Nearby Maryland offers a premier “make your own wine” facility.
You’ve certainly tasted great wine, and may even have a cellar filled with favorite vintages, but have you ever thought about making your own premium wine? Dave Zuchero, the head winemaker and instructor of Tin Lizzie Wineworks can lead you through the process at his internationally-acclaimed “make your own wine” facility in Clarksville, Maryland.
You don’t have to own the equipment or even know how to make wine. Zuchero uses his knowledge and guidance to help you create a personal vintage. You’ll experience every step of winemaking in just four one-hour, hands-on sessions spanning a full year.
- Session One: Crush. The grapes arrive in the fall and you de-stem and crush using the motorized machinery. You’ll test and adjust the must and add yeast to begin fermentation.
- Session Two: Press. About seven days later, fermentation is almost complete. You’ll use the wine press to separate the wine from the grape skins, and transfer the wine to French or American Oak barrels, which are placed in the climate-controlled barrel room for aging.
- Session Three: Taste. Four months later, you return to taste your wine in a festive group tasting. Share it with others if you’d like.
- Session Four: Bottle. Almost year after you begin, you return to bottle, cork and capsule your wine and affix your custom labels. Provide your own labels, or let Tin Lizzie help design them.
Select Your Quality Level by the Grape
“We offer three levels of grapes: premium, super premium, and ultra premium—or good, better, best,” Zuchero described. “Premium grapes are sourced from a central California valley where many of our fruits and vegetables come from. They make a nice table wine perfect for pizza or pasta. Think Gallo,” he added.
Super premium grapes are sourced from some of the more well-known California grape growing regions like Paso Robles, Amador, and the Sierra Foothills, directly from the farmers who grow grapes and make wine, rather than the giant companies. These grapes provide a fuller-bodied wine with more flavor and color.
For the ultra premium grapes, Zuchero leases blocks of vines in famous Napa Valley vineyards and works closely with growers. “My son is a winemaker in the Napa Valley and goes into the fields for us, starting around the end of August,” Zuchero said. “He’ll check the grapes, taste them, and report back to us about ripeness and when they’re ready to pick. Once we pick, the grapes are delivered here in small bins on refrigerated trucks within four days.”
Although they’ll make whatever the client wants to make, Cabernets and Cabernet blends are their wheelhouse. Client favorites include Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Malbec styles.
Sign Up Now for This Year’s Winemaking Sessions
Since grapes are harvested in the fall, now is the time to sign up at Tin Lizzie Wineworks to reserve your spot, since capacity is limited. You’ll begin by talking with Zuchero about the type of wine you’re interested in making, and under his guidance, choose the grapes, the volume and the nature of your wine. Tin Lizzie holds small tastings throughout the summer to help you get a feel for what you like. The minimum amount is 60 bottles, or a quarter barrel. However, some winemakers choose to share a barrel.
Zuchero’s interest in winemaking comes down through generations, hailing back to Italy. “My dad made wine all my life and I helped him as a kid.” (See his grandfather’s 100-year-old wine press in the facility’s annex!) Zuchero earned a degree in microbiology and in the early 2000s took courses at UC Davis to earn his winemaking certificate. He also holds a Master’s degree in scientific and medical writing and a law degree from the University of Maryland, and worked a number of years as a medical writer and regulatory affairs consultant in the pharmaceutical industry prior to opening Tin Lizzie Wineworks in 2008.
The question Zuchero gets most often when people call to inquire about winemaking is whether they can make their own wine brand. They want to make a wine and sell it, he says. Tin Lizzie does not have a license to do that. Under Federal law, “It is permitted for any person to manufacture beer or wine at his residence or at a gourmet brewing shop for domestic consumption, but not to sell, distribute, or give away such beer or wine…” People are allowed to make up to 100 gallons of wine per individual or 200 per household. “A typical barrel holds up to 276 bottles, or 53 to 59 gallons,” Zuchero estimates. “100 gallons is approximately two barrels.”
Zuchero’s Own Ultra Premium Wines
Zuchero and his son Matt established their own brand of ultra premium wines under the name of ZSquared LLC to honor their four generations of winemakers. Dave Zuchero truly has a talent for create great, award-winning wines and hopes to make them available to the public in 2024.
If you’ve ever wanted to try making wines, give Tin Lizzie Wineworks a call. You’ll have a great experience, learn about wine, and take home bottles to enjoy for years.
Photo at top courtesy of Tin Lizzie Wineworks
Tin Lizzie Wineworks