About halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, somewhere near the Piedras Blancas lighthouse where the sea otters bob and the elephant seals tussle in the slimy kelp just off the shoreline, the Santa Lucia Mountains take a step back from the water’s edge, leaving a rolling, doughy apron of greens and browns. On January days when the gray doesn’t hang low and the squalls don’t roll in on the crest of a sniping wind, the fog can settle with damp permanence and bleach everything the color of statuary.

In 1865, a man named George Hearst came and spent some of his mighty takings from the Comstock Lode on a cattle ranch here. It must have been a sunny day, because when the sun is out in San Simeon, heaven has no equal. Hearst found his refuge on these hillsides, and his son and heir, William Randolph, would eventually build a towering concrete château big enough to be labeled a castle.

It is a fact of American life that the victors get the spoils. Ranches and castles are two, and a vehicle to access them quickly and in sublime comfort is another. At one time the Hearst property here encompassed 250,000 acres, so, likewise, we were not tame in our appetites. Our four convertibles live in the very upper reaches of ?luxury, just where it scrapes the bottom of the exotic realm.

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