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Spec's, Grapevine Market, Costco, Sam's Club


Kent Wang
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Has anyone been to Grapevine Market in Austin and can compare it to Spec's in Houston? I visited the Spec's on Bay Area Blvd. and found the wine selection comparable to Grapevine but the beer selection to be about half the size. I understand the Spec's on Smith St. is the biggest but have never been.

How are the prices at each of these stores? Costco often has very cheap prices on mainstream liquor, e.g. a 1.75L of Crown Royal is $42 vs. $48 at Grapevine and most liquor stores. I don't have a Sam's membership but I've been told that the Sam's Clubs in Houston carry some Texas wines at prices even lower than at the wineries themselves.

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Has anyone been to Grapevine Market in Austin and can compare it to Spec's in Houston? I visited the Spec's on Bay Area Blvd. and found the wine selection comparable to Grapevine but the beer selection to be about half the size. I understand the Spec's on Smith St. is the biggest but have never been.

How are the prices at each of these stores? Costco often has very cheap prices on mainstream liquor, e.g. a 1.75L of Crown Royal is $42 vs. $48 at Grapevine and most liquor stores. I don't have a Sam's membership but I've been told that the Sam's Clubs in Houston carry some Texas wines at prices even lower than at the wineries themselves.

Sorry never been to grapevine...

Spec's on smith st (wherever that is ...anyone knows??) is my next trip.

Wow!!!The costco i go to doens't carry any hard liquor.

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I've never noticed much of a price difference at CostCo with wines, even compared to Central Market, unless I'm just looking at the wrong ones.

Spec's, particularly on Smith Street, is a real must-go and does have great deals, particularly if you pay using cash or an ATM card.

However, I've not been to Grapevine.

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Have been to both, although it has been about two years since I went to Grapevine. Have to say Spec's is better than Grapevine in terms of selection and price.

That being said, I like the Grapevine store and concept. The focus on wines and food is comforting. It has a much broader selection than your typical wine shop with good information and help.

Spec's (the one on Smith) can be too large and overwhelming at times. However, the breadth of selection is impressive. Getting the right person to help you can be hit or miss. Bear always has a line of people wanting to talk to him. The only person I have learned to trust is Patrick, a UH student who still is excited about wines. The branch stores are poor imitations. Personally, I think they hurt Spec's reputation.

Two friends of mine swear that Houston Wine Merchant is the best wine store in Houston. I don't know because I have not been.

Lindsey

"As far as I'm concerned, bacon comes from a magical, happy place" Frank, John Doe

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Spec's on Smith claims to have over 10,000 different wines (unique wines, not individual bottles!) in stock at any given time. They claim to be the largest in the US. Yes, it helps to ask around for different wine guys - Bill & Joe have been good to me. They've been having wine tastings in store 1st Tuesday of each month, about 40 wines each night.

The deli is lots of fun as well.

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Spec's is my go-to place for anything that is hard to find. I have some wine-geek friends who long ago gave up lugging wine home from a trip. Before they do that, they call the Smith Street location and check. More often than not, they will have the product from that obscure little winery, and usually cheaper than they can get it on site.

I agree with LDLee. The Smith Street store is nothing like the neighborhood places. There are a few large and well stocked local stores but nothing like the main store on Smith. That one is a whole 'nother universe. This topic is from the 2004 Cheese Tasting but it will give you an idea of what I mean.

Spec's is in what we call Mid-Town, just a few blocks south of the downtown skyscraper district.

My sister is a long time customer of Richard's, also in Houston. They used to have a selection of their own label wines that were a very good deal. I haven't shopped there recently, though.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Going to Spec's is a holy pilgrimage for my out-of-town family. I used to live in Houston, just blocks from the Smith Street location and would shop there above Whole Foods or Central Market for wine and gourmet groceries. If you pay cash, you can't beat the prices.

I took my wine-geek dad to Whole Foods and Grapevine Market now that I'm living in Austin, and we were surprised to find WF's prices lower than GM. Overall, he was pretty disappointed with GM, though he still bought a case of wine. (My parents live in the midwest and load up while visiting me in Texas on stuff they can't get back home.)

Funny story about Spec's: my cousin (from small-town KS) and his three friends crashed my apartment in Houston last spring break, so I took them to Spec's for "supplies." My cousin walks in, all exicted, looking around like a kid at Disney World. He keeps walking and smiling until he realizes how totally enormous that store really is, and started laughing hysterically because he was surrounded by so much booze he was basically in an alcoholic paradise.

My family drinks a lot.

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My family drinks a lot.

Mine too. :laugh:

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I've never been to Grape Vine Market (although I need to!), IMHO World Market has better prices on wine versus Costco.

Has anyone tried the new Vin 100 in Lakeway? My friends and I are taking a cooking class at Faraday's and they recommended this new store.

Cindy G.

Cindy G

“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.”

~ Doug Larson ~

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I've never been to Grape Vine Market (although I need to!),  IMHO World Market has better prices on wine versus Costco.

Does Costco even sell decent wine? Serious question, I didn't look too closely last time I went but it just seems unlikely to my prejudiced mind.

Has anyone tried the new Vin 100 in Lakeway?  My friends and I are taking a cooking class at Faraday's and they recommended this new store.

Thanks for mentioning this as I was just in Lakeway today and stopped by. It's actually called Vino 100. Their slogan is "100 wines under $25". Very nice and small shop, daily tastings. As much as I love Grapevine Market, I think I would prefer to go to a small shop like this one as I was always able to get a lot more personal attention, and as a total wine novice that's very important to me.

http://vino100.com/

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This astounded me: the Costco liquor store is not operated by Costco and does not require a Costco membership. The one in Austin is operated by Western Beverages. I got the Costo membership just for the liquor store and now I learn it was a waste!

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This astounded me: the Costco liquor store is not operated by Costco and does not require a Costco membership. The one in Austin is operated by Western Beverages. I got the Costo membership just for the liquor store and now I learn it was a waste!

It's because of the screwed up Texas liquor laws that define where and who can sell the hard stuff. My guess is Costco itself wanted no part of it, so they let Western Beverages manage the liquor store.

Also, I haven't heard if this is the case at Costco, but when my brother worked at the Sam's Club in Victoria, TX anyone could go in to Sam's and buy beer and wine without a membership. They didn't advertise this, of course, but I bought beer there many times without a membership. I suspect this would apply to Costco as well.

ETA: the membership isn't necessarily a waste...I find great deals on cookware there from time to time, and their meat department is great. Actually, Costco is pretty much my favorite store. :wub:

Edited by nacho (log)
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Spec's in downtown Houston is amazing and is so much better than Grape Vine in Austin. Don't get me wrong, I really like Grape Vine but Spec's carries a lot of wines that are not available in Austin due to the smaller market up here.

Matilda254

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This astounded me: the Costco liquor store is not operated by Costco and does not require a Costco membership. The one in Austin is operated by Western Beverages. I got the Costo membership just for the liquor store and now I learn it was a waste!

You can get a refund on your Costco membership if you're not satisfied with it. From their website:

We will refund your membership fee in full at any time if you are dissatisfied
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Does Spec's have a decent selection of bitters and vermouth?

Their bitters selection is okay. They have the Fee Brothers aromatic and orange varieties, as well as Peychaud's and Angostura. I don't think I saw Gary's bitters the last time I was there, and I don't recall seeing Fee's peach or mint bitters.

They also have a good selection of vermouth. They have all the usual suspects, plus Vya. What more do you need? :smile:

I have always found it highly ironic that Laird's bonded applejack can be had at retail in Houston (at Spec's, natch) and not in NYC, which is only a short drive from where they make the stuff.

--

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How does a New Yorker know the Spec's store better than us. Dang.

Heh. When my father went from MIT to Rice University, my parents moved to Southside Place.

I've made it my business to get to know Spec's because most Manhattan liquor stores have relatively limited selection, especially of lesser known but inexpensive liquors. There are a bunch of places here with an extensive selection of $100 single malts, but not so many that carry 30 different kinds of gin or rye. This is a simple matter of economics. It costs a lot more money for a Manhattan liquor store to shelve a case of liquor than it does a Houston liquor store simply based on rent per square foot of shelf space. Therefore, Spec's can afford to stock a relatively obscure liquor that might only sell a couple of cases a year. In fact, this is a good move for them because they get a lot of business based on their reputation for having everything. In Manhattan, on the other hand, you just can't afford to keep a case of something that won't move off the shelves in fairly short order unless it's a super-expensive bottle. The rent is just too high.

--

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Heh. When my father went from MIT to Rice University, my parents moved to Southside Place.

Aren't you a Texan and Houstonian through your dad. I didn't go to Rice, my wife did, but from the back of my mind creeps out a tidbit that he was from Texas and was a student at Rice sometime.

"As far as I'm concerned, bacon comes from a magical, happy place" Frank, John Doe

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  • 4 weeks later...

I went into Spec's on Smith St. this week; it was incredible. The expertise there was beyond anything at Grapevine. At Grapevine, all the staff are general purpose but the staff at Spec's are specialized in each field: beer, wine, liquor etc. When I asked about wheat beers the beer guy fetched another staffer that specialized in wheat beers. He gave me more precise tasting descriptions than I have ever heard from anyone about beer!

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Yeah, they really do a good job on their staff. One time when I went there there was an old Sicilian guy hanging out on just the Italian wines aisle and I could've talked to him for hours. He recommended a Sicilian red (natch) called Frappato that was really good. Unfortunately, I haven't seen him or that wine since when I've gone.

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