Joe Semanski is the owner and winemaker of Red Horse Winery and Distillery. Joe is one of the first friends, true friends, that I ever made in the legal distillation industry as he came to tour Copper and Kings in the early days. Joe is an excellent winemaker and no doubt will make fantastic spirits with an eye to quality. If you find yourself up Ohio way stop in and try his wines and spirits!
Joe, tell us a little about your background prior to entering the wine business, what inspired you to enter the wine business?
My background is a bit different than most. I have had a great opportunity to do many things in my life from being a Union Musician to drag racing and stock car racing to training Show Horses. I’m a very competitive person. I also sold fresh produce for 26 years. Having worked for Bob Castellini for several years in the produce industry I learned a lot about how to be successful in business, and yes long hours a determination certainly help !!
Your family has Hungarian roots tied into winemaking in that country and I know you spent some time working the vineyards there growing up, can you talk a little about your families history of wine making and are there any lessons from that time that you still apply to your production methods today?
As a home wine maker, and having helped my relatives in Hungary I learned a lot from my Dads Uncle in Cegled, Hungary that really helped me produce many of my Award Winning wines. They also would take some of the wines they produced and cooked them down into brandy and liqueurs. While visiting I would help pick cherries or grapes or plums to be fermented for wine. My Dads side of the family has been making wine for over 100 years. And the only oak wine barrels we use at the Red Horse Winery is Hungarian Oak from Zemplen.
You have found extreme success with your Bob Golic blackberry wine, how did that project come about and has it opened some new doors for you?
The Bob Golic project launched 2 years ago in 2015. Bob loved the taste of this 100% fruit wine and we decide to put his name on the bottle. When he found out we had changed the label to include his name he was floored but very excited. That Blackberry Wine won Concordance Gold in Ohio, all 9 Judges picked it as number 1 in the state of Ohio Commercial Winery competition. It has also won “Double-Gold” in Fingerlakes, Indianapolis and Florida
What brought you to expand your business into the realm of distillation? Is there distillation in your family background as well?
. Not only was my family into wine making, they were also into distillation even during the depression here in Ohio. For a business to continue growth and success you have to invision other operations that will bring growth so we decided to add the Red Horse Distillery to the program. It took 18 months for us the get our Federal DSP permit and another 7 weeks to get our Ohio Distillery Permit
What kind of distillation equipment are you using? Pot stills or columns Ect. What type of products are you planning to produce, what would you like your distillery to be known for? Being a winery do you plan to make brandy as well? What kind of crossover are you seeing from being a winemaker to transitioning to a distiller? Any particular favorite yeasts or methodologies that crossover?
We have both pot stills and column stills in our operation. We’re planning on producing, Moonshine, Bourbon, Rum, Agave Spirits, Vodka and Brandy. Hopefully we’ll be known for our Rum, Agave Spirits and of course Fruit Brandy. I think being a winemaker gives me a good leg up when it comes to the fermentation part of distilling. Our business has had an average increase of growth of around 30% each year since Feb 7th., 2009.