Yes, I accept samples. And I also attend tasting events and meals as well as avail myself of the occasional travel opportunities offered to explore the various locations where wine, spirits and beer are created.
I also buy stuff to taste (perhaps too much according to my wife) and have very generous friends and colleagues that share their personal collections.
Accepting a sample, hospitality or a chance to visit someplace does not guarantee a review, let alone a favorable one. There is no quid pro quo. Most of the things I taste I do not write about for many reasons. Some are editorial and some relate to the quality of the liquid in the glass.
I do believe that it is important to visit places and to meet with winemakers and distillers to hear what they have to say about their product. Origins are critical and passions are not only interesting but frequently lead to new insights.
It is impossible to be completely impartial, but it is certainly my goal when writing. I strive to adhere to the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters’ code of ethics for online writers
As my friend Jeff Siegel has posted on his site (www.winecurmudgeon.com):
“Ethics is not a difficult concept. Either you bend the rules or you don’t. I don’t.”