Hugging Tree in the South Similkameen Valley

Walter and Cristine Makepeace moved 13 times during their careers with the RCMP. In 2005, just before Walter retired from the force, they settled down in the South Similkameen Valley, buying a highway-side organic apple and peach orchard near Cawston where they could finally put down roots for themselves and for their three children. Nine years later, the property has blossomed into the family-operated Hugging Tree Estate Winery that includes daughter Jennifer and son’s Wes and Brad and Daughter-in-Law Tara.  Hugging Tree now produces about 2000 cases per year of BC wine with no current plans for expansion.


The vineyard is about 25 acres of a 68-acre property. The vines planted are Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. All of the vines were planted in 2007. All the Hugging Tree wines are made 100% from the estate grapes and processed on the property.


Bradley Makepeace was a bartender in some fine dining establishments in Whistler, BC where he discovered his passion for wine. When his parents purchased the property he attended Okanagan College taking viticulture and the assistant winemakers program. He also assisted in a partial crush at Burrowing Owl, as well as helping some Similkameen neighbour winemakers during crush and bottling.  See Bradley’s tasting notes below.

2016 Vintage

Bradley provided the following notes. The crush went well. The fruit was nice and clean. It felt good to not be so rushed as compared to the 2015 harvest. After the early bud break in spring and perfect warmth not exceeding a temperature that vines shut down and protect themselves in summer, the cool fall allowed for flavours to mature gracefully as the grapes got to hang late on the vines which should express itself nicely in the glass and bottle. We are releasing all of the next vintages in the spring this year. We have a single varietal Cabernet Sauvignon which is new to our portfolio. Something we are all excited about with this harvest is that there was a light peppering of Botrytis in the Viognier. We are looking forward to seeing what mother nature has to bring us in 2017!

The Wines

Hugging Tree Viognier 2014 A crisp and clean delight to the senses. It has a bouquet of citrus, green apple, honey, and hints of apricot. On the palate, you will find notes of pear, apricot, and lemon-lime, with a balanced finish. It is one of Hugging Tree’s  most popular wines.

Hugging Tree Telltale 2012  Merlot 48%, Cabernet Sauvignon 33%, Cabernet Franc 19%. To tell the tale of one’s terroir is a winemaker who is interested in his craft’s passion. To have the grapes grown here in the spectacular Similkameen Valley and to use them as my canvas to work with is a blessing beyond measure. Letting the expression of the grapes speak for themselves is both a balancing of every detail at every step, and having the knowledge and patience not to interfere when not necessary. This dynamic wine is my personal favourite with dark stone fruits and tobacco on the bouquet. The palate delights with earthy notes, cherries, and firm tannins. This will cellar well for a couple of years. If you don’t have that patience, let it breathe, and it will sing and express beautifully what our terroir has to offer when given the opportunity.

Hugging Tree Moonchild Merlot 2012  Well-deserved praise for the sun often over-shadows the effects that the moon has over our water for growing. The name is a nod of respect to the tides that influence the grapes, as well as a nod to my sister (Jenny-moon) and I who are both born under the moon signs Gemini and Cancer. Jenny’s palate is educated and I trust it as well as her opinion on all things wine. It was her who influenced me to add a touch of Syrah to this Merlot, which lends it some exciting spicy notes. This is my beloved wife Tara’s favourite to sip. Look for black forest cake on the bouquet (mocha, vanilla, and chocolate cherries), accompanied by dark plum and violets. The palate has notes of dark fruit cassis and some firm tannins.

For the complete selection of Hugging Tree’s BC wines, please go to the winery website.

Source: Background, photos and tasting notes from the winery website.