An Unlikely Return to Her Roots for Elena Barber
Moldova, the birth country to Elena Barber, boasts more wines per capita than anywhere else in the world.
“Pretty much everybody in my country makes their own wine,” Elena, Assistant Vice President of Trade Sales for The Williamsburg Winery, reveals in her lovely Romanian accent. “My parents made a house wine every year. From the picking to the stomping of the grapes, I was part of all of it as a kid.”
Nonetheless, she had no intention of making a future in the industry. After earning an undergraduate degree in public law and an MBA from Grenoble Ecole de Management, Elena worked in the legal department of a human rights organization. Marriage brought her to the United States in 2006, where her focus turned to caring for her son, Chris.
Years later, after a divorce, friends introduced her to Matthew Meyer, head Winemaker at The Williamsburg Winery since 2002. They married in 2011, the same year she commenced employment there.
Elena typically promotes and places wines among a variety of restaurants in the commonwealth, particularly those that embrace the farm-to-table model. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she transitioned to working with grocery stores and other new distributors.
“Every day is different,” she stresses.
Elena’s unique perspective on wine stems from her roots. Winemaking dates back centuries in Moldova, a former part of the Soviet Union that achieved independence in 1991. By comparison, winemaking is in its infancy in Virginia.
“Virginia is still learning what works well, what grows well, what doesn’t do well,” she says. “At home they’ve been making wine for generations.”
Admittedly, Elena favors white wines with a particular affection for Albarino, distinguished by a burst of lemon to complement the citrus taste, and Petit Manseng, tropical with an aromatic honeysuckle and wildflower layer. Both pair well with oysters and other local seafood favorites.
When not working, Elena finds times to fish and bike and enjoys curling up with a good read. An avid European traveler, she hopes to visit more places within the United States, particularly Washington and Oregon. Along with Romanian, she speaks Russian and a bit of French.
Elena loves listening to people share stories about their own adventures.
“You meet a lot of interesting people when you work in food and wine industry,” she says. “That’s the main part of why I love what I do.”