To get there, let's do some homework. How foodie are the cooks? If they're serious, it will help to know that later. For now, ask about the side dishes. Wine shouldn't be less sweet than the food. If the side dishes are sweet, you'll be best served getting something fruitier (Gewürztraminer, Riesling or rose). For a meal with stuffing and gravy choose lighter and drier wines (pinot noir, Nero d'Avola, gamay). For red protein you could go for bigger wine (cabernet, malbec or pinot noir). Shellfish like lobster or Dungeness crab (in season now) are terrific with sparkling wine, as is a not-so-oaky chardonnay or a good Riesling.
Who else will be there? Aunt Mary? (No sour wine, Ricky). Any wine geeks? (You could be in competition...)
Do you have a need for approval? Try more expensive wine.
Is your group open minded? Are you? Then you could try something new.
If not, maybe go with something tried and true. Wine does this, it reflects the culture of the producer and hopefully matches the consumer's taste, a neat kind of symmetry.
Anyway back to our quest, you've got a feel for the food and the social milieu.
How do you find a wine that's just right?
The pretty label? The big price cut? The scored rating? (94 points by the Nashville Gazette...)
How about collecting your info and conversing with an in-store wine specialist, or wine steward? Now here is the thing, wine stewards are not all alike. In fact, they should have quite different recommendations. However, since you are armed with a researched sense of the event, the game is changed; they love this kind of challenge. Give them a notion of your price range, as in under $20. Do you prefer local or organic? Some wines are organically produced yet don't say so on the label. The steward will know which ones.
The good news is that food and wine go together; the great news is that some food and wine combinations are spectacular. Finding this perfect pairing is worth a bit of effort.
So, there it is, a bit of a method for buying wine for a feast, not fool proof, but hey it's only wine, relax enjoy.