federal regulation of the Treasury Department that permits adult citizens to make 100 gallons of tax-free wine a year, with a limit of 200 gallons per household containing two or more adults. Zuchero's business is categorized as a family beer and wine facility, not a winery.
"Whatever wine is made here is owned by others, with the exception of my personal stock," he explained. No wine can be sold on the premises.
"We're trying to expose people to the actual process of winemaking to defuse some of the mystique."
Terry Sullivan — a Columbia resident who co-writes books and a blog on wine and maintains the website winetrailtraveler.com with his wife, Kathy — said Zuchero is flexible about customers' needs and wants, which enhances the winemaking experience.
"The great thing about Dave is that he will let you get as involved or not involved as you want," said Sullivan, who prefers the former. "We've learned a lot about the process at Tin Lizzie, and not all places will let you do that."
Everyone is always pleasantly surprised by the fruits of their labors, Zuchero says, except for repeat customers, of course.
Jody Aud, who lives on the Howard County side of Mount Airy, is the president of a women's networking and wine-tasting group in the Washington area called Girls Who Swirl. GWS was Zuchero's first customer in September 2008, and the group returns each fall.
"I always think the women are going to get tired of it, but they never do," said Aud, noting the group's 20 members have gone from making one barrel their first year to making three. "We made a pinot grigio that was out of this world, and we have not been disappointed yet."
Tin Lizzie hosted a wine tasting Aug. 21 to help people decide if they'd like to make a blend, Zuchero said.
"We all ventured our opinions," he said of the wines served to the evening's dozen guests.
Raj Kathuria, owner of Bistro Blanc in Glenelg, attended the tasting.
"I love that place," said Kathuria, who sells Stagecoach Vineyard wines from California that cost between $150 and $400 a bottle at his restaurant's wine bar. "I've been a great proponent of Tin Lizzie since it opened. I've made malbec and chardonnay, and every year I make a cabernet from Stagecoach grapes — all for my personal use.
"To have your hands on the grapes is a lot of fun and the wine is absolutely good. For $30 to $35 you can make a quality wine that competes with what we sell."
It's important to remember that everybody's palates are different, Zuchero said.
"I try not to steer people in any one direction. That's the beauty of what I do," he said. "In my business model, I'm focused on the taste of the customer."