Murder, She Wrote (1984–1996)
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A Very Good Year for Murder 

The Gambini family winery is the take-over target of organized crime and it's up to Jessica to uncover who is behind the murder of a mafia hit man.


Walter Grauman


Peter S. Fischer (created by), Richard Levinson (created by) | 4 more credits »


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Episode complete credited cast:
Angela Lansbury ... Jessica Fletcher
Kristian Alfonso ... Michele Gambini
Ina Balin ... Stella Gambini
Bibi Besch ... Fiona Gambini
Thomas Byrd Thomas Byrd ... Paul Gambini (as Tom Roberts Byrd)
Grant Goodeve ... Ben Skyler
John Saxon ... Marco Gambini
Arlen Dean Snyder ... Pol. Chief Thaddius Kyle
Eli Wallach ... Salvatore Gambini
Billy Zane ... Tony Gambini
Robert O'Reilly ... Stephen Ridgely
John Mooney John Mooney ... Doctor (as John C. Mooney)
Paul Lyell Paul Lyell ... Guest #1
Jeff Albert Jeff Albert ... Guest #2
Rob Zapple ... Deputy


Jessica attends the grand 75th birthday party of Salvatore Gambini, the Italian patriarch and founder of a valuable winery. She soon finds out there are tensions as the old man fears only his son Marco is devoted to the business while the next generation is 'spoiled'. Paul's brighter brother, Tony Gambini, goes back and forth to Tahoe on some business he won't elaborate on. After Tony has an accident in the wine-cellar, Police Chief Thaddius Kyle and Jessica are watchful. However, they fail to prevent the murder of granddaughter Michele Gambini's boyfriend, who, as Kyle finds out, is actually a mob hit-man. Yet Jessica comes to a surprising conclusion, with an unusual end result. Written by KGF Vissers

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Mystery


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

28 February 1988 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Even though the family bears an Italian name and speaks Italian as a native language, Salvatore says he is from Northern Italy. Northern Italians speak German as a native language and bear German Surnames, from the days when that part of Italy was part of the Holy Roman Empire. See more »


[first lines]
Marco Gambini: Marco Gambini: The vineyards of the family Gambini. The finest grapes in the world, nurtured with love. Papa did all of this. So? What do you think?
Jessica Fletcher: I'd say that you are very proud of him, Marco.
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Murder She Wrote Theme
Written by John Addison
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User Reviews

Wining and Dining while Whining and Shining
17 November 2009 | by WeatherVioletSee all my reviews

This episode marks one of the last appearances of, and final television performance by Ina Balin, who has acted in film and on television since 1958. Bibi Besch has also unfortunately since passed.

Sonoma County, California, north of San Francisco, lies within the state's Wine Country region of grape arbors, and contains more than 250 wineries, one of these operated by the Gambini family for generations.

Widower Salvatore Gambini (Eli Wallach) oversees winery production while planning for the future without his family's concern for the business. But now a crime syndicate organization attempts to purchase the winery, which Salvatore intends to keep within the family.

Dedicated daughter Stella Gambini (Ina Balin) efficiently manages domestic responsibilities and is usually seen creating homemade meals from scratch.

Son Marco Gambini (John Saxon) assists his father with the business, while he nor his wife, Fiona Gambini (Bibi Besch), nor Salvatore nor Stella has much influence over Marco and Fiona's three irresponsible young adult children.

Paul Gambini (Thomas Byrd) aspires to play football and often travels with his team although currently on injured reserve to recuperate at the Gambini estate. He secretly meets with Stephen Ridgely (Robert O'Reilly) to plot a course of action when it is determined that a crime syndicate may target him for not yielding to demands to fix a game.

Tony Gambini (Billy Zane) acts very irresponsibly with his family's finances by gambling away not only his funds, but running the winery into debt because of his uncontrollable addition. Now that he owes large gabling debts, the mob also threatens him unless he is able to borrow large amounts from his grandfather to pay back in Lake Tahoe. Before he leaves that morning, Tony falls from a broken basement step, but survives his resulting injury.

Michele Gambini (Kristian Alfonso) has a career position in a San Francisco advertising agency, at which she befriends Ben Skyler (Grant Goodeve), who also has ties to organized crime, which he keeps from Michele in order to accompany her as a guest to the Gambini estate, to the dismay of her family, which questions her willingness to accept a string of unsuitable suitors.

To mark the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the birth of Salvatore Gambini, the family hosts a lavish reception, the invitation list of which includes old friend Jessica Fletcher (Angela Lansbury) and Police Chief Thaddius Kyle (Arlen Dean Snyder), who, amid the festivities, discuss Tony's "accident" from the broken basement step.

But the next morning, when a body is discovered in the basement, Jessica and Police Chief Thaddius Kyle investigate the murder, under the notion that at least three members of the Gambini family are sitting ducks as potential mob targets during this, "A Very Good Year for Murder."

The cast is rounded out by Paul Lyell as Guest #1, Jeff Albert as Guest #2, Rob Zapple as Deputy, and John Mooney as Doctor.

Extra points for the performances by Eli Wallach, Ina Balin, Bibi Besch and John Saxon.

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