About Hugging Tree Winery

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 a family-operated estate winery that includes daughter Jennifer and sons Brad and Wes.


Walter, who was born in Vancouver in 1953, joined the RCMP in 1975. His wife Cristine, whom he had met in high school in Surrey, joined the force soon after. At the time of their retirement, Walter was the staff sergeant in charge of the South Okanagan and Cristine, who joined the RCMP in 1990 (and who had previously run the Keremeos detachment), retired in 2013 as a sergeant posted at the Vancouver headquarters.



Their interest in wine burgeoned after they were posted to Oliver in 1993. Walter says “the bug” was put in his ear by Randy Toor, one of the owners of Desert Hills Estate Winery and then an auxiliary RCMP constable. “He was just getting into grape growing and he said, ‘Walt, you should buy a vineyard’,” Walter remembers. A volunteer spot at a winery during a wine festival motivated him even further. “…”



Their search for a vineyard ended when George Hanson, the owner of Seven hugging-tree-winery-slide-5Stones Winery, directed them to a 24-hectare (60-acre) property located almost across the highway from Seven Stones. Half of the property was orchard; the other half was raw land. DSC_0958_B_resize(A pair of entangled willow trees on the lawn inspired the winery’s name.) Walter planted grapes on the second half in 2007 and 2008 and now has an eight-hectare (20-acre) vineyard, all of it in Bordeaux reds except for a modest block of Viognier. Syrah planted unsuccessfully on another four hectares (10 acres) was removed, making room for a white varietal in future, as well as for a winery cellar.


Walter contracted Serendipity Winery to make the wines in 2011 (50 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon) and in 2012 (1,400 cases). Both Walter and Brad, his son, have taken viticulture and winemaking courses at Okanagan College. Brad is the emerging winemaker, a career choice flowing from the family’s roots decision. Brad was a professional snowboarder, rock musician and bartender in Whistler until he decided to move to the farm. “I wanted to support my dad’s dreams,” Brad says. “And when I spent time here, I got addicted to the lifestyle and the valley and the beauty.”


Excerpt from John Schreiner, Canada’s most prolific writer of books on wine. Full review here



Hugging Tree Winery is a proud member

“Recently named by enRoute Magazine as “one of the world’s 5 best wine regions you’ve never heard of,” the Similkameen wineries are starting to get some of the attention they deserve. This little patch of vineyards and orchards in the hot, dry and sunny Similkameen Valley is turning out some stunning grape and fruit wines. Set amongst the dramatic backdrop of craggy mountains, it is not surprising that wine lovers are starting to take notice.”
– Excerpt from Similkameen Wineries Association