Profile series: Innovators in the low/no alcohol industry

My Drynuary: 'My goal as a winemaker is to create wines that make consumers feel there is a product that was made just for them'

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Jessica Tomei leads winemaking at Cupcake Lighthearted
Jessica Tomei leads winemaking at Cupcake Lighthearted

Related tags My Drynuary Dry January alcohol-free NABLAB Wine low alcohol low ABV

California’s lower alcohol Cupcake Lighthearted wines (8% ABV) were inspired by winemaker Jessica Tomei, who craved a lighter option to fit in with her active lifestyle. In this series profiling brands in the low/no alcohol industry, we talk to Tomei about what a typical day looks like for her.

Cupcake Lighthearted wines are described as lower calorie (80 calories per 5oz serving, 20% less than leading hard seltzers); lower alcohol (8% ABV, which is 33% less than traditional wine); and 1g sugar (less than hard seltzer).

The brand, which launched in 2008, is part of California’s The Wine Group, where Tomei is Winemaking Vice President.

Introduce us Cupcake Lighthearted!

Cupcake Lighthearted brings the perfect dose of joy to every occasion. We truly want you to have your cake and eat it too - because we know that you deserve to have it all.

That’s why we’ve crafted the perfect portfolio of wines that are full of flavor but lower in calories, sugar and alcohol. That’s 80 calories, 8% ABV and <1g of sugar for every 5oz. serving, to be exact. Everything you want, none of what you don’t. We believe that happy is healthy. That food, fitness and focus should be fun. That balance + moderation are defined by you, and only you.

The Lighthearted name was inspired by our desire to bring you lighthearted moments, made better for you, so you can choose more joy, occasions, and refills without sacrificing a single thing. We’ll cheers to that!

Your products are ‘lower in alcohol, calories and sugar’. Which of these do you think is the most important selling point for consumers?

Cupcake Lighthearted is lower in calories, alcohol, and sugar in comparison to other BFY [better-for-you] offerings in market. Being lower in alcohol and lower in calories is very important to us as we pride ourselves in maintaining the same great flavor profile that you look for in a traditional wine while also helping you achieve your goals of being more balanced in your lifestyle.

Why is 8% ABV is the sweet spot for a lower alcohol wine? And what can we expect from this drinking experience?

8% ABV supports the winemaking process that allows Cupcake Lighthearted to be lower in alcohol, sugars and calories, without compromising the delicious flavor profile of the wine.

cupcake lighthearted portfolio

Cupcake Lighthearted portfolio includes Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Rosé.

Our Pinot Grigio has refreshing citrus aromatics with a bright, crisp flavor of lemon and honey.

Chardonnay is medium-bodied with flavors of pineapple and ripe pear and subtle notes of toasted oak and vanilla on the finish.

Our refreshing Sauvignon Blanc is bursting with flavors of stone fruit and vibrant notes of fresh citrus, lime, and apricot.

Cupcake Lighthearted Pinot Noir offers all the notes of plum, cherry and strawberry that we love.

If you prefer a lighthearted Rosé, pour yourself a glass of ours and you’ll be met with fresh grapefruit and bright watermelon with a long and silky finish.

Cupcake Lighthearted offers all the taste with a lower ABV and lower calories to support your goals in living a more balanced lifestyle.

What does your job involve? 

My day-to-day responsibilities vary depending on the season, which rotates around Harvest. Every season presents new challenges and opportunities which is part of the reason why I love what I do, no day is the same!

A typical day during harvest will start in the vineyard. I meet with my team to check on the grape ripening development. The quality of our wine is defined by the quality of our grapes and therefore, my team and I find it crucial to be out in the vineyards every day.

Our goal is to harvest at the appropriate time, as this will lead to our grapes being perfect for all of our products!

We then drive over to the winery to check on fermentations and ensure the process is moving along as expected. At the end of the day, the team and I regroup to discuss any challenges we are facing and celebrate our wins.

During the off-harvest season, we are taking the grapes from our harvest and creating new blends to fulfill any new projects we may have as well as bottling the many existing brands that The Wine Group has.

What inspires you on your low/no alcohol journey?

My own lifestyle really inspired me in the creation of Cupcake Lighthearted. My goal as a winemaker is to create wines that delight the customer by over-delivering on taste expectations and make them feel like there is a product that was made just for them.

I have always been an avid fitness lover (fun fact that I paid my way through college teaching aerobics - step and hip hop - and even taught aerobics when I lived in Spain). Leading a healthy lifestyle is important to me and wine in moderation is a part of that lifestyle. Everything is about balance and Cupcake Lighthearted is a great lower alcohol product that supports that!


Yesterday we talked to Paul Beavis, CEO of alcohol-free sparkling wine Wild Idol,​ on creating a premium alcohol-free sparkling wine brand stocked in Harrods, Hilton Hotels and Michelin restaurants.

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