Steeles Tavern Manor and Alpine Hideaway Cottages

8400 North Lee Hwy, Steeles Tavern, Virginia 24476
Innkeeper(s): Melissa & Ray Alexander

Sunspots Studio – A Hot Shop in Historic Staunton Virginia 25 Mar 2015, 10:59 am

In the historic part of town in an area known as Staunton’s “Wharf District” is a corner shop where beautiful hand blown items are created. The shop is Sunspots Studio.

My best girlfriend, Cindy, came for a visit so we spent the day in Staunton and decided to see what was in Sunspots. Cindy, who lives in Pompano Beach Florida, and I have known each other since we were 3 years old and we have been on many adventures together. Sunspots was our first glass blowing experience.

As we walked through the front door, our eyes focused on the many glass pieces displayed everywhere. So we naturally did what normal girls do…begin to browse and shop around! Their glass gallery displays various glass creations made by regional artists. These pieces are one of a kind, made in here locally in Staunton VA!  Also in the gallery, we found other items available for sell made from local artists such as jewelry and handbags. A girl’s dream!

We eventually made our way into the glass blowing studio where a local artist was demonstrating his art of blowing glass. He began to explain how the glass was heated enough to be blown and how it gradually hardens as it loses its heat. The glass is heated in a furnace having temperatures up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. A separate heat box is used to keep the pipes hot in order to adhere to the glass so the artist can work to shape the pieces. It was great to chat with him to learn about this unique talent.

On Saturdays you can be an artist yourself and blow your own glass ornament with the assistance of the artist, of course. Cindy and I did a lot of glass breaking growing up but never glass blowing. So we were excited to attempt to make our special ornaments. You select a color for your new creation from pieces of glass. We both chose different shades of purple.

And away we went blowing our hot air into the blowpipe.


Viola!  Ornaments were created. It requires 24 hour to cool the ornament to room temperature in the special container called an Annealer so we picked them up the next day.

Every year, the Virginia Hot Glass Festival is held at Sunspots during the last weekend in April. The 2 day event (April 25 & 26) fills up two floors of their building with artists from around the region who are busy doing non-stop demostrations.  Besides glass demonstrations, Virginia Stone Carvers Guild will be there doing stone carvings. Plus Barren Ridge Vineyards will be on-site for wine tastings and selling wine by the glass. Even more reason to go!

Sunspots is a great “spot” to learn about glass blowing and shop for some local artisan goodies!

My finished ornament is displayed in our Social Room so come see it the next time you are here.

Melissa, Ray & Bacchus

The Month of April brings Virginia Garden Week to Staunton & Lexington 7 Mar 2015, 3:28 pm


The state of Virginia shows off the beauty of its spring gardens, flower arrangement displays and restored historic landmarks during one week in the Spring. Historic Virginia Garden Week dates back to 1927 when the first Garden Club of Virginia raised money to save several trees at Monticello which were planted by Thomas Jefferson. And the tradition continues as proceeds from Historic Garden Week go toward the restoration and preservation of Virginia’s historic public gardens. Several projects that benefitted our area occurred at Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton and Washington & Lee University in Lexington.

Our local Garden Clubs are hosting the 2015 Garden Week events in Staunton and Lexington on April 18 & 25.

STAUNTON (Augusta County)

April 18 10am-5pm. Hosted by the Augusta Garden Club.

This year’s tour is comprised of farms & estates that have connections to the area’s history. Speakers will be present to provide information on the agricultural usage of the land that supports the community. Also a boxed lunch will be available and music will be provided as part of the tour.

Pre-Garden Tour Party will be held on Friday April 17 5-7:30pm in the restored gardens of the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library. Enjoy appetizers, wine, local beer and music while strolling in the gardens.

LEXINGTON (Rockbridge County)

April 25 10am-5pm. Hosted by the Blue Ridge Garden Club.

Four restored homes and their gardens all located in historic downtown Lexington will be included in this tour. There will be an option to walk the ½ mile tour route or take a trolley ride to the garden locations. Tour includes a history of their restorations, history of Lexington and its quaint Main Street. Enjoy bluegrass music and lunch at great local restaurants. Stop in at the Visitor Center to sign up for a walking tour of the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery.

April showers bring May flowers (as the saying goes). But here in the Shenandoah Valley our flowers in the gardens will be blooming in April!  See it for yourself. We are located midway between Staunton and Lexington so decide which one you want to attend. We still have some room availability left.

See you soon!

Five things to do in March while visiting our slice of the Shenandoah Valley 25 Feb 2015, 1:22 pm

It has been a cold February across the country. Baby, it may be cold outside but it is a nice time to enjoy those indoor things. Get out of hibernation and visit us here in Steeles Tavern. And we have some great news. On March 20, Spring will arrive! Yes, we will have Spring this year. It has not been cancelled. So later in March you will be ready to get outdoors for some fresh air.  Here are some indoor & outdoor “THINGS” to do………….


Stay, Play, & Eat. Enjoy a Shakespearian play at the American Shakespeare Theater. Choose from one of the plays that are on the March schedule:  The Taming of the Shrew, The Rover, The White Devil, Every Man in His Humour, and Mother Bombie. There are great places in walking distance to eat before the show:  Zynodoa, Emilio’s, or Aioli’s.  Apre Show take a walk on Beverly Street to the Split Banana and enjoy a frozen dessert – Gelato or Sorbet. 


Take a self-guided Brewery Tour in Staunton.  Three breweries have opened tasting rooms in Staunton in the last few years.  Red Beard Brewery and Shenandoah Valley Brewing are located in downtown historic Staunton and Queen City Brewing sits just outside the downtown limits. Each have comfortable places to grab a pint of their beer.  After the tour is over, stop in at the Yelping Dog to continue sampling microbrew beers and have one of their delicious gourmet grill cheese sandwiches.


Sweet and Sticky.  Go to the annual Highland Maple Festival in Monterey VA.  It is Highland County’s 57th year in celebrating their maple syrup industry. This year’s event is held on 2 weekends – March 14-15 & March 21-22.   Monterey is refer to as Virginia’s “Little Switzerland” because of its high elevation in the Allegheny Mountains. Your travel time to Monterey from our location will be about an hour but you won’t be disappointed in the scenic drive through the Allegheny Mountains. It is worth the day trip.


Learn about one of our Civil War leaders – General Stonewall Jackson. In downtown Lexington, you can visit the Stonewall House (home of General Stonewall Jackson) and the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, where General Stonewall was laid to rest.  The Stonewall Jackson House, 8 East Washington Street, opens for the season on March 1.  While in downtown Lexington, have lunch at one of our local restaurants:  The Palms, Sweet Treats Bakery, Blue Sky Café, or Pure Eats.


Spring Drive in the Mountains.  View the gorgeous mountain views of the Blue Ridge or beautiful country side of the Valley right from the seat of your car.  Drive the Nelson Scenic Loop starting at the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Route 56 which is 6 miles from Steeles Tavern.  The “Loop” takes you through the Blue Ridge Mountains passing Crab Tree Falls. Turn left onto Route 151 through scenic Nelson County passing breweries, wineries, and a cidery. Make your third left at Devils Backbone Brewery (great place to stop for lunch!), and final left onto the Blue Ridge Parkway taking in all the scenic overlooks. Spring will show some beautiful colors! Then when you reach Milepost 27, you are back at the intersection where you started!

When you are done doing with one of these THINGS, come back for Social Hour because we would love to hear about your adventure!

Spring forward and see you in March!

Melissa, Ray and Bacchus

Virginia – Birthplace of our US Presidents 16 Feb 2015, 12:39 pm

Today is President’s Day.  My blog is in honor of our nation’s Virginia born presidents.

George Washington would be 283 years old on Sunday February 22.  And did you know our first president was born in Virginia along with 7 other US Presidents: Thomas Jefferson (3rd US President), James Madison (4th US President), James Monroe (5th US President), William Henry Harrison (9th US President), John Taylor (10th US President), Zachary Taylor (12th US President), and Woodrow Wilson (28th US President)?

While staying at Steeles Tavern, reunite yourselves in our American History.

Enjoy a day trip to Charlottesville which is about 1 hour away to visit the homes of Thomas Jefferson (Monticello) and James Monroe (Ash Lawn Highland).  Michie Tavern is a great place to have lunch where you will enjoy a Southern buffet lunch.  Before leaving stop by Jefferson Vineyards. It is family owned winery located where Thomas Jefferson first began the American wine revolution.

The Natural Bridge, once owned by Thomas Jefferson, is a Natural Historic landmark that is located 30 miles south of us.  You can walk under the massive Bridge’s archway. Look for George Washington’s initials that are carved into the rocks under the bridge.

Spend an afternoon in Staunton (20 miles north of us) where President Woodrow Wilson was born.  Take a self-guided tour through the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum located in Staunton’s historic district.

Book a Reservation and take in the history of some of our great US Presidents.

See you soon!

Melissa, Ray, & Bacchus

Two reasons why Mardi Gras is special to Steeles Tavern Manor 12 Feb 2015, 8:10 am

Ray and I always enjoyed the Louisiana style cooking.  We have visited New Orleans and enjoyed the delicious food, historic sites, and wonderful jazz music.  As Mardi Gras is approaching, we are lucky to have the wonderful New Orleans style food choices on Mill Street Grill’s (located in Staunton) daily specials menu.  Mill Street runs these daily Cajun and creole style features for 2 weeks prior to Fat Tuesday.  The restaurant itself is decorated this time of year with Mardi Gras décor.  You would think it is Christmas but in green and purple.  And beads, beads, beads everywhere.  We try to sample the menu items at least 3 times during these festive weeks.

Well, that is our first reason why we like Mardi Gras.  But the second, and most important reason, is our Bacchus.

On March 28, 2014, Bacchus, our black lab mix, arrived from a 2 day trip with other rescue dogs from Monroe, Louisiana.  As we were scrolling through pictures of black labs on Bonnie Blue’s Rescue site, we first noticed his name – Bacchus.  How appropriate would this be to have a dog named after the Greek God of Wine that lived at our Inn! Then we saw his picture and immediately fell in love.  We learned to discover that he wasn’t named after the God of Wine but named after one of the New Orleans Krewes.  If you were like me (being from the North or from Pittsburgh), I thought what is a Krewe?   A krewe is an organization of people that host a Mardi Gras ball, ride on a Mardi Gras parade float, and participate in social events throughout the year.  Basically, they have fun!

 BACCHUS is considered to be one of the “Super Krewes” of the Carnival having gigantic floats and a Hollywood celebrity. Its King, who dresses as Bacchus, the Greek God of Wine, is always a well-known personality…Danny Kaye being the first King.   This year the parade is being held on Sunday February 15.  And I can’t seem to find who will be this year’s king so it must be a surprise!  Also I read where the Bacchus Krewe has often been known to break with tradition during the Carnival in order to create excitement among the crowd.  We hope that our Bacchus’s behavior doesn’t follow these traits!  So far, he has been the joy of Steeles Tavern Manor!

Enjoy Fat Tuesday and Mardi Gras.  Ray and I will be eating Jambalaya and playing with Bacchus.


Melissa, Ray, & Bacchus

What does LOCAL really mean? 2 Feb 2015, 10:35 am

One definition of LOCAL is something nearby or in the immediate area.  It seems like LOCAL is the new buzz word especially in the food and beverage business. Even Google uses LOCAL to help you find places.

Lexington Visitor Center held a “Farm To Table” event in January called Love At First Bite.  Farm to table means restaurants, schools or B&B’s buy directly from the producers.  The event’s purpose was to connect restaurateurs, schools & innkeepers with those who produce or grow local food, food products, wines, and beers. “Local” educators provided sessions on food safety & regulations and organic vs local (Virginia Tech), and insurance and liability (Virginia Farm Bureau).  The best part of the event was the networking session where I met many “local” growers and producers.

In our session, “local” was defined as shortening the chain of supply between the producer and the consumer.  I also learned that the 2008 Farm Act defined “local” as the end-point purchase is within 400 miles from its origin. People in the room were stunned to hear such distance associated with the word “local”.  And so was I.  We also learned that using local and knowing your farmer is more important in our area and as well as in the South than using certified organic products.

Since moving here 3 years ago, I have discovered this little piece of heaven where there is so much “local” around me.  I am still finding these wonders that surround me so I try to use local products whenever I can.

Our sausages & cheese come from Mountain View Farms. We purchase some of our flour mixes (muffins, pancakes, spoon bread, and beer bread) from Wades Mill.  Our bacon is from Buffalo Creek Farm as well as the steak in the Grill Your Own Steak package.  Honey is found at a small farm, Henderson’s, which is down the road from us. This year we will be purchasing eggs from Henderson’s.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are purchased from Henderson’s and at the Lexington farmers market in season.

And, of course, at our evening Social Hour we serve local wines from Rockbridge Vineyards, Barren Ridge Vineyards, and Lovingston.  Devils Backbone, Blue Lab, Starr Hill, and 3 Brothers are the local microbrews we have on hand.  And also Hard Cider from Bold Rock Cidery.

I will soon be using all local products in our Celebration Package:  Rockbridge Vineyards wine, Simply Cheddar Cheese Ball from Waynesboro, and new to be added is the chocolates from The Cocoa Mill in Lexington.  It was nice to meet Laura, co-owner of the Cocoa Mill, at the event where she introduced me to her fine chocolates.

And since “local” is defined as 400 miles between producer and consumer, the cinnamon swirl bread used in our French toast is from our “local” bakery in Pittsburgh, PA!

There are a few more folks that I connected with at the Love at First Bite Event so stay tuned to hear more “local” products to be added at Steeles Tavern Manor & Alpine Hideaway Cottages.

Stay & enjoy Local!

Melissa, Ray & Bacchus

5 things to do in the month of February while staying in Steeles Tavern VA? 25 Jan 2015, 3:33 pm

What is there to do and see in the Shenandoah Valley while staying in Steeles Tavern VA?

Here are 5 things we suggest while visiting Steeles Tavern Manor and Alpine Hideaway Cottages in the month of February.


Get into Culture.  Enjoy a Shakespearian play at the American Shakespeare Theater, a cultural center in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley.  Here’s what playing in February.… The Taming of the Shrew, The Rover, The White Devil, and Every Man in His Humour. Have an early dinner at a nearby restaurant on Beverly Street and after the show enjoy a Gelato at the Split Banana.


Think wine.  Wineries in our area are open year round.  Visit Barren Ridge Vineyards on Saturday January 31 for their Swedish Fire Festival.  The event includes wine pairing with a Swedish smorgasbord, live music and dancing under the stars in their new enclosed patio.  Also, every 3rd Friday, Barren Ridge hosts Sunsets at the Vineyard. On Friday February 20, enjoy an evening of live music from 7 till 10, with dinner available for purchase. These fun events cost only $10 per person.


Shopping and Sight-seeing.  We are centrally located between two of the best small towns in America – Staunton and Lexington.  Discover Staunton (pronounced STAN-ton), with its quaint shops, antique stores, locally owned coffee shops & restaurants lining Beverly Street.   Lexington is preserved with its history. Visit Lexington’s historic museums, gravesites of General Stonewall Jackson and General Robert E. Lee, stroll along Main Street working your way through the cute shops, galleries, and local restaurants. Sample local cheese, do a coffee tasting, and stop by The Cocoa Mill for some delicious homemade chocolates.  Spend one day browsing in Staunton and the next day exploring Lexington.  Each town will bring a smile to your face.


Think wine again.  On Saturday February 21, it is the annual Winter Wine Festival at Staunton’s Stonewall Jackson Hotel. Taste over a dozen Virginia wines and ciders and sample local artisan fare.  This is a great indoor event!


Be a History Buff.  As you approach historic downtown Lexington, you first drive through the impressive campus buildings of Virginia Military Institute (VMI). Contact the school to arrange for a tour of VMI with a cadet as your guide. While on campus, visit the VMI Museum where General Stonewall Jackson’s uniform and horse are displayed and the George C. Marshall museum. Next you’ll pass the stately southern architectural buildings of Washington & Lee University (W&L).  W&L, named after George Washington and Robert E. Lee, is the 9th oldest institute of higher learning in the nation. It is home to the Lee Chapel and Museum where General Lee and his horse, Traveller, are buried.  In downtown Lexington, you can visit the Stonewall House (home of General Stonewall Jackson) and the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery, where General Stonewall was laid to rest.

Stay with us and we can help plan your activities!

See you soon.

Ray, Melissa, and Bacchus

Christmas Traditions 24 Dec 2014, 1:17 pm

It’s Christmas Eve!

This is my favorite day of the year.  It’s our biggest family tradition day of the year and my favorite.  The Feast of the Seven Fishes.    Our Italian heritage celebrates this feast.  My mom was born in Italy and celebrated this feast as far back as she remembers.  She continued the celebration all through her years making the feast for our family and my godmother’s family each and every Christmas Eve.  It wasn’t unusual to have 20 people around the dinner table passing around the seafood specialties.  And there were always left overs to eat the following week.  As I am writing this blog, she is making the anchovy sauce and clam sauce, cleaning the smelts, and preparing the calamari, flounder, and tilapia.  My godmother will bring the jumbo shrimp and my niece (it was my duty in the past) will prepare the crab appetizer. OOPS, that is eight fishes.  You can prepare more than seven dishes but you need to eat seven.

What is the Feast of the Seven Fishes?

The tradition started when Catholics fasted to anticipate the birth of baby Jesus on Christmas Day. The fast would end when they received Holy Communion during Midnight Mass.  Fasting as a Catholic meant refraining from eating meat, therefore fish would be consumed typically fried in oil.  And it is not known where the seven came from. Most believe it is due to the number 7 being the most repeated number in the Bible.  But for most Italians, the main point of the meal is to gather family and friends and enjoy good food and wine.

Since I am not back home in Pennsylvania for Christmas Eve, I will carry on the tradition here with Ray.  My anchovy and clam sauces are simmering on the stove.  We will start with shrimp cocktail and fried calamari, then feast on smelts, crab cakes, and tilapia. Only 2 people will be at the table but it is our new tradition.

What is your tradition? If you don’t have one, then you should gather the family together and decide what it should be.  It is the time of year to spend with family & friends, enjoy good food, and create memories and traditions that last a life time.

Happy memories!

“BLACK” FRIDAY – Get ready to shop for the 2014 Holiday Season! 19 Nov 2014, 9:32 am

It is the buzz word for the biggest and busiest shopping day of the year with the best prices and wildest crowds.

It originated as being the day after Thanksgiving, kicking off the holiday shopping season, and “the” day to find the best deals in town. For retailers, it became the point at which they begin to turn a profit, or “in the black”.   Hence, the name “Black Friday”.

In the “old” day, we couldn’t wait until the extra thick newspaper was delivered on Thanksgiving morning and could pull out the store’s ads which listed their Friday only deals. We would scan the ads searching for the deals.  After our Thanksgiving dinner, we would circle the items we wanted to buy and list stores that we wanted to visit. Then we would map out our plan of attack charting the sequence of travel to the stores to get the best deals.  The stores would open “early” like 6:00am.

Now things have changed. Black Friday ads are exposed online weeks before the date. Smart phone apps are available to help in the search of bargains. Text messages can be sent to your phone to indicate new or updated sale items. Black Friday sales now start early on Thanksgiving Day and extend throughout the Black Friday weekend and into Cyber Monday.  And you don’t even need to leave your house in the wee hours to get a deal. You can make purchases online!

I admit that I do review the ads prior to Thanksgiving and download an app or two to search around for deals. And I love to buy online if I can get the deal rather than fighting the crowds. But I am not a fan of shopping on Thanksgiving day.  Thanksgiving remains a day to give thanks and share with family and friends (and guests!). I can wait until Black Friday to shop.  And I still go out on Black Friday and search for the deals even if I don’t need them!


Steeles Tavern Manor & Alpine Hideaway Cottages are jumping on the band wagon and offering a Black Friday deal, too.  Make a reservation on Black Friday (November 28, 2014) for a future stay with us and receive 10% off the lodging price.  You can make the reservation online via our website or by simply giving us a call.  The stay can be any dates in the future (2014 or 2015) and good for either the Inn or Cottages.

So make a reservation on Black Friday and stay with us whenever you choose!

See you soon!

Ray, Melissa, and Bacchus


Holiday Fun – Take a Cooking Class at Wade’s Mill 12 Nov 2014, 1:59 pm

Preparing for a Thanksgiving Feast? Or thinking what to prepare for Christmas dinner?

Holidays are fast approaching. It is the time of year to spend with family & friends, enjoy good food, and create memories and traditions that last a life time.

So if you are entertaining this holiday and want to serve something special and different, then consider taking a cooking class from our friend and neighbor, Georgie Young at Wade’s Mill in Raphine.  These hands-on classes are held in “Georgie’s kitchen” at the Mill.  Class attendees prepare the food (under Georgie’s guidance of course!) and then enjoy the meal together.  Sometimes Georgie has a guest chef teaching the class.  I took 4 classes last year – Georgie’s Bread making class, Pastry class taught by Brigita Simanis, pastry chef from the Southern Inn Restaurant, Holiday Specialties which we learned how to create some great Holiday table arrangements and prepare some special treats, and lastly, the Holiday Dinner class which included wine pairing with the fabulous Rockbridge wines.  The classes are so much fun plus you learn different things, meet new people, and enjoy a great meal!  And you get all the recipes too!

Not everyone is the expert chef in a kitchen, but with a little know-how from Virginia’s local experts, we can certainly learn!

Take note of these special cooking classes and seminars to make your Thanksgiving, Christmas and the holidays a bit more meaningful. Classes will be either lunch (starting at 10am) or dinner classes (starting at 3pm).

Chocolate Delights with Tad Van Leer – Learn how to make chocolates and truffles which you will enjoy after a dinner with Rockbridge wine tastings.  November 15  3pm – $50 class & dinner

Thanksgiving Leftovers - Once you’re past Thanksgiving, someone has to do something with the leftovers? November 21 10am – $30 class & lunch

Holiday Specialties – Great table decorating tips from Shirley LaCroix, expert gardener and preparing Christmas Treats taught by Georgie, herself!  December 1  10am – $50 class and lunch

Mike Lund’s Holiday Feast – Dinner prepared by Mike Lund, owner of Mike Lund’s Foods in Staunton and former owner of Zynodoa. Mike will use local products and his dinner will be paired with the great wines of Rockbridge vineyard!  December 6  6pm – $50 no class

Christmas in the South – The class will prepare a Southern Holiday meal. December 13 10am – $30 class and lunch

It is a short ride to Wade’s Mill from Steeles Tavern. So stay with us and learn to make some wonderful meals that will “wow” your family and friends!


Ray, Melissa, and Bacchus

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