Perusing the cheese aisle of Carlino’s – one of my favorite local Italian Markets – I stopped dead in my tracks. My heart warmed, and tears nearly formed in my eyes. The item I sought – unknowingly on this particular visit – that was now staring back at me from the chilled cheese case was more than just any foodstuff. Within its aged crystals of lactose goodness there was history, culture, and most of all, family.

It was a hunk of mastorazio pecorino from Casa Madaio, a small cheese cave based near Salerno in Campania, in Southern Italy. That this hand-made pecorino is one of the finest specimens of the variety I’ve ever tasted is besides the point; you’ll obviously notice that I happen to share a cognome with this particular Italian azienda. Are we related? That I can’t say for sure, though I do know that the name Madaio is a relatively rare one, even in Italy, and my roots do run to Campania as well. The odds seem ever in our favor. And though I’ve been aware of them for some time now, this was the first time I’ve come across their products stateside. (It does look like they have launched an online shop – not sure if they ship to the USA.)

Cantine-Faliesi-TaurasiHaving secured my prized morsel, I of course needed some Campanian wine to match. Two current Chairman’s Selections fit the bill nicely:

Feudi di San Gregorio Lacryma Christi Rosso 2010 ($12.99)
My love for this DOC has been previously documented, so my local wine specialist describing this wine as “feral” only sealed the deal. It needs some time to open up – decanting is essential – but once it does, it is a beauty. The addition of some Aglianico adds heft to the typically lighter Piedirosso, though the classic violet and plum flavors are there. Smoke and tar also appear, as they should in any volcanic wine worth its lava.

Cantine Faliesi Vitis Aeclani Taurasi DOCG 2009 ($17.99)
Frank suggested I give this one a shot, and I’m sure glad he did. It’s a big, bold Taurasi and a bargain-bin price… Nose of earth and tar, with dark cherry and anise notes on the palate. The oak influence is minimal and well-balanced. Though Steve Pollack suggests this is for the collectors, for me it’s drinking great now and I see little reason to wait, especially at this price (though I agree it should be decanted).