Get ready to go out and find Merkin Vineyards’ newly launched gelato wagon, wherever it may be.
Described as a farm-to-cone ethos, the wagon follows the mission of the rest of the Vineyards’ products: they grow and source almost everything locally to ensure that they can get as close as they can to deliver a 100 percent Arizona experience to the community.
While there are many locally owned businesses in the state that sell their own products, a company that tries to ensure every product is local isn’t so common.
This gelato wagon is headed by Arizona-based chef Kelley E. Foy, who used to own a restaurant in Cottonwood, where Maynard James Keenan, one of the owners of the vineyard and lead singer of the rock band Tool, was a friend and a regular. Once Foy sold her restaurant, Keenan asked her to join him.
“His mission is very similar — it’s almost identical — to my beliefs,” Foy said about Keenan regarding why the two work so well together. She knew that they could create something incredible, and something that she could be proud of by using local products.
Merkin Vineyards is very community-based in all of their products; a high percentage of their ingredients come from their own farms and orchards that employ local people and support Arizona’s agriculture, Foy explained.
“Gelato is no exception,” she said. They use local dairy and grow most of their own fruit in their greenhouses, gardens, and orchards. Foy is a big fan of gelato, and the idea of gelato and sorbet fit as an extension of the Vineyards Pizza Wagon. It was the perfect addition to the Italian food and wines they offer.
The wagon features unique flavors that are on rotation such as lavender malvasia made with malvasia grapes that are used in a lot of wines, lime basil, vanilla bean booze, and lemon cardamom. Foy also said that they like to put their own spin on traditional flavors. Of these, they have a mint chip with a crisp taste of fresh mint, and it isn’t green because there is no food coloring added. There is also a salted caramel cream which is creamier because it is made without eggs, and a pomegranate lemon sorbet made with their own grown pomegranates.
These unique flavors are seasonally inspired, as they try to incorporate what ingredients they are growing at the time and what they think is interesting and will peak customers’ interest
“The best part about [the wagon] is getting to work directly with the farmers,” Foy said. Their conversations dictate what she makes and how she experiments with flavors. It also dictates what they grow in the future, which Foy said makes making it “kind of endless.”
Foy describes herself as a “serial entrepreneur” because she is a creative person always looking for new opportunities. Her background working as a furniture designer for over 20 years, working with clay and steel and her newest title: chef, illustrates Foy’s interests in various areas.
“I don’t like having just one title; I like doing many things. Its made for a very enriching life,” Foy said.
She said this gelato wagon is one more creative endeavor, working within an organization of creative people making high-quality products that impact people’s lives. She’s excited about the gelato wagon because she thinks it’s a fun way to be out in the community again.
She wants people to enjoy their product and feel good and proud to serve it to their families. “It’s easy to sell something you’re proud of,” she continued. “It’s made from scratch and made with love from local ingredients. I feel like we have a really positive impact… it’s a really fun way to get our message out.”
“I’m happy to be part of such a great organization of creative and collaborative growers, farmers, and winemakers,” Foy said.
Arizona offers many food truck festivals where you can try to find the gelato wagon or something similar. The Street Eats Food Truck Festival will be on Feb. 8-9 and will feature over 55 food trucks of all different types of food. If you’d rather not wait that long, Civic Space Park holds Food Truck Friday every week with different vendors each time.
The gelato wagon has been to the Sedona Arts Fest and the Old Town Cottonwood Food Truck and Wine Fest. Be sure to check out the gelato wagon locator here to see where it will be headed next, or stop in to Four 8 Wineworks and the Puscifer Store both in Jerome, or the Merkin Vineyards location in Old Town Scottsdale to pick up a pre-packaged pint.