One hundred twenty to a row.
That's what the disarmingly attractive Argentine farmer tells me as he hands me a stack of American root-stock grafted with fruit-forward Torrontés grape vines. Two pairs of gloves and a shovel follow. Down the string my friend and I trace, digging six-inch-deep holes, aligning the grafting scar on the baby vine with a pinprick in the irrigation line, then setting the vine in the pebbly earth and burying its hairy roots. A pro could plant 100 an hour; in five minutes, we've given life to five.
"Don't worry if you're slow or the plants aren't fully upright," our tutor, Francisco Evangelista, says. "We usually replant them, anyway."
Only a handful of the 97 owners at the Vines of Mendoza, a 1,000-some-acre co-op vineyard in western Argentina, will not need their handiwork replaced by professional agronomists like Mr. Evangelista. No matter: It's the process that's so inviting. As we dig, place and fill, our hands cramp in the chill, our boots cake over with mud. Far beyond the stripes of Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo and 11 other varietals, the land abruptly erupts into the silver-capped pre-Andes. Above them is nothing but blue sky, which glows even without the benefit of polarized sunglasses.